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December 06, 2005

Margaret Cho Just Still Isn't Funny


What's the difference between the Paul Wellstone funeral and a performance by Margaret Cho, comedian?

In parts, the Wellstone funeral was funny.

Pow, zing.


Here's Margaret Cho's routine: say something nasty about a conservative. Wait for applause and "woo-woos" from partisan crowd. Make declarative statement about a liberal orthodoxy ("You don't choose to be gay"). Wait for more applause. Repeat. Imagine a less funny, more sour, double whiny Maureen Dowd, and you've got it.

Cho's jokes are all bile-soaked grenades, most too vicious to repeat. But even worse is her timing. The classic joke formation calls for a few beats between setup and joke. The late master Robin Harris was a genius at this: "My friend Tiny needs two tickets when he goes to the zoo" -- beat, beat, beat -- "one to get in, one to get out." With Cho it's like this: "Does the pope look like a transvestite or what?" Pause. Applause and woo-woos. Pause. Pause. Pause. Look around. Wait. Pause. "I mean, what's with that dress he wears?" Woo-woos, applause, etc.

Yep, that's her act. She doesn't tell jokes or make funny observations. She just says something mean, gets applause, says something pro-gay, gets applause.

A while ago a liberal reviewer from Slate, who was a fan of Cho's, admitted as such. Even while trying to claim the woman was funny, she had to admit that actually she wasn't:

The funniest part of a Cho gag is neither the setup nor the punch line, but that in-between moment when the audience is left in suspension, wondering what kind of character will emerge to take over her voice and body.

Ah. So the best part of a Margaret Cho show isn't when she's actually talking or telling jokes. It's when she's got her mouth shut, and you're filled with the tantalizing hope that This joke might actually turn out to be funny.

Then she tells the joke, and the frisson of comedic promise is dashed, dashed and shattered like a ceramic bong dropping to the floor out of Andy Dick's drunkenly-gesticulating hands.

Talk about damning with faint praise. The best part of 95% of movies is the opening credits, when you're filled with anticipation that this might actually be an enjoyable, smartly-made movie. And then the actual movie begins, ruining everthing.

But Margaret Cho is going with what works for her:

With each successive tour, Cho extends the length of these liminal moments, and a viewer new to her comedy will no doubt think, "Jeez, this woman's timing is really off."

If I had her act, I'd extend my periods of absolute silence as well.

Related: The Secret Martyrdom of Margerate Cho;

and Margaret Cho names dog after "chic" terrorist;

and Seriously, Margaret Cho isn't funny.

Thanks to See-Dubya.

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posted by Ace at 12:02 PM

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