At one point during this concert film, Margaret Cho says that she hasn't found acceptance from the other stand-up comics. After watching "I'm the One That I Want," I can understand why. This is a really dull routine in which Cho, the one-time star of the ill-fated "All American Girl," is unable to come up with funny material amidst her recollections of the events surrounding her brush with network television.
I'm so funny you'll forget to laugh.
There's no doubt in my mind that Cho is a sincere and caring person. After what she had gone through in life - the ups and downs that come with being famous - for her to fight back and make a name for herself is remarkable. Perhaps a documentary of her struggles in the mid-90s would have shed a more revealing light on this comedienne. Instead, we get a stand-up show filmed in concert in her home town of San Francisco that does nothing to showcase her talent.
Cho covers a wide range of topics, from homosexuals to dieting to fractured life stories. I laughed a few times, and though some of her other material is theoretically funny, I didn't laugh because her delivery is bland and her surrounding material is humorless. Her strategy is to relate to us her life experiences and add a comical spin, but she gets no momentum going whatsoever. The build-up to the punch lines are so laborious that listening to her stories is like crawling through a desert to reach a dried-up oasis that will at least provide shade.
Many concert films include reaction shots of the audience. In "I'm the One That I Want," the audience is a nonentity. Every single angle focuses on Cho, with no look at the crowd for nearly the entire show. Only at the end, just before the credits roll, do we see anyone in the audience. If not for this moment, one could make the honest mistake of assuming Cho was in an empty auditorium. We can always hear the laughter, but not see where it's coming from.
Cho spends most of her time discussing her ordeal with "All American Girl." She had to lose weight for the show, and she did it too fast and her kidneys collapsed. An "Asian consultant" was hired because the producers felt Cho wasn't Asian enough. She describes the show as taking five minutes of her stand-up routine and stretching it out to thirty minutes. Then she discusses the depression and alcoholism that followed cancellation. I have no desire to detract from the seriousness of her situation, but if she's going to use those experiences as material for a comedy show, she needed to cut deeper self-inflicted proverbial wounds. Simply telling us what happened to her and adding dashes of humor doesn't work.
When Richard Pryor took to the stage in "Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip" following his free-basing accident, he completely opened himself up to the audience. He exposed his demons, his faults, his weaknesses. He literally flipped himself inside-out like a sock to expose himself. Cho never takes her material that far. She says a lot and gives away an abundance of personal information, but that's it. She adds (weak) humor but no humorous insight.
"I'm the One That I Want" was written with sincerity but delivered with banality. To paraphrase Margaret Cho, she took thirty minutes of her sitcom and stretched it out to 96 minutes.