Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Margaret Cho is a rape survivor – between the age of five and twelve, she was sexually abused by a family member. Which makes family reunions “awkward as”, technically, she and her abuser never broke up. It is a joke that is typical of Margaret Cho- abrasive, shocking, confrontational and breaking through the barriers of what might be considered as an acceptable subject for humour. The title of Cho’s current tour Fresh Off the Bloat is intended to reflect Cho’s move away from excessive indulgence in drugs and alcohol and you can’t help but wonder, if she is this extreme without stimulants, what was she capable of when stoned.
Most ‘sick’ comedians approach their material with a twinkle in the eye; a sense of ‘Ohhh aren’t I naughty?’ But among her other interests, Cho is a political activist so her material is extremely well-observed and her opinions supported by facts which makes it impossible to dismiss her act as trying to be shocking; this is the real deal. Even though Cho might be serious about the issues the presentation is hilarious including her embarrassment recalling her involvement in the Hilary Clinton election campaign.
Margaret Cho observes few of the boundaries that most people would find acceptable. The current sexual exploitation and harassment scandals rocking the world of showbiz and the criticism of casting white actors in ethnic roles-‘whitewashing’- are explored mercilessly. One feels that were Cho’s scorching opinions on named celebrities and politicians recorded in this review, the website might get some unwanted attention from the legal profession. Cho is incapable of discretion – revealing details of a conversation that the other party had asked be kept confidential or criticising a film director who regularly mentions her favourably.
Much of Fresh Off the Bloat is so gleefully over the top as to move towards absurdity. Cho’s preferred vibrator is manufactured by Dysons and her excessive use has generated complaints from neighbours who suspect fracking is underway. Yet the parts of the show that are truly shocking are when Cho casually slips in factual details. Bemoaning that Donald Trump’s election may be a setback for the movement for women’s rights Cho speculates a return to the days when women met to assist each other in performing DIY abortions – a procedure described as like syphoning petrol from a car. It is such a coarse and brutal description as to raise doubts as to if you have heard correctly.
Like many comedians, Cho uses her own life story as material but does so without any effort to secure sympathy. A suicide attempt during a period of depression failed because the shower rail from which Cho was hanging gave way under her weight- she would need to diet in order to die.
Fresh Off the Bloat is densely packed with almost every line containing a joke of some kind which has a cumulative effect; building a sustained mood of hilarity that, considering the nature of the material, is quite an achievement.
Reviewed on 30th November 2017 | Image: Contributed