Picked Flick #90: I'm the One That I Want
Another of the funniest bits, though heartbreaking in context, is "I - was so - hungry! I was starving!!" Margaret lets fly with that curveball at the point in her live, one-woman show when she has stopped (well, mostly stopped) explicitly catering to her hometown and way-gay San Francisco audience and is chronicling her own short, unhappy life as a corporate-fabricated Asian-American poster child in the mid-1990s. Cast in an "Asian family" sitcom whose cast of characters were all, to anyone paying attention, of completely different Asian ethnicities. Coercively shadowed by an "Asian advisor" who would dog her around the set and teach her to be "more" Asian. ("Here, use these chopsticks!" Cho ventriloquizes in wicked but pained memory, "and then, you can put them in your hair!") All the while, Cho was fighting dietary dictates from the network and the eating disorders they inevitably provoked, as well as various addictions, sexual recklessness and eventual victimization, crushed expectations, vicious "fanmail," industry racism, and everything else under the Angelino sun. As she tells the story, with no matter how much foul-mouthed and knee-slapping wit, you can see that she's beating back every ghost in the book. Maybe this time, she'll win.
I'm the One That I Want, richer, more personal, and a good deal funnier than Cho's follow-up concert docs, is like "Rose's Turn" sung out by Richard Pryor. Except, you know, "more Asian." The structural arrangement of her show, testifying to her struggles against sexist and racist G-forces by playfully stoking her largely white male audience's presumed familiarity with homophobia, comprises a thesis in itself about the dialogic possibilities between different cadres of American outcasts. Cho raises all kinds of questions in her routine, and consciously or not, the routine raises questions of its own. What is it, after all, about gay male fandom and train-wrecked female celebrities? What are the stakes of such brazen self-stereotyping as Cho's personally patented pidgin-Korean? And what do you do with a comic who's willing and able to say, "I went through this whole thingam I gay? Am I straight? And then I realizedI'm just slutty. Where's my parade??" My answer so far: you watch her movie. A lot. And you think a lot about what you're watching, and why. And you laugh so much you almost vomit. (Click here for the full list of Nick's Picked Flicks.)