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Diastole, dykes and dystopia are all featured in Margaret Cho's latest comedic offering

By Peter Koht

Round about the time that the thought of actually cooking a meal inside becomes untenable and the route from Ocean Street to the beach becomes one long and immobile SUV parking lot, many Santa Cruz residents flee the town in search of adventure. While most end up either camping in the hills or clubbing in the city, there is a venue much closer to home worth exploring: The Mountain Winery. Located in Saratoga, this unassuming little chateau is hosting Margaret Cho's Assassin Tour on June 18th. While her last outing on the road dealt with sexual exploration and her relationship with her parents, the Assassin tour is much more topical.

Reached on the phone in Los Angeles, Margaret offers this summation: "It's a lot about what I am thinking of politically. It's about gay marriage, it's about the religious right and it's about the war. But mostly it's about how we find our place in this very warped society."

Not surprisingly, the Republican power structure is in for a few pointed jabs. Cho is especially incensed over their exploitation of the gay marriage debate. "It's really sickening that they would use this great weakness in the American culture--all this prejudice and hatred and homophobia--to move their political agenda forward. The administration celebrates its dumbness. They are putting a point of pride on their ignorance like it is a good thing."

While the bulk of the program deals with national issues, Cho's own brand of personal comedy is still in place. She has a talent for deflating the most intimate of experiences, whether it's a botched enema or a visit to a sex club, into self-effacing episodes that reveals her exploratory take on human existence. When asked how she deals with talking about such private moments night after night in front of thousands, Cho is unsurprisingly direct.

"It's like therapy at first," she says, "then it becomes storytelling. A lot of the things that I am talking about don't have the emotional charge that they used to have. It's like writing fiction in a sense, because it is irrelevant to my life now, even if it is true."

Cho's mother, Young Hie, a frequent character in her act, also makes an appearance. Unfortunately, most of her role in this performance deals with Margaret coming to terms with Young Hie's recent heart attack. "It's hard to deal with your parents getting older and wanting to take care of them," Cho says, "I wanted to put the tour on hold and take care of her, but she was not willing to let me do it. She wanted me to stay out there at work."

Cho finds ways to connect her mother's battle with heart disease to some more topical issues in bioethics, including the death of Pope John Paul II and the recent Terry Schiavo debacle. Again, Cho weighs in with some serious invective for meddling conservative politicians.

"One of the reasons that I am so angry about the Terry Schiavo thing is that such a big deal was made by the right-to-lifers about the sanctity of life, when really they don't career at all about the soldiers in Iraq that have been there for two years with no exit strategy. They focus so much on this one person, but they don't even look at her as a person! She is just a tool that they can use to outlaw abortion."

On a lighter note, Cho has just wrapped her first narrative film called Bam Bam and Celeste. Costarring Bruce Daniels, Cho sums up the plot as "A fag and fag hag love story. We don't really have that. There have been attempts at it, but it hasn't really happened as it should."

Independently produced and funded, it's yet another example of Cho's commitment to doing things on her own damn way. Whether criticizing politicians, critiquing porn or impersonating her mother, Cho's work is some of the funniest and edgiest comedy ever to hit the scene. It's a great excuse to get the hell out of Dodge for a day and laugh your ass off in the process.

Margaret Cho performs at the Moutain Winery on June 18. 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga, CA 95070. Tickets $35-$50. Call 408.741.2822 or visit www.mountainwinery.com.

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Web extra to the June 15-22, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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