Saturday, June 13, 2009

Deborah Voorhees as DMN comedy critic

Deborah Voorhees
Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

Political humor hasn't exactly been cutting-edge this year: The dated themes include "Bob Dole is stiff, " "Bill Clinton is overweight, " "Janet Reno is manly" and "Ross Perot is little, squeaky and has big ears."

Unfortunately, the Dallas comedy troupe Four Out of Five Doctors hasn't upped the ante in its latest political show, Sex & Politics'96: Either Way You're Screwed.

Of course, it's not entirely the Docs' fault. Their cues come rom master comics such as Jay Leno and David Letterman. Even Rep. Susan Molinari of New York got in the act with her dig during the Republican National Convention. "Bill Clinton's promises have the life span of a Big Mac on Air Force One, " she said in her keynote address.

Just how many times have the words Big Mac and Clinton been uttered in the same sentence? Surely, this chronic overuse should be a crime.

The Docs' infraction rises from a petty offense to a felony through plain disrespect for the audience's intelligence. They claim to be lampooning the current political scene, but their material lags at least two to three years behind. About the only thing they seem informed on is that Mr. Dole is a presidential candidate. Other than that, they are still lamenting the 1991 recession and the Branch Davidian tragedy.

Another snag is the show only supplies half its promises.There's no sex, unless you count as phallic symbols the many handguns used to spoof the National Rifle Association.

Although precious few, the show has its moments. Mark Fickert plays the monotone Mr. Dole beautifully, right down to the clutched pen and the cadaver posture. But perhaps his impression works too well. The pitfall in portraying stodgy and dull is becoming tiresome yourself. Particularly when Mr. Fickert exhausts another old barb about Mr. Dole's habit of referring to himself in the third person, which even Mr. Dole has stopped doing. This bit has run its course, as have the Docs. Perhaps it's time for them to retire their political stethoscopes and head to the first tee with Gerald Ford.

Byline: Deborah Voorhees

If Jerry Seinfeld had a twin, it would surely be comedian WendyLiebman. Both find humor in daily situations, and both have asmooth, understated delivery.

Where Ms. Liebman separates herself from the master is in her pauses, which are followed by whispered throw away lines. It works something like this: "I feel all puffy 'cause I'm retaining [pause] a lawyer . . ." "I love to shop [pause] lift . . ." "I'd never get implants, but I did have plastic surgery once.[Pause] I had my credit cards cut up . . ." "If I was a mom, I'd be over protective. I'd never let it outside[pause] of my body . . ."

Her delicious wickedness makes her a favorite on the comedy-club circuit. This 35-year-old Long Island native comes to Dallas for the second time this year, this time with her own 30-minute HBO special ready to air Aug. 23.

As expected, she's in top form: "I'm old-fashioned. I like it when a guy pays [pause] for sex. . . . My mother always said, `Don't marry for money [pause] divorce for it.' "

Margaret Cho review
By Deborah Voorhees

The energetic 27-year-old Margaret Cho is, in many ways, like the classic Playboy centerfold model - the girl-next-door who happens to get caught with her pants down. Ms. Cho offers pretty much the same thing. She comes off like an all-American girl who just happens to do stand-up comedy, tossing vulgarities to a rowdy crowd.

The schtick works well because it doesn't seem contrived. Ms. Cho holds her good-girl image intact even while discussing the illicit sexual practices of male comics and the dirty job that nurse Gwen has taking care of feminine hygiene at the doctor's office.

At the Addison Improv Friday night, Ms. Cho balanced this spicy, colorful talk with funny and honest autobiographical bits such as what happened when she found out her ABC sitcom, "All American Girl," was canceled. She read it in the newspaper.

"I freaked out, panicked, " she exclaimed. "I could see myself on cable saying, `The first time I called the Dionne [Warwick] psychic line . . .' "

She brought the same honesty to a hysterical bit about a phone conversation with a Hollywood producer. After the obligatory kissing-up, he moves into the "but" statement. "Well, we had a meeting and decided it would be good if you'd lose 10 pounds before we start shooting . . ." Ms. Cho responded: "I don't mind that they bring it up, but the very idea that they had to have a meeting on this. . . . What did they do, roll out a picture of me and say, `Here are the problem spots?' "

Ms. Cho also hit a home run when talking about her family. Because of her work supporting AIDS research, people often assume she's a lesbian.

"My mother's always trying to get me to come out of the closet.She says, `It's OK, it's OK, I have a k.d. lang album.' "

Since Ms. Cho's sitcom was canceled last fall, she's starred in her first dramatic role, "It's My Party" with Eric Roberts and Gregory Harrison. The film opens Friday.

Ms. Cho plays Charlene, the best friend to a man dying of AIDS. He decides that, rather than succumb to the disease, he should kill himself - that is, after one last bash with his friends and family.

"Ultimately, this film is a celebration of this man's life," says Ms. Cho in an recent interview by phone from Los Angeles. "It's less about death and more about how people cope with this disease."

Ms. Cho's long-term goals include continuing her stand up, acting in films, launching a new sitcom, and writing and producing her own screenplays.

"I want to do everything."

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