..

NOTORIOUS C.H.O.

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Margaret Cho
Director:  Lorene Machado
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Wellspring
Features:  See Review
Length:  95 Minutes
Release Date:  November 19, 2002

“I call THAT a triumph of the human spirit!”

Film ***

Some genres don’t die; they merely hibernate.  I wondered if we had seen the last of the comedy concert films with the absence of new releases by the likes of Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy, but like most art forms, it was just waiting for the new champions to pick up the torch and run with it.

Margaret Cho has done her share to keep laughter on celluloid alive.  With the release of her first independent comedy concert film I’m the One That I Want, she proved herself to be everything a great comic should be:  fearless, funny, insightful, and willing to expose the follies of humanity and kid them for all their worth.  With her newest release, Notorious C.H.O., she seals her case.

Ms. Cho isn’t afraid to begin her show with a remembrance of 9/11, and better still, she dares to cap it with a punchline that actually IS funny…it felt good to laugh. 

But the laughs didn’t stop there…though most of her material isn’t re-printable, I can say she offered hysterical insights into menstrual cycles, sexual satisfaction (or not), adventures in swinging, a visit to a…um, how shall we say, “special” kind of medical clinic, and much more.  Ms. Cho is even comfortable enough to kid her weight struggles, but does so with an adamantly positive message.

For fans who love her most famous impersonation (her mother), there’s some of that, too…made even more edgy by the fact that her mom and dad were in the audience watching this particular show!  I had to admire her chutzpah, because she said plenty of things and addressed many issues that to this day I wouldn’t bring up in front of my parents!  She’s frank and open about subjects some would consider taboo; those with sensitive constitutions, you have been warned.

Her audience clearly loves her, and I think it’s fair to say she loves them back.  Notorious C.H.O. is a funny, heartfelt gift to her fans.  Non-admirers need not apply.

Video *1/2

A comedy concert doesn’t require a whole lot of effort in the video department, and Notorious C.H.O. doesn’t seem like it got much.  Transferred from video instead of film, the picture is soft and murky throughout, with drab coloring and not much in the way of detail.  When the camera pans the audience, you won’t see much out there…definition is very poor, and the low lighting is problematic.  You can see Ms. Cho just fine, which is all you really need for a watchable presentation.  It’s simply not one of the better looking discs you’re going to own.

Audio ***

Surprisingly, the disc includes a 5.1 soundtrack, and it actually fares quite well!  The rear stage opens up for audience reaction and the reverb from Ms. Cho’s microphone to give the sound an ambient, live feel.  Even the .1 channel gets its share of action, as her PA system seems well balanced for both bass and treble.  If the video wasn’t as good as it could have been, the audio is definitely better than it needed to be.

Features ***1/2

This disc boasts one of the most clever uses of a commentary track I’ve heard.  Ms. Cho commenting on her own performance might have been overkill, but here, she does it…as her mother!  Talk about your bonus…you watch a funny comedy show, then you get to watch it all over again with a fresh set of laughs!

The disc also includes some deleted scenes (mostly for the intro and outro pieces), a look at the movie shoot, a making-of short piece, a trailer, weblinks, and a new animated short film featuring Ms. Cho in an amusing take on racism.

Summary:

Margaret Cho carries on the tradition started by Lenny Bruce, but adds her own unique flair and perspective to it.  For those without delicate sensibilities, Notorious C.H.O. is a funny and smart laugh riot.