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A splash beyond the mainstream

When Team Pop interviewed comedian Margaret Cho last year, we were shocked to find that, offstage, the 35-year-old provocateur is soft-spoken and serious.

Nights later, onstage, she was the outrageous Cho we know, dishing about taboo topics most of us are barely brave enough to discuss with our closest pals.

Cho is a friend to those on the fringes. She's outspoken about her allegiances with gays, minorities, feminists, freaks _ anyone who doesn't fit the mainstream.

As the child of Korean immigrants and a product of liberal San Francisco culture, Cho has seen it all, experimented, and lives to tell about it.

If the phrase "Say it loud and say it proud" means something to you, chances are you're a Cho fan. If you're smart, you have tickets to one of Cho's shows this weekend.

Margaret Cho performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Improv, 1600 E Eighth Ave., Tampa. (813) 864-4000.

_ GINA VIVINETTO, Times pop music critic