Cho mixes comedy, social issues

Stand-up comedian Margaret Cho partners with Louis Van Amstel on the new season of ABC's 'Dancing With the Stars.'

Margaret Cho, who broke ground with a short-lived show about an Asian-American family, has found her way back to the medium that wasn't ready to embrace her 16 years ago.

Appearing now on Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," the 41-year-old actress whose stand-up comedy about her Korean family led to 1994's "All-American Girl" has returned to prime-time TV with the same tongue-in-cheek hilarity that has kept her in the spotlight for nearly 20 years.

Cho is also back on the road with her "Cho Dependent Tour." She is as serious as she is comical -- famous for addressing the pressure she felt in 1994 to adjust her weight and her Asian-ness to be more palatable for network executives and audiences.

As a longtime advocate for social justice, her comedy confronts homophobia, racism and other discrimination. She also uses candor meant to make audiences squirm a bit.

She promises more of the same, with new material about her family and living part time in a small town outside Atlanta, where "Diva" is shot. On the show, she's Teri Lee, assistant to an attorney who shares a body with the spirit of a dead model.

But after hours, she's Margaret, the advocate for gay marriage who is living in an area popular with tea party activists.

"I guess I was put in this situation so I could write about it," she said recently.

Weighty social matters have long been a part of her stand-up act. She plays on stereotypes about Asian people for laughs, but is really trying to raise consciousness about a kind of racism that she thinks is less blatant than what other underrepresented minorities may face.

"It's more about noninclusion," she said. "Like we don't somehow matter. I have a consciousness about race, that it is really more important to talk about it and confront invisibility. Stereotypes are preferable to invisibility."

Having a stage and a microphone to deploy her brand of defiant humor is still a dream come true for Cho.

"I'm lucky and love what I do," she said.