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Cho was born Moran Cho in San Francisco, California.
Cho won the American Comedy Award for Best Female Comedian in 1994. That same year Cho was the first female Asian American to have a television series based around her. The show, called All American Girl, was quickly cancelled after suffering major content changes over the course of its single season, even suffering criticism from within the Asian American community over stereotyping. Cho's desperation to make the show a success led to decisions that affected her health negatively. Her rapid weight loss in order to complete the pilot episode caused serious kidney failure. The program was also problematic because much of the humor was based on broad Asian stereotypical portrayals of her relatives.
Since then, Cho has had several successful one-woman shows. The first, called I'm the One That I Want, dealt with her difficulties breaking into show business due to her ethnicity and weight. The 2000 film version became the highest-grossing film in history in proportion to the number of prints ($1.4 million with only 9 prints). The second, 2002's Notorious C.H.O. (the title a spoof on rap artist Lil' Kim's album The Notorious K.I.M., and that in turn being a tribute to Lil' Kim's late boyfriend's nickname "The Notorious B.I.G.") dealt with her having been raised in 1970s San Francisco and her own bisexuality. Both tours spawned live movie versions, albums, and books.
In 2003, she filmed another stand-up film, Revolution, released in 2004. She also began an internet presence with the advent of http://www.margaretcho.com and her daily weblog. She began to draw intense fire from conservatives over her fiercely anti-Bush commentary; a live performance in Houston, Texas, was threatened with picketing. Although protesters never showed up, she held a counter protest outside the club until security told her she had to go inside.
One of Cho's core base of fans has always been the gay and lesbian community, and she is always a supportive and sympathetic advocate of that group. After SF Mayor Gavin Newsom initiated same-sex marriages in San Francisco in 2004, Cho started Love is Love is Love, a website promoting the legalization of gay marriage in the United States.
In 2004, Cho was performing at a corporate gig in a hotel when, after ten minutes, her microphone was cut off and a band was instructed to begin playing. Cho claims this was because the manager of the hotel was offended by anti-Bush-administration comments. Cho's payment, which was issued by way of check directly to a non-profit organization, West Memphis 3, initially bounced but was eventually honored. In July 2004 during the Democratic National Convention, Cho was un-invited to speak at a Human Rights Campaign/National Stonewall Democrats fundraiser out of the fear that her comments might cause controversy.
In late 2004, Cho began work on her first self-written and starring film role. The movie is called Bam Bam and Celeste and is a low-budget comedy about a fag hag and her gay best friend. The film co-stars Cho's friend and co-touring act Bruce Daniels. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005.
In 2005, Cho started promoting and touring with her new show Assassin. The show became her fourth live concert film, and premiered on the gay and lesbian premium cable network Here! TV in September of 2005. This is the first time in Cho's DVD's in which she includes herself in when talking about gays, saying "we" and "our community." With Cho's outrage over the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush, Assassin features political material as the source of her comedy more so than her previous films.  Posters for Assassin feature Cho in paratrooper gear holding a microphone in the style of an automatic rifle, a reference to the infamous 1974 photo of heiress Patty Hearst.
Also in 2005, Cho released her second book I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight, a compilation of essays and prose about global politics, human rights, and other topical issues. Cho launched a national book tour in support of the collection. An audio reading of the book was also released. A DVD of a live taping of the Assassin tour was released in conjunction with the book.
Cho has dated Quentin Tarantino (who appeared on an episode of her sitcom as a favor), Chris Isaak, and Garrett Wang. In 2003, she married Al Ridenour, an artist involved in the creation of Cacophony Society and the Art of Bleeding; she was featured in an Art of Bleeding performance in March 2006.
Cho has three dogs. They are Ralph (as in Ralph Fiennes); Bronwyn, named for a car; and Gudrun, named after 1970s West German terrorist Gudrun Ensslin of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the Norse Valkyrie Gudrun. The source of her third dog's name drew ire from conservatives.
In 2006 Cho took up bellydancing and started her own custom line of bellydancing accessories which are sold through her website. She also had extensive tattooing done to cover the majority of her back. She co-wrote and starred in a sitcom pilot based around the "Mommy" character of her stand-up, but it was not picked up. She began releasing comedic rap animated videos on her website under the moniker "M.C. M.C." (Master of Ceremonies Margaret Cho,) including the tracks "Finger" and "Roofies".
In April 2006 Cho started "The Sensuous Woman," a monthly burlesque/comedy/bellydancing show at a restaurant in California. . In July 2006 she directed the music video for the song "Former Miss Ontario" by The Music Lovers.