I'm the One That I Want

Quick: name as many Asian-American stand-up comedians as you can. Okay, Margaret Cho, Henry Cho, and, um, well...Basically, there are not many Asian-American comedians. And Margaret and Henry (who are not related, thank you very much) are not well known themselves. They are two very different people with very different acts. And sorry Henry, this movie is about Margaret. I'm the One That I Want was the name of Cho's one-woman comedy tour. The movie is the recording of the November 13th, 1999 at the Warfield in San Francisco by director Lionel Coleman (Last Call). It is a raucous and profane account of her life and her experiences as the first Asian-American to star in a sitcom and how her life spiraled downward after ABC cancelled All-American Girl. Cho, a self-proclaimed "fag-hag," does not easily fit the many stereotypes of the "model minority." This is what helps to make her unique.

Cho's act consists of two main parts. She grew up in San Francisco in the late sixties, amongst the more liberal elements of the city. Her childhood was not typical. She teases gays, lesbians, straight people, and gives her mother an especially rough time. This is the weaker element of her act. It is certainly not for the faint of heart. It is riotously funny, but geared toward Cho's core audience. The laughter is loud and frequent in the documentary. After all, she is performing in the heart of San Francisco. Cho also baits her audience with non-stop profanity and many cues to laugh. It's a sad fact, but throw in the f-word and people will laugh harder. When Cho wants you to laugh, she stretches her face into a strange grimace, and waits for the laughter.

The bulk of the movie is about All-American Girl, and this is the part worth watching. Here, Cho is intensely personal. She vents her frustration through humor, showing her audience her experiences and how they affected her. The network executives wanted her to lose weight for the part. That's right-she was to lose weight to play herself in her sitcom. ABC also gave her an Asian consultant because they felt she was not Asian enough. The entire thing is just too incredulous and ridiculous to believe. Cho was young, and went along with ABC, and became addicted to diet pills in the process. ABC cancelled the show, replacing it with The Drew Carey Show, where, of course, the star is fit and thin. Cho then embarked on a life of excess, full of drugs and alcohol, before finally coming to her senses. I'm the One That I Want is basically her therapy. Her roots lie in stand-up comedy. This is what she does best, so this is what she needs to do to get better.

This is so effective since Cho lays everything out in the open. She is brutally honest with her audience, quickly moving from the hilarious to the sad and back. Her bluntness is refreshing. She also keeps the movie viewer riveted to the screen for the entire duration of the documentary. She knows how to work her audience, and they respond in kind. Also, remember that this is a documentary of her performance only. She explains much, but there are still some things that would be interesting to know. In some of her more bizarre stories, it's hard to know when she is stretching the truth. In a voice-over at the beginning, Cho remarks that this performance marked the first time her parents came to watch her. Knowing how she mercilessly teases her mother, it would have been interesting to listen to her parent's reaction. But these are small things against an otherwise brave movie.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Not Rated but contains some serious language, would probably be a hard R or maybe NC-17.

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