I've seen Margaret Cho on several occasions. She is, without a doubt, one of the finest working comedians in the business - bar none. Yet every time I see her, I can't help but think that the seventy-something Korean woman in the audience never got the memo.
It wasn't that many years ago that Cho was supposed to be the next big TV star. ABC built an entire show around her and based on the way it was pushed, their expectations must have been high. Apparently some of those executives never got the memo either, or perhaps they never saw her act.
"It was impossible to fit my risque act into network television," said Cho. "At the time, I was trying not to starve. So how could I turn down a network sitcom?"
Comedian Margaret Cho returns to the MACC?with her edgiest performance to date
MISS MISSY photo
I suggested that it seemed as if ABC didn't know what to do with her.
"I didn't know what to do!!" Cho responded. "At that time, network TV was more tightly controlled and I was in this prime 8 p.m. time slot. It was a constant struggle of what an Asian woman was supposed to be-and then it was-I was too fat. I always thought comedy made me exempt from that standard."
Like most true comics, Cho is at her best when in complete control of her material, and the sitcom experience inspired her to take more control of her career. Cho's latest show, "Mother," is described as an untraditional look at motherhood and how we look at maternal figures and strong women in queer culture. "Mother" also revolves around her real long-suffering Korean mom, and a staple of her shows, Seung-Hoon Cho. "My mother did not prepare me for the world. First, I was named the poetic Korean name 'Moran' which was perfect for the kids at school to call me 'moron,' and set me up for a good quarter century of therapy. However, I can clean a fish with my bare hands. So there are pros and cons of being from an Asian immigrant family."
Cho grew up in San Francisco and some of her strongest supporters, going back to her first comedy club gigs, have been the gay community. "That's a great honor," she explained. "Now I've found myself in this mentoring role in the community. That is what 'Mother' is all about." According to Cho, her 2013 tour is her edgiest show to date, filled with riotous observations on race, drugs, sexuality-gay, straight, and everything in between; celebrities, culture, politics. Nothing is sacred. "Some of the first things I ever did were about my mother, and now as a woman in my 40s, I'm related to as a mother figure. The culture involves being mother figures for each other, that's my journey, my life."
I asked her when she knew she wanted to be a comic and if she had any comedy idols. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be Wonder Woman, but by 7 or 8 I started seeing Joan Rivers, George Carlin and Richard Pryor on TV and I knew that was my role, that's what I was going to be when I grew up and there was no turning back."
Like Rivers, Carlin and Pryor before her, Cho has now been nominated for her third Grammy Award, "Cho Dependent -Live in Concert," which is up for Best Comedy Album this Sunday.
I recently caught a 1970s Joan Rivers TV appearance on cable. It was obvious that half of the crowd was appalled as she ranted about celebrities, pregnancy, periods and her husband's growing sexual disinterest in her. The other half of the crowd was doubled over in hysterics. Rivers was playing to them and ignored, and continues to this day to ignore, the folks that don't get her. Cho, like Rivers, is not for everyone, but if you get her, you love her. Whenever I get the chance to appreciate artists in their absolute prime at the MACC, like Cho, with a rock 'n' roll following to boot, the place is packed to the rafters with this young, smart, successful hip crowd. Who are all you hipsters and where have you been hiding out? I'm surely not alone in noticing this contrast when compared to the usual MACC crowd. Cho's peeps will be just as I described and chances are she will deliver one of the funniest Maui shows of the year.
* Catch Cho at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Castle Theater at the MACC. Mature audiences only. Tickets are $27, $37 and $47 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469, or order online at mauiarts.org.
Giordano Dance Chicago original jazz dance company, celebrating over 50 years of excellence, will perform at 7:30 tonight in Castle Theater at the MACC. The Giordano choreographers have designed for Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and most recently on the hit TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance." GDC, known for i's high-energy, flexibility and athleticism. has been described as "two hours of wow." Tickets are $12, $32, $45 (plus applicable fees).
"Valentine's Day Cabaret" will be at Fleetwood's on Front St., in Lahaina on Valentine's night. Catch Maui's own Kit Kat Club for a fun and flirty, love-themed romp that will captivate from beginning to end. Known for their high energy, fancy footwork, and vibrant vocals, the ladies of the Kit Kat Club Cabaret draw their inspiration from the style and sophistication of the roaring '20s to the swinging '40s and beyond. This performance at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 14 also features special guest and international burlesque sensation, Violetta Beretta, from the Oahu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret and the Don Tiki Show of Honolulu. For mature audiences only. To reserve your seat for dinner and a show call 669-MICK.
Can't get enough burlesque? Then don't miss "Kiss Kiss - a Valentine's Burlesque Extravaganza!" For the first time, Maui's Kit Kat Club Cabaret, the Ultraviolets and Oahu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret will team up for one night only at the Historic Iao Theater in a steamy, love-themed evening of live burlesque. For mature audiences only. show is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb.15. Tickets are $20 to $40. For tickets visit www.kiskisburlesque.eventbrite.com.
Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, regarded worldwide as one of the foremost dance companies of India, performs at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 in Castle Theater at the MACC.
With exceptional synchronicity, compelling physicality and emotional honesty, the ensemble has earned national and international acclaim for its ability to redefine both dance and theater, communicating with powerful imagery and captivating movement. Following an impossible dream, founder Protima Gauri, an exquisite Odissi dancer, converted farmland, now known as Nrityagram dance village, into an ideal setting for the study, practice and teaching of classical dance. Tickets are $12, $32, $45 (plus applicable fees). Call 242-7469.
ProArts of the Pacific will present, "Lend Me a Tenor," directed by Lisa Teichner, opening Friday, Feb. 22. The Tony Award-winning comedy plays weekends through March 10.
The farcical "Tenor" is the tale of tenor Tito Merelli, known to his fans as "il stupendo" who is scheduled to sing for the Cleveland Opera Company. Chaos ensues when Merelli is accidentally given a double dose of tranquilizers to calm him. Determined that the show will go on, an assistant must impersonate the opera star. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Reserved seat tickets are $20. Ask about the $17.50 kamaaina discount nights (with valid Hawaii ID). Call 463-6550, or visit proartspacific.com.
Maui OnStage will be holding auditions from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17 for "Hollywood Arms" by Carrie Hamilton and Carol Burnett at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.
The autobiographical comedy-drama (with some music) is based on Burnett's impoverished childhood. All roles are available and include: Nanny (50s), Louise (30s), older Helen (20s), young Helen (10-12), Alice (10-12), Malcolm (10-12), Jody (40s), Bill (40s), Dixie (30s) and two Cops (any age).
Audition appointments are required and actors should prepare a two-minute dramatic or comedic monologue.
Auditions will be scheduled in 10 minute intervals with call backs to be held on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Rehearsals will begin in late February with a two-weekend run from April 26 to May 5. To schedule an audition call Maui OnStage at 244-8680, ext. 23.