Show Review: Margaret Cho with John Roberts at Nob Hill Masonic Center, 12/04/10

by Jason LeRoy on December 6, 2010


San Francisco’s own Margaret Cho gave a triumphant hometown concert at the Nob Hill Masonic Center on Saturday night in support of her first music album, Grammy nominee Cho Dependent. But those concerned that Cho would forgo stand-up to focus on music needn’t worry: comedy was still very much the priority of the evening, and Cho has rarely been more uproarious.

The show was opened wonderfully by YouTube favorite John Roberts, making his very first San Francisco appearance. Like Cho, Roberts gets ample comic mileage from impressions of his mother, donning an instantly recognizable (to his many YouTube fans) red wig and sunglasses and affecting a broad New Yawk accent and stance. But this is merely one of many wigs that sat on a large table next to Roberts during his set (and remained curiously on stage throughout Cho’s performance).

Roberts does rapid-fire character-based humor, zipping from impression to impression, some lasting no longer than a few seconds, with wigs ranging from blonde pigtails (every girl in porn) to a mullet (every guy in porn) to black braids (the sassy black girls he’d use for protection against anti-gay bullies in high school) to long orange-brown curls (dancers in Mexican soda commercials). He really, really slayed. Hopefully this will be his first SF appearance of many.

At the end of Roberts’ set he introduced Margaret, who came out instantly and began her set — with no wait! This seemed almost too good to be true, since one becomes accustomed to killing up to an hour in between sets. I’d already begun making a mental list of texts to send in the interim. But no, we got instant Cho!

The timing of this show really couldn’t be better, since Cho is surfing her biggest wave of public visibility in many years. Between the Cho Dependent album (which features collaborations with the likes of Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, Patty Griffin, Andrew Bird, Tegan & Sara, Ani DiFranco, and more), her role on the Lifetime hit Drop Dead Diva, and her three-week turn on Dancing With The Stars, this is the closest she’s been to a mainstream star since her mid-’90s heyday. Granted, most of her publicity has been focused on her brief but memorable stint on DWTS, from which she was voted off following an ebullient “gay pride” dance to “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow.

Fortunately now that DWTS has concluded, Cho can be even more uncensored about her experiences on the show — and she’s not wasting any time. On November 29, Cho posted an entry to her very funny blog in which she alleged that Bristol Palin, who finished third in the competition thanks to Tea Party-coordinated voting efforts, was forced onto the show by Mama Grizzly Palin, who reportedly blames Bristol and her unplanned pregnancy for the McCain/Palin election loss (“Yeah sure, they lost because of Bristol, not because Sarah Palin is an asshole,” Cho remarked).

Within a few days the media caught wind of Cho’s allegations, and it’s now grown into a full-blown nonsense controversy. Bristol’s ghostwriter (presumably the same poor bastard as Sarah’s) has now fired off a response that includes a lesbian joke, which will just go over great with Margaret, I’m sure. And according to Cho, ABC (the network that airs DWTS) recently attempted to coerce her into appearing on their Access Hollywood show to recant or otherwise backpedal on her claims, which she steadfastly refused (“What are you gonna do? Vote me off again?” she sassed).

But Cho talked about much, much more than just Bristol Palin. BristolGate is also the closest she came to discussing politics, which should come as a relief to the many Cho fans that strayed when Margaret did two back-to-back tours with overt, often unfunny political content (Revolution and Assassin). She also riffed on several of her other DWTS co-stars, such as Brandy (whom Cho says once plopped down next to her and randomly exclaimed, “You are so lucky to be Chinese!”; Cho is Korean) and Florence Henderson (Cho says one of the reasons she refrained from pot while on DWTS is she didn’t want to be high and paranoid in front of Carol Brady).

It is beyond delightful hearing Cho’s backstage gossip about her time on DWTS. The mere fact that she, one of the most subversive comedians of her generation, was even cast on this most hallowed of mainstream reality competition juggernauts (with Sarah Palin’s fucking daughter no less), seems like one of the most spectacularly wonderful errors in judgment in the history of reality casting. Getting to see Cho’s parents seated in the front row, two chairs down from the former governor of Alaska, was one of the most surreal televised moments of the year.

Let’s see, what else did Cho talk about? Oh, that’s right: SEX. Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex. Also: sex. This show put the raunch in raunchy, and put a big fat dick in pretty much everything else. I won’t get into specifics, but let’s just say that I’ll never look at a dog drinking from a fire hydrant the same way again.

Aside from sex, Cho covered pretty much all her usual topics: her family, queer culture, poop. She also sang three songs from her album: “I’m Sorry” (about discovering that one of the writers on All-American Girl whom she’d had a big crush on is currently in prison for brutally murdering his wife), “Your Dick,” “My Puss” (which sound like companion songs but aren’t), and a non-album track about being stuck in a relationship with someone you don’t want to fuck.

And she was funny. So incredibly funny. This is arguably her funniest show since The Notorious C.H.O. back in 2001. By the end of the night, my laughing face-pain had graduated to a full-blown headache. But it was the sweetest pain.

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