Bam Bam and Celeste
Antithetical to the laugh-so-hard-you’ll-cry theory is comedian and activist Margaret Cho, who will have you crying, hard, before making you laugh like you’ve never laughed before. In her stand-up shows, she tells achingly raw stories about the torment of growing up “different” and does so in a way that makes her the only comedian who can respond to racial slurs with “fuck you” and pull it off like the most brilliant one-liner ever. Those soul-quenching moments of sweet release don’t come as often in Bam Bam and Celeste, but hey—we finally get to see Margaret dressed up as her mother, which alone makes the film worth watching.
Bam Bam and Celeste are best friends from high school who discover they’ve become “townies.” They leave their midwestern hometown for NYC in order to face their high school nemeses on the makeover show “Trading Faces.” Many encounters—pleasant and otherwise—arise along the way.
The thing about Cho’s stand-up stories is that they are inherently unfunny. It’s her comments about the stories that are side splitting. Seeing the stories come to visual life is painful. Hate crimes just don’t translate well as “zany antics.” But Margaret Cho is still damn funny.
Bruce Daniels brings a charmingly understated quality to the outrageous Bam Bam, whose gas siphoning abilities are, um, jaw droppingly good. Bam Bam adores Celeste and thinks she’s beautiful. His innocent confusion as to why this assertion would be questioned is wonderfully sweet. I haven’t liked Alan Cumming ever since his “little league” comment on the L-Word, but he pulls off the adorably klutzy show coordinator who has a crush on Celeste.
The evil arch-nemesis Jackie (played flawlessly by Elaine Hendrix) remains painfully static and is possibly responsible for the film’s flat ending, which should be the time we stand up and cheer along with the film’s TV audience. Jackie’s comeuppance isn’t equivalent to the torment she’s distributed; furthermore, she’s more psychotic than misguided and, therefore, impervious to true retribution.
Cho fans who’ve been waiting for a full on “Mommy Cho” impression will not be disappointed. In addition to the always wonderful Cho and Daniels, campy colors and outstanding guest stars (Jane Lynch, Kathy Najimy) make this a trip worth taking. Despite the loose narrative thread and content mishaps, Bam Bam and Celeste made me laugh out loud, which is the little black dress of comedy.