MARGARET CHO: ASSASSINNR
Watching Margaret Cho: Assassin, the comedian's filmed record of her 2005 stand-up tour, I kept thinking of Geraldine Page, of all people. Universally accepted as one of America's great actresses, she could be pure magic on stage, but, often, when her performances were filmed, they came off as labored, mannered and singularly unspontaneous. I saw Cho perform much of this material live at the Apollo Theatre earlier this year, and found it bracingly hilarious. The movie she has made of it is an entirely different matter.
Undoubtedly gifted and possessed of an outrageously unbridled, searching mind, Cho also once had perfect comic timing, which appears to have been mislaid here. When getting off a punch line to the audience, she now pauses and complacently waits for a small eternity for its import to hit home. This needlessly draws out the length of her routines and, all too often, the anticipated response is less than uproarious. Much of her material is topical to a fault-the runaway bride, Terry Schiavo, Rush Limbaugh's drug problem-and seems worn of its freshness. Even her talent for mimicry seems stifled: Her always well-received satirical Asian-just-off-the-boat accent is interchangeable with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and an extended bit about that staple of her act-her funny mother-is way overdrawn. Additionally, she has fecklessly adopted the persona of a black drag queen to deliver her quips, complete with queeny attitude and outthrust lips, which (a) just isn't very funny after a while, and (b) comes across as rather offensive.
Cho would undoubtedly argue that last assertion, as she trumpets her right to express whatever she feels, being a member of "every minority"-i.e., Asian, bisexual, political activist. However, the extent of her lesbianism is questionable after her recent marriage to a man. And, as much as one may differ with the Bush agenda, her riffs on the feminine hygiene of Laura and Barbara Bush are undeniably offensive, not only to these women, but to all women. (Her self-identification with trash-talking, misogynistic street trannies could use some discerning editing.)
Cho's support of gay marriage is a recurring theme, but, all too often, her camaraderie with this community smells of stereotype. She imagines a world in which the Christian Right gets its way, and gays are eliminated, resulting in everyone's hair roots getting longer and longer, and no wedding planners to do the bride's hair or flowers. As in her previous documentaries, she unimaginatively frames her act with footage of adoring fans enthusing about her ("Margaret rocks!"). One sincerely hopes that, next time out, Cho picks up the pace, self-contentedly basks a bit less, and proves more deserving of their adulation.