If titles tell us anything, 'I'm the One That I Want' is Margaret Cho learning to love herself, while 'Notorious C.H.O.' is her learning to love her sluthood.A hefty portion of Notorious is devoted to Cho giving herself the Slut Pride parade she wished for in her previous concert film. No matter what she says, though -- whether talking about why gay men have great bodies ("You gotta suck cock to get those abs") or the difficulties of cunnilingus ("Eating pussy is a mess; you need a Wet-Nap after") -- she has a way of taking the raunch out of it by cocking her head sweetly and grinning. Her sex material is more self-confident here, and now and then she gets herself up into a full roar ("If you don't like the way I look when you're fucking me," she says, "MAYBE YOU SHOULDN'T BE FUCKING ME!") that would do Courtney Love proud. Even her opening bit about Ground Zero (the concert was filmed in Seattle a couple of months after 9/11) segues into a riff on fellatio.
Cho is diabolically funny when she's dirty (she has a fall-down-hilarious one-liner about S&M people, she discusses her one experience with fisting, and she comes up with a priceless bit on an overdue porn video), but many folks (myself included) eagerly look forward to the moments -- she rations them sparingly, and wisely doesn't overwork them -- when she works completely clean; that is, when she brings her mom into the act.
Cho's impressions of her mom are legendary among fans, and for good reason: she becomes her mother, twisting her face into an expression of stern bemusement, braying out syllables in halting Korean English. It's done with profound affection, of course, which is one reason that the subject of this parody finds it funny and enjoys the "fame" of being imitated on stage. (Judging from what we see of Cho's parents, in interview segments at the beginning of Notorious and in the deleted scenes on the DVD, they're the coolest parents alive.)
Cho's late-inning riff in I'm the One on her mom looking at gay porn books will go down in comedy history in some way, and Notorious ends with an account of her mom riding a camel on vacation in Israel ("since she's such a Jew") that has the momentum and building details of vintage Richard Pryor. The Mom parts of Cho's act would appeal to anyone, even your grandma, yet retain every bit of Cho's wit. By the end of the two films, you almost feel you know the senior Cho better than you know the performer.Cho herself is still in the process of getting to know the performer; let's hope we get many more films and albums in which to learn along with her.