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Notorious C.H.O

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Notorious C.H.O

Starring: Margaret Cho
Director: Lorene Machado
Rated: NR
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: June 2002
Genres: Comedy, Gay/Lesbian

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
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Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

his is the kind of movie that evokes the age-old argument about film criticism: What does a journalist do when he screens stand-up comedy that is not targeted to his sense of humor? I think we'd be dishonest if in the interests of political correctness we insist that humor is universal: that one-man shows by Jackie Mason or Richard Pryor, to single out two great comics, could be appreciated equally by all cultures in America. In fact if either of these two comic geniuses tried to universalize their shtick, they would dull their edge so much that they'd be lucky to evoke a couple of smiles.

Take Margaret Cho as another example. Her comic timing is impeccable. Her facial expressions are on the money every time. She keeps her live audience in the case of the show "Notorious C.H.O." which was filmed from her Seattle performance virtually rolling in the aisles. But both before and after the on-stage performance, director Lorene Machado's camera person Kirk Miller, scans the audience for commentary, and what we in the movie crowd is a collection of rather flamboyant types gays, trannies, lesbians--whose appearance and commentary signal us that they are not attending an Episcopal church service.

Given the live audience reactions to Ms. Cho's commentary, one might gather that the comedian could say "fresh fish" and garner louder laughs than have been heard on the soundtrack of a Bill Cosby TV show. Ms. Cho is so talented, so articulate in her repartee of gags that I was hoping that at some point I could tune in: perhaps some mocking of President Bush's reactionary domestic policy or of ex-President Clinton's foibles; maybe a dressing down of terrorists that could make even the leaders of Hamas grin in self-recognition. But sexual humor and not political satire is her thing except in the one instance that she comes out in favor of legalized unions of gays and lesbians who should be free "to put their names into any bridal registry."

"Sometimes straight men freak out when I talk about my period, but I guarantee if straight men had a period, you would never hear the end of it. They would be using old socks, coffee filters...Oh let me get the sports section when you're done." She draws a favorable reaction when she hones in on the G-Spot, which she pretends to be absolutely unable to find. "There's a spot in there that if you get it just right, its' like ding, ding, ding, ding ding! And you win a stuffed animal!"

There was a time that movies would signal the sexual intentions of the (always straight) couples on the screen by a sunset. When the sun went down, the actors, we all understood, were going at it. For decades now, the pendulum has swung the other way, as witness "American Pie," "There's Something About Mary," and the like. This is why I wonder how an audience could react so strongly to Ms. Cho's bits. You'd think they had never heard such risque humor before, live, on the stage.

To her credit, Margaret Cho never gets doe-eyed sentimental, even when talking about her mom and dad who appear together at a pre-show interview or when pondering the state of this hate-filled world. "I urge you all today to love yourselves without reservation and to love each other without restraint unless you're into leather. Then by all means use restraints.

If you're part of Cho's targeted group, I think you'll love the show.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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