If you’ve ever bought one of the bootleg videos or DVDs sold on every corner in New York City – and admit it, you have – then you already have a pretty accurate idea of the production values you’ll find in Margaret Cho’s new concert film, Notorious C.H.O. Bad lighting, weird angles, erratic sound – Margaret would probably have done better by letting a few of the countless queens in her audience film the show from their seats with hand-held cameras (and while she was at it, she should probably have let them take a stab at her set and costume design, neither of which are very noteworthy). Amazingly, the substandard production values have absolutely no bearing on this flick’s incredible ability to entertain. Explosively hilarious, it truly transcends every technical shortcoming. Credit goes solely to Ms. Cho (it’s a one-woman show, after all), who once again keeps her audiences – on-screen and off – rolling in the aisles.
In the event you missed Cho’s engagements earlier this year at the Hammerstein Ballroom and Carnegie Hall, now’s your opportunity to catch her in a near-perfect performance. With her rubber-faced expressions and impeccable timing, Cho delivers a sensational routine that further establishes her as a master of her craft. She mostly abandons serious issues, a departure from her last concert/film/book, I’m the One That I Want, in which she delved into the impact the failure of her network TV show had on her psyche. This time around, Cho generally sticks to the crude, raunchy humor at which she excels. Among the nonstop jokes are her mom’s theories on homosexuality (including a story about her father’s near-gay experience) and a gag about the late fees accrued on her porn rentals. However, a genuinely moving speech about self-esteem and equality at the film’s conclusion reminds that underneath the jester’s clothing beats the heart of a true activist.
Interviews with Cho’s parents provide some hearty laughs, in part because her mom and dad are quite funny, and partly because we’re able to juxtapose Cho’s impersonations of them against their own personas. Her mother does seem to match Cho’s outrageous characterization of her; somewhat of a ham, she even appears to play up the Asian-mom shtick for the camera. Cho’s father, however, remains utterly genuine. Practical, pensive and extremely proud of his daughter, he’s simply glad she has a platform from which to tell her stories. Judging by the throngs of adoring fans filling her concerts and movies, he’s not alone.