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With: Margaret Cho
Written by: Margaret Cho
Directed by: Lorene Machado
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 95
Date: 06/13/2002

Notorious C.H.O. (2002)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Let's just get two things out of the way. Firstly, Margaret Cho's new concert film Notorious C.H.O. is very funny. Secondly, it's about the same level of funny as her last film, I'm the One That I Want -- maybe just a little less so, allowing for the shock value of the first to have worn off a bit.

In the first film, Cho focused on her mother and her failed 1994 sitcom "All-American Girl," with an all-out assault on good taste and timidity. This new film goes a little further and a spreads out a little thinner, but mostly stays on the subject of sex and sexuality. No topic is safe, from colons to oral sex to sex clubs and bondage.

She starts out describing a trip to Scotland and a visit to a gay bar called C.C. Bloom's. She pauses and explains that C.C. Bloom is the name of the character Bette Midler played in Beaches. "That's the gayest thing I've ever heard," she says with flawless timing. She hammers it home with one more: "They should have just called it 'F--- Me Up the A-- Bar and Grill.'"

Cho carries the film off by not dwelling for too long on any particular topic, by using her excellent timing and well-thought-out transitions, and by using an array of comic faces. Don't worry -- if you're a fan of Cho's mother, she comes back here, just briefly, with a story about how 'Deddy's just a liddle bit da gay!"

Probably a good half of what Cho says is not fit for quoting in a family newspaper, but one routine was quite brilliant. She describes having sex and talks about being "Close."

"I like being Close," she says," because most of the time I'm Far. But guys are always Close." I laughed again.

Filmed in Seattle where the premiere of the first film was held, and shot on digital video, Cho seems more relaxed and comfortable this time, wearing a sexy, nice-cut pair of blue jeans and a cleavage-revealing tank top topped with a blue flannel shirt. (The shapeless, multi-layered outfit from the last movie still haunts my nightmares.) The video allows for a swift-moving show, and we get the impression that no edits have been made, aside from the live switching from camera to camera. (Ms. Cho confirmed this fact to me.)

The direction, by Lorene Machado, offers nothing special, but then no comedy concert film has ever risen to the level of cinematic art that Jonathan Demme brought to Stop Making Sense and Swimming to Cambodia. Whether or not the film succeeds is up to the performer. With Notorious C.H.O. Cho proves she has the stuff to stand tall with Pryor, Carlin and Murphy.

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