Comedian Margaret Cho's second concert film is an even raunchier beast than her first, "I'm the One That I Want," which proved a surprise self-distributed hit in limited U.S. theatrical engagements last year. No great contribution to the art of cinema, straightforward, vid-shot package will nonetheless further expand her fan base.

Comedian Margaret Cho’s second concert film is an even raunchier beast than her first, “I’m the One That I Want,” which proved a surprise self-distributed hit in limited U.S. theatrical engagements last year. No great contribution to the art of cinema, straightforward, vid-shot package will nonetheless further expand her fan base with its raw but often gut-bustingly funny routines. It opens nationwide on July 3.

Where “I’m the One” had a semblance of narrative shape in its focus on Cho’s ultimately nightmarish Hollywood sojourn (to star in the ill-fated sitcom “All-American Girl”), “Notorious C.H.O.” is basically just a series of riffs, nearly all of them bawdy in nature. The irreverent tone is set right away with an unprintable joke about how Cho would express her gratitude to rescue workers at the World Trade Center (“Because we all have to do our part”).

She then mimics her thickly Korean-accented mother’s surprising story about “daddy’s” long-ago “gay” experience. This somehow leads to a hilarious chronicle of her first colonic irrigation. Other highlights include Cho’s humiliation at the neighborhood videostore when she’s very late returning a tape called “Beaver Fever” and a socially awkward moment at an S&M sex club.

The queen of overstatement, Cho can nail a punchline with seemingly casual but devastating precision, even if her stories sometimes simply peter out and her characterization range is limited. (Her mother is both the audience favorite and a personal best among impersonations.) A few routines here are, well, routine, treading familiar turf like the never-ending search for that possibly mythical g-spot or what-if conjecture on men having periods. Still, what the material occasionally lacks in inspiration is more than made up for by the sheer quantity of laughs won.

Sudden switch at the end to vague feel-good homilies (urging the diverse, largely lesbian and gay aud to “love yourselves without reservation”) feels forced, and bookending segs with patrons expressing their adoration for the star are simple self-congratulation.

Returning director Lorene Machado’s multicamera recordage is unobtrusive, no more or less; apart from a few Grecian columns in the background, stage presentation (at Seattle’s Paramount Theater) is completely void of frills.

Feature is preceded by a short, crude, untitled animation written and voiced by Cho. In typically blunt but hilarious fashion that defuses cultural stereotypes by exaggerating them, it offers do’s and don’t’s for Korean convenience store owners and African-American shoppers.

Notorious C.H.O.

Production

A Wellspring Entertainment presentation of a Cho Taussig production. Produced by Lorene Machado. Executive producers, Margaret Cho, Karen Taussig. Directed by Lorene Machado.

Crew

Camera (color, HD video-to-35mm), Kirk Miller; editor, Machado; music, Greg Burns, Jeff Burns, Andrea Bensmiller, Eve Buigues, Jariya; production designer, Kristin Zavorska. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 13, 2002. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Margaret Cho.
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