Comedian Margaret Cho shares the story of the best mentor she ever had.
Margaret Cho: When I was younger, I was much shier and I was really fortunate to have these teachers in my life who saw something in me and brought it forward. They saw that there was a light there, but it was hidden by a lot of obstacles.
I think it was probably as early as seven or eight that I was really committed to being a comedian. I had very vivid dreams about performing standup comedy . . . and I really couldn’t hear what I was talking about, but I could see myself as an adult, getting huge responses, getting a lot of laughter and applause. And there was just a real sense of this was my destiny and I know that I am this.
So I started out my career at 14. I started doing comedy at school. I was attending a high school for performing arts, and, for me, my main obstacle was probably shyness. And I had an English teacher who would pass a notebook between us -- and it was very silent -- and I would write in it, and he would critique it in the margins. And it was always very positive critiques and really beautiful encouragement. He was somebody that I trusted very much. He was a gay man who was rather flamboyant for my school. And even though it was San Francisco, it was still, you know, this was in the ‘80’s, so it was still… it was tough for him, I think.
And one day he didn’t come to school, and it was really alarming to me. And I held the notebook, and he had written in the margins, “You’re such a good writer. Just never stop writing.” And “never stop writing” was in such big bold red letters. Finally, I went to this class and there was all these boys in the class and they were laughing. And I got closer to them and one of them said, “That faggot got killed.” And it turns out that my teacher had been murdered by an act of homophobic violence.
And it was so heartbreaking to me, yet, from that day and from then on, I always remember that he said, “never stop writing.” And this is something that I live by and that I will never stop because, you know, he brought that out in me and then he was gone. And it reminded me of the immediacy of life and the necessity of living your life and living it because it can be gone in a moment. And so I feel that that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten and the best mentor I’ve ever had. And it’s a very simple, simple thing: whatever you’re doing, just don’t stop. Just never stop.
Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd