Fierce, candid and provocative

Spanning issues from chewing gum to abuse, comedienne Margaret Cho's routine had more adult content than pop star Madonna at her recent gig

Margaret Cho (above) in her stand-up routine in Singapore.
Margaret Cho (above) in her stand-up routine in Singapore.PHOTO: ALOYSIUS LIM/LA COMEDY LIVE



Kallang Theatre

Last Saturday

Margaret Cho literally bared body and soul at the Kallang Theatre last Saturday.

As she folded up her T-shirt and pulled down her pants to show her tattooed abdomen and posterior, she struck blows for both body positivity and the dying art of slapstick.

First, she spoke of the tattoos as reclaiming the territory of her body after years of abuse.

Then she jiggled and giggled. "Does it look like the faces are talking to each other?" she said, a vibrating dynamo generating shrieks and claps from the audience and finally a standing ovation at the end.

In the first of two shows that drew about 2,500 people last weekend, she had the audience from the moment she stepped on stage in leather pants and a Star Wars T-shirt featuring Chewbacca and said: "China Wine. I can't get that song out of my head. China Wine."

A few jokes about the City Harvest trial and her cravings for a fix of chewing gum later, she segued into a fierce and funny stand-up routine with more adult content than the recent Madonna concert.

The delivery could have been tighter, Cho often repeating a phrase eight times when twice would do, but the content was comedy gold.

She poked fun at the holier- than-thou, defended queer rights and wondered if her routine might get her caned.

"Kinky," she said early in the show, then laughed. "I'm not going to be too provocative. I have an aunty hairstyle."

Instead, she touted the benefits of a "green and sober" lifestyle. This meant taking marijuana - legal in her hometown San Francisco - over hard drugs.

She has done both and shared a stomach-turning story from her lowest point. Trainspotting style, it involves vomit and the addict's desperation for a high.

"I'm not trying to glamorise drugs," she said as the audience howled and got the point.

One laughs with Cho, not at. Laughter explodes out of the chest almost in shock as she lands punchline after hard-hitting punchline.

She quoted US presidential candidate Donald Trump's infamous compliment to his daughter - "if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her" - and said: "Who's he think he is? Woody Allen?"

To forestall any outraged fans of Allen, she followed up with: "Woody Allen loves me. I think he wants to adopt me."

Allen has been married for more than 20 years to Soon-Yi, the adopted daughter of his former wife Mia Farrow.

Cho is a comedienne with a cause, a woman with an aunty hairstyle who is anti-anything unfair: racism, sexism, homophobia.

Naturally, some of her best material wasn't funny at all. She spoke of her history of sexual abuse at the hands of an uncle who is still invited to family functions before she is, out of respect for his age.

Her mother's sop to Cho's feelings? When he finally dies and is cremated, Cho can throw the switch.

She got a bit of her own back at a party thrown in her honour, where she was made to greet her abuser. She put her arm around him and whispered death threats in his ear.

"The look of fear on his face was so healing," she said, later launching into the power anthem I Want To Kill My Rapist.

Cho is clearly fonder of her mentors, the late Joan Rivers and Robin Williams, and made a few jokes in their memory, but her complicated relationship with her family is far more entertaining.

She imitates her mother following a single friend around, trying to hook her up with a man - any man.

"He's in town for two hours on a layover. You should go to the airport to meet him. I know he looks ugly, but he's tall. His face is far away."

Perhaps because this is her first tour of Asia, there was less sending up of stereotypes and more sex jokes about American celebrities. Pity, because if there is one thing her own career proves, it is that Asians are perfectly capable of laughing at themselves.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Fierce, candid and provocative'. Print Edition | Subscribe