Movie Reviews
4:00 pm
Thu October 3, 2002

Notorious C.H.O.

...I witnessed one of the great comic satirists of our time.

Margaret Cho is a standup comedienne of surpassing talent, an American born to Korean parents. Her first theater release, "I'm the One That I want," treaded relatively softly on her bisexuality and established the imitation of her mother as a signature bit.

In her recent "Notorious C.H.O.," Ms. Cho lets out all the stops, including scatological musings to speculating about men's behavior, straight and gay, if they were to have periods. Her imitation of good old boys complaining about the big-flow day interfering with their Sunday football is sheer genius; when she says, "If Richard Pryor had a period, he'd talk about it," she's not only joking, she's also associating herself rightfully with the Pryor school of shock comedy.

Relating the story her mother told of her father experiencing homophobia is funny and tender as she brings dad into the alternative culture she knows well. In fact, the pre-show talk with mom and dad talking about their daughter is touching and funny--you can see how Cho had such a comic head start with loving parents like those. Similarly, my own daughter, the "D-Girl" columnist for "Inzide.com," told "Premiere Magazine" I shared her raunchy columns about Hollywood with friends. The writer of the article said, "And you thought Bridget Jones's dad was cool."

When Cho speaks about her gay side, she lampoons the effete places that hook women up with other women who look like anorexic models. Cho says, "I want a woman who looks like John Goodman." But there is no use repeating lines here because half the effect is to see Cho screw up her face perfectly and pause with timing Jack Benny would envy. She has brilliant use of her round, pleasant Asian face and body. If only the photography and editing could rise to her level--it looks like home movies at their best, but still home movies.

I guess the functional production does point out how truly gifted Cho is--with her ample body, weak lighting, and stilted cinematography, I cared only that I witnessed one of the great comic satirists of our time.