Published Sep 24, 2016Margaret Cho's Friday night JFL42 show was, of course, very funny, but it was also an unabashedly honest performance with a surprisingly intimate delivery given the size of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Cho stood at the microphone, which she kept in the stand, and delivered most of her material straight ahead of her. While some might view this as having lower energy, the choice — whether or not it was intentional — made everything feel incredibly genuine. It was as if we were in a much smaller space and Cho was simply sharing with the audience rather than performing a show.
Cho discussed understanding her sexuality and her struggle to find where she fit on the spectrum as a bisexual woman. She explained that acceptance is challenging for those who identify as bisexual, because people tend to want to categorize them as either gay or straight. And, as with many things, what is not understood is often overlooked; a point she emphasized by joking that the "B" in LGBT was often silent.
Cho's opening act, comedian Ian Harvie, made a similar reference to being the "T" in LGBT. Harvie's jokes about identifying as a trans man were a hit with the audience (especially his jokes about the side effects of testosterone, which included hilarious material ranging from horniness to hair loss). As Harvie introduced Cho, he explained that she encouraged him to open for her because people need to see this community represented also.
Harvie's words reminded those who may have forgotten that Cho is not only a standup comedian, she is also someone who understands the importance of representation and takes steps to do something about underrepresentation. Throughout her act, Cho also made references to being a feminist, being involved with various televised representations of Asians, and being a Black Lives Matter activist.
Beyond her politics, which Cho is always open about, she also spoke about her experience of being in an abusive relationship, which led to her drug use, and the fact that she's currently staying at a rehabilitation facility that allows her to still go out to do comedy shows. The woman isn't just honest, she's "I-plucked-a-pill-out-of-a-pool-of-my-own-vomit-and-then-swallowed-it" honest.
It's a combination of that honesty and her impact on the representation of marginalized groups that allows her audiences to relate to her even when she's talking about rock stars she's had sex with and doing drugs with Anna Nicole Smith.
Whether she was taking a Carlin-esque approach to reclaiming the words "chinky" and "fat," pulling out her Korean accent to do an impression of her mother explaining a raunchy gay cartoon, or miming a gay man in the audience eating pussy to end all shootings, she made funny look effortless and reminded everyone that Margaret Cho is in a category of her own.