Notorious C.H.O.? There’s no rapping or rhymin’ to be seen here and no P. Diddy stylistics either. This homegirl just jumps on stage and delivers comedy. But she will certainly be going down in American standup history as being notorious – notoriously funny, raunchy, honest, and of course watchable.
Filmed in Seattle 2001, Notorious C.H.O is a live recording of Cho’s show at the end of what seems like an incredibly long US tour. Opening shots of punters lining up in the rain and ardent fans shouting their support into the camera establish Cho as a performer of considerable popularity in her home country. This is admirable considering her first foray into mainstream American TV, after being successful on the comedy circuit, was a starring role in the States’ first Asian American sitcom All American Girl, which some of you may remember from 7 years ago. It tanked dismally and was killed off after the first season. The results were backlash from the Asian community, four years of alchohol and drug abuse and depression for Cho. But she is now back, proving to world she has put the sitcom behind her, and restoring herself as a top stand up comedienne.
Watching this DVD is like being given a tour of Cho’s body and bodily functions, starting with her colon and proceeding to other parts you wouldn’t normally discuss in a theatre full of strangers and least of all if your parents were in the audience! Don’t worry, it gets worse: there’s her thoughts on her sexual activities, personal ads and everyone’s favourite – menstruation!
The outrageous subject matter may serve the purpose of jolting the audience but it would just be downright crude if Cho didn’t have the competence to pull if off and she does it terrifically. Cho is an astute and alarmingly accomplished mimic, her mother being one of the people whose mannerisms she has perfected to pull off maximum laughs.
More than that though, Cho’s comedy has an added layer of resonance – you can certainly detect undercurrents of strong emotions in her routines stemming from personal experiences. She delivers a moving yet funny piece about her best friends from high school who as teenage drag queens would perform to stunned patrons at a local Haagen-Daz, with an ice-cream as a prop. Then there is anger and reflection from years of eating disorders and alchohol abuse. No topics are off limit, it seems, and certainly all are very personal. This is what seems to endear Cho to many of her fans who identify with her and have had to deal with similar problems.
Notorious C.H.O has nary a flat moment, the jokes roll off at a rapid rate, not leaving much time in between laughs to recover. She does take the opportunity to get on her soapbox in the final stages but her core fans in the audience lap it up. Although I can certainly empathise, I can’t claim to know what it feels like to go through her experiences, making my viewing a little less personal. However, I definitely get her humour, which is just gut-busting.