Befitting Margaret Cho’s reputation as an icon for everyone from the gay community to racial minorities, the audience at her November 5 performance—part of the 2010 New York Comedy Festival—ran the gamut from hoodie wearing “bros” to huddles of gay supporters to tipsy party girls loudly agreeing when Cho announced her predilection for inexpensive porn. Likewise, the subject matter for Cho’s routine covered a range of topics, from her recent stint on Dancing with the Stars to her insatiable horniness, with some songs from her recently released album, Cho Dependant, thrown in for good measure. While the material may have been fresh, the Cho touches were the same as always; anecdotes were imparted with a heavy duty dose of vulgarity and Cho’s deft facial contortions. Rather than just shock, however, Cho as always used these tactics to extend her message on equality.
The Beacon Theatre is as opulent as its name suggests, with the plush velvet curtains and gaudy architecture that one would expect from a thee-tah nestled in the Upper West Side. This extravagance made the bareness of the Beacon Theatre’s stage all the more pronounced, the only items on display being a stool, a large screen, two microphones, a couple of water bottles, and a table filled with wigs (which were used by Cho’s opener, the largely forgettable John Roberts). Cho emerged decked out in an olive green pinstriped mini-dress, shiny black spandex leggings, and royal blue platform lace-up boots. Much like the venue, Cho’s flashy appearance offset the rawness of her routine, but also complemented the fierceness—and fearlessness—of the subject matter.
Cho’s first item of business concerned her time on Dancing with the Stars. Before letting the crowd in on a trade secret involving olive oil that ultimately devolved into dirtiness, Cho explained her valiant reasons for participating in the popular reality show; she competed with the intention of supporting gay rights. Although she was voted off early, Cho felt far from a loser. In her words, “If I made one gay kid feel good about himself, I fuckin’ won.” This was not her only success; she also achieved her goal of being the dancer with the most pronounced cameltoe.
Such feminine woes were touched upon throughout the set, but respect—and sometimes envy—for homosexuals were a particularly heavy focus. Talk of this matter allowed Cho to teach us some valuable terms from the homosexual lexicon, including “grinder” (“GPS for cock”) and “spit roast” (which probably is a little too blue to define here). When discussing the former term, Cho bemoaned the fact that there is no lesbian equivalent to this, although hanging out at animal rescue leagues comes close. “You wanna get fucked? Help the huskies first,” Cho advised.
In perhaps her strongest lionization of homosexuals, Cho mused that being a gay man had to be the greatest existence possible for a human, likening it to being at the end of your reincarnation cycle. Although her praise of the gay community is always a large and important part of what makes Cho who she is, the recent surge in gay bullying made her discourse on the topic more integral than ever. In an effort to show that she doesn’t just talk the talk, Cho also mentioned that she tries to stick strictly to gay businesses and tends to frequent gay vacation spots. Walking down the street in such areas is more pleasant, as Cho pointed out that gay people walk closer together because “we’re used to walking in parades.”
As it wouldn’t have been a Cho performance without some homosexual banter, the evening would have been wanting without a few words on race, with Cho wondering why there has never been an Asian version of Girls Gone Wild (“Oooh, she’s not studying!”), and a few obligatory impressions of her heavily accented Korean mother. Cho also touched on her love of pot, likening stoners to Christians due to gifting her with high-quality weed when she visits select cities on tours. As is her way, Cho restored a little bit of dignity to the potheads through this comparison.
The weakest part of Cho’s performance came in the form of the Cho Dependant songs she integrated into her set. Although a diss battle involving vaginas was inspired, songs such as her murder ballad “I’m Sorry” (inspired by real-life events involving a writer on Cho’s ABC show from the ‘90’s, All-American Girl) dragged the evening down. “Your Dick”, a song which closed Cho’s set, was alleviated by an appearance from Aussie folk singer Ben Lee and the Empire City Men’s Chorus. Without these elements, however, it would have been a disappointing end to the night. Cho’s voice is accomplished, and her guitar playing is passable. Cho revealed she picked the instrument up because she saw Madonna playing and thus wondered, “How fucking hard can it be?” Cho could use a little more practice in songwriting, but her voice is strong enough to ensure that dabbling in music is not as disastrous a crossover attempt as it could have been.
Although a few audience members vacated the theater before her set was over, Cho’s performance was for the most part warmly received and warmly delivered. Her proclivity for dishing the filthiest dirt ultimately leads to Cho appearing as a fag hag to her gay fans and the ultimate girl talk companion to her straight ones. Cho may present herself as a slut, but more interestingly, she’s one with enough good-heartedness to warm a whole city of misfits.