Stand-up review: Margaret Cho’s THE PSYCHO TOUR
Margaret Cho is bitingly funny — but this isn't news.
In town yesterday for her first performance in Asia presented by LA Comedy Live, the comedienne came on stage for her first show — a matinee — in what was a confusing time in logistics: The audience lights in the Kallang Theatre weren't dimmed, and the screens which flanked both sides of the stage didn't light up with THE PSYCHO TOUR's promotional posters until later. Still, she smilingly appeared bringing forth her new haircut — which she said resembled that of the character Chang's in Orange Is The New Black — and a white tee which teased the audience with a peek of her heavily-tattooed bod.
Within the first five minutes, she had launched into a rant about City Harvest, the chewing gum ban, hawker food, caning, section 377A of the Penal Code, vandalism and Madonna's recent concert in Singapore. It was almost disappointing — here's a three-time Grammy and Emmy nominated talent, and she's making jabs at Singapore-centered topics a foreign amateur stand-up comic would take. Still, it received some laughs — notably when she marveled at the "impact of a gumless society".
But in spite of the predictable start, it was a prelude to a rolling, bellyaching good time. Cho doesn't hold back, and certainly wasn't in the spirit of taming things down just for the Singapore audience (hear that, Madonna?). In fact, she lamented a few times that she's definitely getting caned, and even hinted at the kinky nature of it — a perspective that doesn't seem to get discussed in human rights comment threads on Facebook.
And that's what the San Francisco native brings the best of: Perspective. Raised as a second-generation Korean-American, the Fashion Police co-host made jabs at her upbringing, something the Singapore crowd could relate to — whether it was the plague of a fat-shaming Asian society, her aged mother's tattooed eyebrows or the fact that "beige don't age".
She's also brutally honest. Within the 90-minute set, Cho shared accounts of her struggle with bulimia, drug use (name-dropping her liaisons with Anna Nicole Smith and Courtney Love whilst doing so), sexual abuse and self-abuse she's experienced in her 47 years of life. She even bared herself, literally, by shimmying her tattooed butt cheeks. It's an incredible thing to be able to stand in front of a crowd of strangers and share details of childhood rape — but to make it humorous is another story. Of course, related jabs at Bill Cosby and Woody Allen made it easier to laugh when the audience was uncertain as to whether they should.
Like any good old American sport, presidential candidate Donald Trump didn't escape the butt of her jokes. Current hot topics such as the Black Lives Matter activist movement weren't ignored either, as were the issues on Syrian refugees and gun control. But what was particularly engaging were her anecdotes on being part of the LGBT community — a loud and proud bisexual, she recounted moments of being a "dick widow" in the club, the "secret language of dick" and "eggplant Fridays" (look it up, but be warned). Cho invited the audience into her locker room talk, complete with vibrator sounds and even engaging a few male members on eating a female body part that's south of the crotch border.
Ending the show by performing her songs (I Want To) Kill My Rapist and Fat P***y, Cho's presence in our PC Asian society reminds us that it's perfectly fine to be unapologetic of our own shortcomings, and to stand up for what we believe in. One thing's for sure: The 2,500-strong Saturday crowd will never look at neck pillows the same way again.
Margaret Cho's THE PSYCHO TOUR was held on 5 March at the Kallang Theatre. Read our interview with her here.