If I could bring Margaret Cho home, I would. She is an endearing darling. Last Friday, in front of a packed audience at Bailey Hall where the local LGBT community came in full force to support her, she not only proved to be a reigning diva with full command of the stage and her audience, but also a humble lady with a charming, self-deprecating sense of humor that makes her instantly identifiable. I was ready for a raunchy night of bawdy jokes and silly banter, but Margaret Cho definitely did tug a heartstring or two with several unexpectedly poignant moments.
Margaret Cho isn’t Margaret Cho if she doesn’t crack some racist jokes, which she has full license to do given her Asian roots. Besides reprising her signature impersonation of her mom, she denounced the racial lens through which Americans viewed Jeremy Lin’s NBA success and the invisibility of Asian-Americans in the U.S. You literally want to stand up and applaud Margaret’s brainy parallel of her favorite Asian snack — a milk candy encased with a melt-in-your-mouth wrapper — with foreskin. Both entail delayed gratification. Go figure.
But where Margaret really shines is her ability to identify with the LGBT community. There were moments where her show almost segued into a kind of talk show involving the audience in earnest conversation. She would sit on a mobile speaker and engage in some heart-to-heart banter with the front row audience, as if the fourth wall was some nonsensical concept of theatrical performance. Like a caring big sister, she would go, “Have you ever seen a vagina?” The humor doesn’t undermine her attempt to connect emotionally with you; it only peels off another layer of inhibition that you have in confiding in her. As an openly bisexual performer who admits she feels like a “transsexual deep down,” her “multi-faceted” sexual desires and escapades allow her to comfortably straddle the spheres of straight and gay audiences alike.
Cho has come a long way in her 20-year career in showbiz. Snippets of her life as a standup comedian, awash with drugs, alcohol and casual sex, flashed intermittently between jokes about low-hanging testicles and French imperviousness to low self-esteem. She’s degenerate yet worldly — the very dualism, in my opinion, that makes her such a compelling celebrity and confidant. Her flippant attitude toward abortion is balanced by her view that abortion empowers women. We gasp that she asserts that bisexuality brings her double the sex, but we also nod inadvertently when she opines that the chances of heartache are also doubled. Margaret hits home inspiring messages with spot-on precision, even if they sound like fluff on the outside.
While Margaret clearly shone in impromptu segments with her lightning-quick witticisms, she was occasionally guilty of mindless repetition. A poor Taiwanese boy in the front row became the constant subject of her ridicule, as she imitated his meek demeanor again and again to the point it became slightly frustrating. Several of her jokes were also recycled from some of her previous standup routines. However, her solid comic timing, slapstick facial nuances and extremely convincing impersonations of accents were sufficient for us to laugh off some of her misgivings. For those bemoaning the excessive sexual imagery in her show — and Friday’s show wasn’t even close to lewd by Margaret’s standards — you’ve probably signed up for the wrong show.
Amongst one of the many highlights of the show, Margaret stripped down to a cute, little pink G-string, showing off her tattoos and gyrating her butt for all to see. This dare-to-bare quality of Margaret Cho goes beyond the physical — you feel like she’s telling you her life story. What’s even more amazing, she makes you want to tell her your own life story as well. Now, who wouldn’t want to bring Margaret Cho home?