Margaret Cho opened her act at the Seymour Centre with the traditional mantra of the international guest, telling us how pleased she was to be in Australia. Then she told us that, really, she was just glad to be not in America and that she was in New York City on 11 September. Unable to leave the city, Cho explained that she went down to ground zero one day, then kept returning every day. She paused. To give blowjobs to rescue workers, she explained.
It’s difficult to express the release of such a moment, or to capture the incredible skill of this performer, who remains largely unknown in Australia. Quite simply the best stand-up comedian I have seen, Cho was mostly notorious as promised. With gags on everything from her S/M experiences, cock worshipping and eating pussy when they’re out of what I really like, Cho was unapologetic and warm. Her brief foray into an Oprah-style wrap-up about how fabulous we all are produced a grimace, but this was a tiny glitch. Cho rocked, but with the two-night season now finished, we’ll have to wait until next year (possibly) for another taste.
Media events are always vaguely embarrassing affairs. The celebrities are trotted out in their best apparel, publicists buzz around like pimps on speed and, by the end of it all, everyone feels a little stained. Top marks to Mardi Gras then for their decision to host an event with visiting drag stars Joey Arias and Sherry Vine at a table-dancing club (Dancers International) in Kings Cross. The tacky surroundings were totally appropriate and Joey and Sherry were hilarious and coolly nonplussed. To top it all off, their actual performance -“ an a cappella rendition of Sista, You’ve Been On My Mind -“ was soulful and even sexy, a perfect preview/promotion for Sinsation. With Resident Alien beginning next week as well, the festival should well and truly hit its stride.
The opening night of Kiss My Fist proved that subversive lesbian, gay and, gulp, yes, even queer theatre is alive and well in Sydney. Shelley O’Donnell begins the performance cooking a skinned, raw animal, which we learn is her ex-girlfriend’s cat (actually a rabbit, for the squeamish). A social pariah, she hits the road as a serial straight-woman fucker, maniacally hunting down a woman whose children and family she can share. All too swiftly Karl Velasco’s hysterical, gay Asian drama queen bursts into view, lamenting that his last boyfriend slept with his friend Minky by mistake because all Asian men look alike. Brian Fuata and Hannah Furmage soon join the fray, in an oblique ode to thrillers and Elvis. There’s a lot to savour here, such that one forgives a lack of group cohesion. More, please.
I have to confess to arriving late to Dirty Boys, foolishly assuming that the nightclub locale implied the event would begin fashionably later. When I arrived, the Phoenix was comfortably packed, I had missed Phil Scott’s performance but was just in time to hear Andy Quan. Quan attempted well-written erotica, while Stephen Dunne took a more humorous route with more success, in what was a strange night of wildly varying styles of writing. Dedicating a night in a gay (and lesbian) festival to erotic writing is a fine idea, although the execution exposed the problems inherent in enjoying and assessing erotica, art and pornography. So, lesbian writer Jules Wilkinson’s tale of cross-dressing and mistaken identity dildo buggery was hilarious, disturbing and kind of sexy. But it wasn’t porn -“ it was better, in an impossible comparison made across irreconcilable cultural gaps of genre, permissibility and context. The only pure porn of the night was read by Chris Steele, which in the context of the silent Phoenix, was pretty dull. But as porn goes, it seemed pretty hot to me, although I’m told that Chris Steele dancing wearing only a wet T-shirt the night before at the Midnight Shift, was even hotter.