Notorious C.H.O.

Notorious C.H.O.

2002, NR, 95 min. Directed by Lorene Machado. Starring Margaret Cho.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Sept. 20, 2002

Rrrrrrowrrr. She's funny, she's feisty, she's a flabulous, fat-positive “fag hag,” and Margaret Cho isn't apologizing for any of it. If anything, she's upping the ante from her last one-woman show-turned-concert flick, 2000's I'm the One That I Want, cranking up the raunch a couple of notches and the personal-is-political subtext up a few more still. The resulting film, shot at Seattle's Paramount Theatre, is sure to delight Cho's rabid fans -- whom director Machado shows queuing up for tix rapaciously, as if anyone needed reminding that Cho is deservedly a patron saint of the queer-urban-hipster milieu. The confessional, personal tone of I'm the One That I Want (which described Cho's evanescent brush with small-screen stardom and subsequent spiral into depression) is largely gone, but she's as candid as ever, tackling topics like menstruation, fisting, colonic therapy, her “drag queen guardian angels,” pornography, BDSM clubs, and her quest for the elusive G-spot. The September 11 terrorist attacks also figure in (“I was there, day after day, giving blow jobs to rescue workers”). She's got the Seattle audience in the palm of her hand long before she launches into her trademark bit -- mimicking her sweet Korean mother in an over-the-top howl that would be offensive if Mom weren't in the audience, chortling away. Some of the schtick is fairly predictable, such as the inevitable “if men menstruated” scenario, but Cho's strength as a comic is her delivery. She adopts various personae -- such as Julie, a dingbat colon hydrotherapist with bad aim, and a sadistic video-rental clerk telephoning in search of the overdue Beaver Fever -- with no apparent effort. (However, an anecdote about her father's gay experience, told in the guise of her mom, is rambling.) Meanwhile, Machado makes like she's filming Courtney Love at Lollapalooza, cutting between angles with distracting frequency. It's really too bad Cho doesn't get more acting work; she has great control of her voice and her body and has a playful presence onstage, which is such a nice change from the seemingly endless parade of schlumpy, deadpan observational comics whose sitcoms actually stay on the air. Notorious C.H.O. isn't likely to put her back in the limelight, however. Since the material is so purposefully in-your-face, the film will likely appeal to the converted rather than the masses. Just the same, it's heartening to see her flailing away at patriarchy and puritanism that predominates in American culture -- and having such a fucking great time doing it.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Margaret Cho Films
I'm the One That I Want
Stand-up comedian Margaret Cho makes fun of her mother … a little bit. When Cho leans her head back at a disapproving angle, her eyes ...

Bryan Poyser, July 14, 2000

More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007


Notorious C.H.O., Lorene Machado, Margaret Cho

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle