It’s wild how much we love Good Trouble more than The Fosters around team LezWatch, and I think it’s partly because they get to focus on adult and young adult stories, instead of teen drama. Not to say that the Coterie doesn’t have it’s fair share of drama, but at least you feel better shouting at adults to stop being stupid. Or maybe it’s just that the whole Callie/Brandon will-they/won’t-they/oh-god-they’re-siblings-please-stop! thing is over.
On tonight’s Spring finale, Margaret Cho shows up as herself, who happens to be a former member of the comedy diversity group Alice has been a part of, to talk to the students.
Finding Yourself in Laughter
Alice has had a year. She’s come out, she’s dated, she’s broken up, she’s been screwed over by a mentor whom she’s now competing with (and who’s dating her ex/first love) and … It’s a lot. Oh and she’s also sleeping with one of the brains behind the comedy group. Right. With that out of the way, she’s been struggling to be ‘funny.’
Comedy, if you’ve never tried it, is crazy hard. Stand Up is even worse. With comedy, you have to balance the pathos of drama with the absurdity of, well, humour. You have to make people connect with why they’re laughing and let them feel the funny. I’m a very hard sell on comedy (especially sitcoms) because I hate when people laugh at characters.
That directly relates to Alice’s journey on Good Trouble as she had difficulty finding her footing in how to put herself out there, be funny, tell jokes that are relevant and interesting and make people laugh. While Alice first made jokes about the Coterie (and honestly those are pretty funny), she fell back on playing up things like her immigrant mother. She did ‘the accent’ and leaned way into those sterotypes we’ve all heard before.
Margaret Cho Did That Too
When I first was introduced to Margaret Cho, it was via her Stand Up, where she talked about introducing her mother to some of the culture of San Francisco. One of the routines that stuck in my memory was her 1994 HBO special, where she talked about “Ass Master.” Margaret Cho was trying to explain homosexuality to her mother, after the latter puzzled over the gay porn that was on their family’s newsstand on Castro Street.
The phrase “Mommy think first table of contents, then ass.” had me in stitches at the time. In fact, it still does. One day I was fixing on a website that was about male anatomy, it said so in the URL, but I was just mindlessly going through tickets, saw one about the product I was supporting at the time, and clicked. Boom. Penises. I muttered “I would have expected a warning page first.” and just like that, I was kicked back to 1994.
Choices and Regret
Today though, I come to wonder if Cho regrets that. Does she look back at her old work and wince? Does she cringe at the stereotypes she promoted and fostered in her work? Or does she reflect on the myriad complications? For example, would Cho ever have gotten All-American Girl without her stereotypes in stand up? Probably not. Is that just a part of paying her dues and then making change as she went on? Certainly Cho never shied away from who and what she was, but what she makes us laugh at now is different.
I can tell you, in about 2 seconds of screen time near the end of tonight’s episode, Cho puts her heart into that question I’ve noodled about for a while.
Before that, Alice finally has to decide if she’s going to keep making jokes at her own expense, or if she’s going to stand up. And she reaches out to Cho as a mentor and an experienced comedian in the same vein. She outright asks Cho about her old work, about what she thinks about her part and how it may harm the world as well as help, and from that conversation, and those she’s had with the other disgruntled members of the troupe, Alice makes her choice.
Will Alice make some Good Trouble or not? Tune in tonight to find out on the killer spring finale of Good Trouble.
Good Trouble delivers a solid half to the season and keep going strong. This is no exception.