Phil Wang doesn’t describe himself as a minority, despite his Asian appearance. Instead, he suggests he’s two majorities (Chinese-Malaysian and British), due to his bi-racial heritage. It’s a funny subversion, but also a telling one.
Ideologically, Wang plays almost a devil’s advocate to first-world progressivism, poking fun at liberal tendencies without ever resorting to ad hominem attacks or betraying his own left-leaning beliefs. What shines brightest, though, is his British pride. And while the idea of destigmatising patriotism is a tricky proposition, he manages to do so with intelligence and wit. The jokes and insights shift effectively into an Auckland context too, coaxing laughs out of agreeing audience members.
Part of his charm is his British manner juxtaposed against the more crude elements of, say, womanising and sex, gently poking fun at masculinity and male feminism. Though he probably milks his last name a little too hard, it’s hard to deny the cumulative power of someone calling themselves “Wang” in the third person.
Despite being a conventional standup show, especially amidst the eclectic lineup at this year’s Comedy Fest, his unique perspective as an immigrant is often refreshing and elucidating. At worst, his self-deprecation provides cheap laughs, at the expense of himself, blurring the line between buying into Asian stereotypes and satirising them. But it’s ultimately his mix of high and lowbrow humour that adds to the whole package.
Phil Wang plays The Classic until 12 May.