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[whitespace] Notorious C.H.O.
Move Over, Dr. Ruth: When it comes to sex talk, nobody delivers like Margaret Cho.

As Nasty as She Wants to Be

Margaret Cho's new concert film is a sex-charged hoot

By Todd Inoue

FISTING, COLONICS, pussy mustaches--a conversation in some frat house? Nope, just a few minutes in the company of Margaret Cho. The Korean-American comedian gets downright nasty in The Notorious C.H.O., a film record of her 2001 tour. While her first concert film, I'm the One That I Want, was rooted in her depression in the wake of her failed sitcom and the road to self-acceptance, The Notorious C.H.O. is concerned with more throbbing issues.

Cho's first joke puts you in the mood right away. She begins with a thoughtful meditation on Sept. 11 and visiting ground zero. Inspired to do her part for her country, she immediately went to work--orally servicing rescue workers. The film, which goes on to careen from bedroom to bondage club, is sexually explicit enough to send the MPAA in search of more X's.

The funniest moments come when Margaret puts on her "What if?" lenses. What if men had periods? What if she just pissed in bed instead of walking to the toilet? What if her B&D technician was a bull dyke who looked like John Goodman? Cho leaves her Korean-American heritage out of this one, a distinct change from the racist Hollywood nightmares that filled I'm the One That I Want. The laughs are more general. Her imitations of her mother--including a long but hilarious retelling of a family secret--give the film warmth and a welcome respite from all the sex talk. She mimics the embarrassed cadence of the Asian video-store clerk leaving a voicemail about an overdue porno flick.

Aside from the opening cymbal crash, Notorious C.H.O isn't just a bunch of dick jokes tied together. Her material is derived from a natural curiosity about sexuality and the comic episodes that ensue when expectations don't match up with the fantasy. Cho has a lot of fun goading her huge gay and lesbian audience with tales of attending hetero swing clubs and unsatisfying boyfriends.

The film itself is static. Margaret doesn't move around much, relying on Bill Cosby-style mugging. The cameras don't trail off her for less than a second. Ninety-seven minutes is a long time to watch one person rattle on about sexual proclivities. The 9-to-5ers should probably attend the early show, unless they're total Margaret heads. The title is an obvious reference to the late Notorious B.I.G., but Cho's salty attitude is more in line with Biggie's raunchy sidekick, Li'l Kim. Like the female rapper, Cho snatches sex back from the puritans and dumb morning jocks, and reclaims it for her own comedic terms.

Notorious C.H.O. (Unrated; 92 min.), a concert film by Lorene Machado, opens Friday at the Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz..

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From the July 3-10, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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