Oct 9, 2015

Before There Was Sriracha, There Was Margaret Cho

I just came back from seeing Margaret Cho's PSYCHO tour in Westbury, NY tonight! I have never been to Westbury and don't know anything about this town other than that her tour was there tonight. We rented a car and drove out to see her in the middle of kinda of nowhere. The only other time I saw Margaret was the NOTORIOUS CHO in 2002 tour years ago in NYC. A lot has happened in her career (a few TV shows, several TV roles, a divorce, etc), and you really got a sense of the revolution of her as a comedienne (and one of my heroines), but more significantly of Margaret as a political activist. From her site:
This show is about insanity, and about the anger I feel about everything happening in the world right now, from police brutality to racism to the rising tide of violence against women. It makes me so crazy – hence the title: “THE PSYCHO TOUR” because there is no “I” in team but there is a “CHO” in psycho”.
Her show opened with a bang with Gina Yashere, a black British comedienne who absolutely slayed. Her set was TIGHT and so well delivered. I was inspired, smitten and pulled right into the CHO madness. Selene Luna followed second and she was so charming and obviously newly smitten in her own personal life as well as that was the central topic of her set. I've only seen Selene on Margaret's hilariously absurd episode in ABC's TV show Wife Swap so it was great to see her do her thing on stage. Selene said it best, this was the most diverse comedy show cast ever: an Asian, a British black woman, and a little person Selene, is there a punch line to this? Well, turns out there were quite a few. I won't give away any spoilers but I did learn several things about Margaret's checkered past and sad truths about her childhood that made my eyes water in the theater. By the time she got to her closing songs performed with the band Jane Lee Hooker, the "psy-cle" came full circle. One of the songs she sang was called "I want to kill my rapist" and I was shocked to see how complacent the audiences were during this obviously heavy song. I would say 90% of the audience were older white folks, which I was surprised by. Maybe because we were in Westbury, NY? Seriously like 90% of the people were older white folks, then you got your gay men's, and lesbians. But it wasn't the most diverse crowd. Again maybe cause it's Westbury? Traffic did take us 1.5 hours to get out there from the Lower East Side... I don't know but I do know that the raw emotion and energy Margaret and the band put into this particular song did not match the audience reaction. Just weird to hear a song like this and see everyone sitting down properly with their nice sweater sets and combed hair-dos. After the sets were over Selene announced that they were doing an impromptu meet-and-greet but only had 30 minutes since they had to get to the airport at 5am (ah, glamorous tour life!). Varla, Michael, and I waited at the wrong location in the lobby and before we knew it, the line was disappointingly long. But Michael, being the rock star that he is, got us in the VIP lounge where the cast was coming through on their way to the lobby! I really wanted to introduce myself to Margaret just to thank her for her continued support of the Asian Burlesque Spectacular show that I co-produced annually in NYC. She has tweeted about the show two years in a row (thanks to Jen Gapay). Plus, she is truly the first pioneer for Asian Americans in popular culture, before any feng shui, reiki, sriracha, and Fresh Off the Boat. Even Eddie Huang calls Margaret "Chobi-one-kenobi".

I went into the VIP Lounge to wait to ambush Margaret (haha), and there was a group of large white men Homer Simpson looking dudes standing around talking and drinking. The minute I walk in, one of them barked loudly, "Look! It's Margaret Cho's sister!" I was like WTF? Seriously? You are making this racist ignorant joke at Margaret Cho's show? I dryly replied, "No, she's the other Asian here tonight" and I don't think these Homer Simpsons got it at all. I shoulda said, "Look! It's a Homer Simpsons convention here." Who ARE these people who come to this show? One would think if you came to see Margaret Cho, you kinda get it or are in the tribe, no? Guess one can't control how one's message is received, who is receiving it, and what they take (or don't take) from it. Then again, maybe Westbury?

Anyway so finally Margaret and Selene came through with a security guy. Of course the Homers ambushed her first and I'm reminded of when I have to do meet and greets after shows and people want to say hello and thank yous etc when you just want to go to bed! Keeping that in mind I already unsheathed my phone out of my made in China vodka cover so I can get photos of her without taking up too much of her time. So when she came up I introduced myself and thank her for supporting the Asian Burlesque show. Then I asked her, "Why don't you want to do burlesque anymore?" Her reply, "Cause I don't want to wear makeup." LOL here's my face!

Go catch Margaret and her killer cast on this tour. It was absolutely inspiring and grounding to witness an intelligent, powerful and funny woman using the creative platform to raise political awareness with humour, wit, and some cultural i-ching shit thrown in (wink, wink). And if you don't like it, you are dead to me.

Me and Margaret. Thanks Michael for taking the photo!
Varla, me, and Margaret Cho