Margaret Cho: Assassin Movie Review
Taped at a May 14, 2005 concert in Washington, D.C., Margaret Cho: Assassin starts off like her 2000 film I'm the One That I Want with a parade of gushing fans, then segueing into the show itself, but unlike that much more ambitious effort, this film shows a comic treading water. Like many other performers in recent years, George W. Bush's presidency has spurred Cho to cover more political matters, usually a deadly development with comics. Although Cho has always been admirably outspoken in her support of gay and feminist causes, this change of focus to red-blue state matters leaves Assassin dead on arrival. The problem with Cho's tirades on Bush and the Christian right is not her choice of target - they're obviously subjects rife with possibility - but rather her inability to say anything remotely fresh or cutting about them. Bush is stupid? Check. The pro-life right is hypocritical on Terri Schiavo? Check. There is hardly a politically-targeted line in this show which has not already been uttered many times before, and by less talented people; it's like catching a second-rate rerun of The Daily Show.
This isn't to say that Cho should stick to the subjects she has mined before to much better effect (family, being a Korean-American in Hollywood, the life of a dedicated fag hag), but mere posturing and faux radicalism can't hide her simple inability to tell a decent joke anymore. A potential goldmine of a setup involving the racist and homophobic hate mail she received from right-wingers angered by a joke she made ("Bush isn't like Hitler. He would be if he applied himself.") is wasted with a wan follow-through about how her fans went after the letter-writers. This many years in comedy and the best she can come up with is "Al Gayda"?
Another sign of creeping diva-ness in Cho's performance is the slackening of her style. There was a time when she could keep a theater cracking up for a solid 90 minutes, with barely a let-up. This time out, her pacing is deadly boring, with hardly any sense of building momentum, the comedic crescendos that most comics rely on to keep their audiences wheezing with laughter. Instead, Cho relies on the (probably accurate) belief that her audience will love her no matter what, even if she's settling for spoon-feeding them unoriginal pap.