Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and romance, I’d thought, with a bit of commerce thrown in. But according to comedy, it’s all about sex. You’d have found little in Rachel Fairburn’s gig at the weekend, nor Margaret Cho’s sex advice workshop, livestreamed from the US, that you could put on a Hallmark card. Cho’s only concession to the heart’s-desire idea of Valentine’s is that, even more than on the other 364 days of the year, you should love yourself, unreservedly.
Must try that one on my partner next year. In the meantime, I left Cho’s seminar armed with some eye-opening tools for lockdown and beyond. The show, she announces, is “a great opportunity to share what I know … I’ve done a lot of things sexually that people don’t even understand as sex.” With guests including comedian Atsuko Okatsuka and bondage guru Race Bannon, she then discussed “plant-based BDSM”, her fetish for lychees (“like semen from a giant”) and bestiality. “Animal stuff hasn’t really entered my realm,” chimed in Okatsuka, a little sheepish at being out-kinked.
Watching the show in retrospect (it streamed overnight, UK time) afforded the added pleasure of scrolling the audience chat bar in advance, marvelling at what I had to look forward to. “Cling wrap on before the duct tape”; “Is that like a rickshaw fetish?”: it was an intriguing distraction when the show got boring – as with some directionless blether about Fleetwood Mac between Cho and Texan comic Daniel Webb.
But Webb had his moments, fielding with Cho video calls from viewers, playing candid and always upbeat agony aunts to their sexual concerns. Bannon, meanwhile, expounded on “pervertibles”, household objects (wooden spoons, say) that could be co-opted as sex toys. If this was all far more about sexual adventurism – and consumerism – than love, my heart was warmed, finally, by Cho’s celebratory approach to sexual difference, and the imagination (and time!) her correspondents seemed to dedicate to their sex lives. Some of us might keep saying it with flowers on Valentine’s Day – but there’s space, too, for lychees and wooden spoons.
• After Hours with Margaret Cho is available on RushTix until 1am GMT Wednesday.