The first sign that take-no-prisoners comedian Margaret Cho has lost her way comes in the first five seconds of her latest concert film, “Assassin.” While man-on-the-street interviews praise her fearlessness, Cho herself uses a voice-over narration to brag about how edgy she is. Why was “Assassin” chosen as the title? Because that was the edgiest thing she could think of! Look at how edgy I am!!
I ask you: Isn’t that kind of self-important attitude the sort of thing Cho should be making fun of, not indulging in? I kept waiting for the punch line, for her to acknowledge that she was being pretentious, but it never happened. A career dedicated to knocking icons off their high horses, and now she’s in the saddle herself. Sad.
Filmed in May 2005, “Assassin” is a checklist of what was in the news at the time — Terri Schiavo, the Pope’s death, some leftover 2004 election angst — and very little of the material is timeless. A year from now, it will feel anemic and dated.
Even now, when it’s fresh, it’s not particularly funny. Unlike her previous films “I’m the One That I Want” and (especially) “Notorious C.H.O.,” which were scabrously funny as well as trenchant, Cho now seems more strident than satirical. “Assassin” is full of “jokes” that are really nothing more than obvious platitudes. OK, so George Bush is dumb. WHAT ABOUT IT? Just calling him a retard is not, by itself, a joke.
She does hit the mark a few times, though. She says people who oppose gay marriage but laugh at “Will & Grace” are hypocrites, comparing them to whites in the 1950s who embraced rock ‘n’ roll while remaining segregationist. (“I love that song, but could you please not use that drinking fountain?”) Some of her non-political material is pretty funny too (including a hilarious Bjork impression), though by now she’s pandering to her large gay fan base so thoroughly that the show is almost exclusively for that demographic.
And I just can’t get past her self-importance. You know, the surest way to stop being considered “edgy” is to brag constantly about how edgy you are. “Martha Stewart went to jail for being a b****,” she says. “I’m glad I wasn’t on trial, because I would be serving consecutive life sentences!” And the audience responds with cheers and whoops, because yeah, she IS really bitchy! She’ll say ANYTHING! She ain’t afraid!
Ugh. Get over yourself and get back to writing good jokes. “Assassin” has its moments, but most of its tone is all wrong. Maybe you’ll applaud, if you agree with her social and political views, but you won’t laugh much.
C (1 hr., 25 min.; )