"It's really hard to shock me, and I was really shocked," Cho tells PEOPLE of watching the late comedian perform

Updated October 08, 2015 02:30 PM
Credit: Mike Theiler/Reuters/Corbis

Margaret Cho doesn’t shy away from the risqé and raunchy during her standup act. Even so, she admits that her late mentor Joan Rivers managed to shock her with her material.

“I saw her perform in many countries and many situations. I was always shocked, because she was so filthy. It’s really hard to shock me, and I was really shocked,” Cho tells PEOPLE. “She was really going for it in her late 60s and early 70s. She was so hardcore. I was always so impressed by her.”

Cho, who is in the midst of her Psycho standup tour and recently released a Showtime special of the same name, can trace some of her early yearnings to be a comedian back to Rivers. Without Rivers breaking ground for the next generation of female comedians, Cho’s career might not be what it is today.

When Cho began touring professionally at 17 to escape abuse and bullying she suffered as a child, Rivers was one of the comics who took her under her wing. Cho admits that Rivers didn’t always get her (she was puzzled by Cho’s tattoos and couldn’t understand why she didn’t share her passion for jewelry), but the pair got along well.

“She was everybody’s mom. Her public persona never really showed the incredible warmth and the incredible maternal side,” Cho, 46, says of Rivers, who died Sept. 4, 2014, after complications from a surgical procedure. “She lived very lavishly, but she was also very lavish with gifts and with her time and with her affection and with her advice. She was so present and there for you.”

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Cho recently sat in on two episodes of Fashion Police, where she earned praise for channeling what Rivers used to do so well on the show. Cho says she hopes to return to the show in the future, and notes that part of the big draw is to lend support to Rivers’ daughter Melissa.

“The most rewarding thing is when Melissa is overcome by laughing and she looks over and is like, ‘I love you!’ It’s so rewarding,” says Cho. “I feel like I’m there for Melissa, and I know she really misses her mom a lot.”