Content warning: Sexual violence and suicide
Margaret Cho’s new show, “Fresh Off the Bloat,” lit up San Francisco’s Castro Theatre this last Saturday night. After Cho’s opener, Selena Luna, finished her 20-minute set of snappy jokes, the audience was already smoldering hot. But as soon as Cho blazed onto stage in black thigh-high tights, six-inch heels and a skintight fringed silk dress, the entire audience knew they were about to have their faces melted by comedic pyrotechnics.
“Oh my god. Harvey Weinstein,” Cho moaned mid-entrance-strut.
“All the aspects of it are terrible, but also the people defending him? That’s really gross,” she continued, hammering out jabs at the now Dubai-based Lindsay Lohan’s Instagram video defense of Weinstein and her indiscernible new vaguely Irish accent. “Why is she even in Dubai? Does she just go where she’s still famous?”
For the next 10 minutes, Cho wove sharp commentary on Weinstein, sexual abuse and women’s rights through her usual blunt quips. She praised the increasing number of women coming forward saying, “That is solidarity. That is feminism. That is cool as fuck. And it takes a lot for me to say I like Gwyneth Paltrow.”
As her Weinstein roast wound down, Cho added that sexual assault hits her particularly hard because she was raped from the ages of 10 to 12 by her uncle — a trauma which Cho recalled her “savage” Korean mother replying, “I know that he a rapist because he already rape your aunt. So you not special.”
With that, it became clear that Cho wasn’t in town just to make the audience laugh. Instead, “Fresh Off the Bloat” would require the Castro Theatre to grapple with the personal, political and cultural topics that are most uncomfortable to confront.
Through almost constant rumbling laughter, Cho delivered an hour of punchy jokes on laxative-laced cocaine, her experiences as the always forgotten “B” in “LGBTQ,” the impossibility of actually physically grabbing a pussy — “It’s slippery!” — getting peed on, “butt stuff,” AIDS, whitewashing, Planned Parenthood, suicide, rehab, shitting yourself and, of course, Donald Trump.
“It was the pussy grab, I think,” Cho hypothesized. “It seemed to speak to a voter that had never been spoken to before. They heard ‘pussy grab’ and they thought: ‘that’s my president.’ ”
Cho went on to taunt Trump’s supporters, sex life and inability to blend undereye concealer down into the rest of his face. Neglecting to acknowledge the president’s politics, Cho gave Trump equal respect and time in her set as she gave Dyson-level vibrators and Laura Bush’s pussy theoretically tasting like Lysol.
Cho’s disregard for Trump’s politics wasn’t a result of an aversion to activism or indifference toward the effects of Trump’s presidency. Reducing the president to a mere figure of pop culture was Cho’s way of giving Trump a good old “fuck you.”
Dancing between pop culture, politics and intimate anecdotes, “Fresh Off the Bloat” ended with Cho making laughter and light of two jarringly personal topics — suicide and shitting yourself.
“I hung myself on my shower curtain rod, and as I was hanging the rod started bending,” Cho said as the audience, for one of the first times, became completely silent. “And I was like, ‘Oh shit. I’m too fat to kill myself. I gotta go on a diet.’ ”
One such diet attempt involved an over-consumption of fruit that left Cho without bowel control. “I was like, I’m either going to shit myself right now. Or, I’m going to shit myself in ten seconds,” she recalled.
Throughout “Fresh Off the Bloat,” blunt recollections like this were the foundation of Cho’s monologues — eliciting shock, then guffaws of laughter. Earlier in the set, Cho had attributed her candour regarding her rapes to activism.
“I talk about it because I don’t give a shit. I won’t give a shit,” she declared. “People feel so ashamed but if they could hear me talk about it like I don’t give a shit, then maybe they could be unburdened by their shame, maybe they could hear me and think, ‘You know what? I’m gonna talk about it.’ ”
As Cho concluded her set, reminiscing on the feeling of feces filling her underwear, it became clear that everything she stood for and said in “Fresh Off the Bloat” derived from this same line of thinking. In laughing at the cringeworthy, the frustrating, the inexplicably unjust, Cho aims to broaden perspectives and open discussions on addressing and correcting all the “shit” that’s wrong with the world.
Contact Claralyse Palmer at [email protected].