Margaret Cho: Mother

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Margaret Cho got a critical pasting when she arrived in Melbourne mid-festival, with reviews talking of her ‘rambling, disjointed, discourse’. Well, by the final show she had found steadier feet, though few would consider this a classic performance.

A fair chunk of the hour is a staccato sequence of semi-formed thoughts that she had clearly written in Australia – not just because of her local references to the likes of Julia Gillard’s hair, an Aussie girl who stood her up, or crowd-pleasing mocking of the Kiwi accent – but because the ideas are only partially formed, and certainly don’t gel into a coherent whole. Only the rabid footy fan who accosted her at the game really seems anything like a solid segment, thanks to a funny impersonation.

Mostly, though, this hour is concerned not about motherhood, as the title and blurb suggests, but about sexuality. Gay marriage provides an obvious cornerstone, as assertions in its favour are unlikely to find much dissent in this audience.

There’s much about gay icons, hero-worshipping Whitney Houston or being slightly embarrassed by Madonna. She outs both Jesus – as if suggesting he’s gay because he hung out with 12 men is anything new – and John Travolta, repeatedly calling him ‘she’ in the puerile way of the most tiresome queen. Gossip is as important to her as any social statement, even if talk of the celebs she met on various reality shows she’s taken part in proves shallow stuff.

On her own Sapphic-leaning bisexuality she notes that lesbians wear sensible shoes (wow, what insight!) before getting down and dirty in X-rated routines that vary wildly in quality. She conjures some amusing images about sharing a vibrator with her girlfriend or about ‘force-quitting’ a blow-job when in hetero mode – but that’s tempered with rather too much witless talk of ‘meaty vaginas’ that goes for shock over awe. Things go better when she involves the front rows, too, as she has a natural rapport with her fans who are more than willing to share details of their sex lives.

After a pointed routine about her mistreatment at a spa, Cho gets around to discussing her own mother towards the end of the show, but the interesting stories of being fresh-of-the-boat Korean immigrant in San Francisco soon give way to a dated routine that’s 2% funny and 98% ‘hasn’t my parent got a funny ethnic voice’.

It’s typical of a very uneven show, in which Cho sometimes uses her bitter, brutal wit to great effect, and sometimes wastes it with half-formed or lazy routines. It feels as if she could do much better.

Review date: 22 Apr 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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