In 10 Words or Less
The latest set from the comedienne/revolutionary
Loves: Stand-up comedy
Likes: Margaret Cho's early shows
Dislikes: Overly political comedy
Hates: One-bit comics
Margaret Cho was, at one time, one of my favorite comics. Her stand-up, built around her imitation of her mother and a self-deprecating sense of humor, was a lot of fun to watch, as she mined her (non-)ethnic background for some great jokes like The Margaret Cho Diet. Unfortunately, those days are over.
The new Margaret Cho doesn't get many laughs. This show, filmed in Washington, D.C., is packed with her fanbase, but there's not a single burst of spontaneous laughter to be heard. Dressed in her hippie finest, she goes hard on punchline after punchline, only to hit near silence, punctuated by polite applause that's more damning than the quiet. Even her most effective joke, a sudden, dirty jab about Laura Bush's flavor, is met with more shock than laughter.
Part of the problem is the subject matter. Like so many thinking people, Cho is disgusted by the state of America, and has no problem telling everyone who will listen. But people come to listen to her expecting to laugh. So watching her stand-up is like 80-minutes of listening to your extremely liberal friend, who's kind of funny, but a bit too serious to really make you laugh. That her jokes have aged quickly doesn't help matters. The truly topical comics have a short shelf life, and bits about Terry Schiavo, the Runaway Bride and Jeff Gannon are well past their expiration date.
If you're one of those people who would rather not be reminded of America's political landscape, avoiding this show isn't a bad idea. There's plenty of Bush-bashing, along with slams to the rest of his posse. If the bashing was funny, instead of being venting, I would have had no problem with it. But here in year five of our national nightmare, we know the score. Now make us laugh so we can ignore the pain.
So much of Cho's act is built around gay culture now that it dominates the non-political portions. It also raises some questions. As someone who also knows many gay people, I would like to know why, when Cho imitates gay people, she slips into a stereotypical black street accent. Watching this Korean woman imitate gay men and sound like a black woman is rather distracting and, truthfully, annoying. It's also not very funny.
On the other hand, her imitation of her mother remains firmly in place and funny to boot. It's not played up as much as it once was (possibly due to her illness), but it's still a treat. She busts out another enjoyable imitation when talking about Bjork, and follows it up with her classic valley girl sound. It's jokes like these that make it hard to forget about what Cho used to be. Now, when she's talking in great depth about sex, it's just filthy, not filthy and funny.
The one-disc release is packaged in a standard keepcase, which comes with a catalog from Koch Vision. The disc starts with an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to play the show, select scenes, setup languages, view extras, find out about Koch Vision and check out other Cho products. The scene selection menu has a text list of the chapters, while the language options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. There are no subtitles, but there is closed captioning.
The anamorphic widescreen video is extremely solid, with a nice, sharp image, good detail and proper color. The image doesn't get more exciting than Cho standing on the stage, but the disc delivers it well. There's no dirt or damage, and the blacks are very deep.
It was a surprise to see a Dolby Digital 5.1 track on this DVD, and I don't quite understand why it was included. The track keeps Cho front and center, with nice, clear voice, while the surrounds get a bit of crowd reaction in them. It's not very dynamic, and not all that powerful a track, but it does what it is supposed to.
At first glance, this disc looks like it's packed with extras, but once you dig in a bit, you realize quantity isn't that important. "The Making of an Assassin: Inside the Mind of Margaret Cho" is a 41-minute documentary about the new Cho. I don't know if I've ever seen a documentary take a comic so seriously. It's funny because the comparisons to Lenny Bruce made me laugh more than anything in the show. Cho certainly does much to help people who need it, but this kind of veneration is a bit excessive.
"Margaret Cho's Belly Dancing Segment," which shows the comic working on her belly dancing hobby, is another piece in which the comic forgets why she is popular. Espousing feminist beliefs, she shows a bit of the dance technique and talks about its history.
Two short films included are an interesting part of the disc, as they don't include Cho. "Ode to Margaret Cho" is a nonsensical short about a family that only says certain phrases and doesn't get along well, while "Invisible Son" is about the youngest child in a traditional Korean family, a son with a secret. They are a quick view and aren't half bad.
Cho's friend and opening act, Bruce Daniels, gets some spotlight in the extras. His 13-minute stand-up act, which lead into Cho's show, got a much better reaction. Though still loaded wih the gay factor, his act is just sillier and more entertaining. The bonuses wrap up with an awful animated rap video that needs to be seen to be believed, and a user-controlled photo gallery.
The Bottom Line
There's nothing worse than a funny person who can't be funny anymore, and sadly, it looks like Margaret Cho might have hit that point, now that she's transifxed on our government and the ills of our society. It may not be easy to ignore the crap and enjoy life for what it is, but for our benefit, it would be best if she did. The DVD looks and sounds very good, but the extras are dripping with the same self-important vision that the show is filled with. Fans of the comic will only need a rental to figure out this isn't The One That We Want.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.