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Phil Wang: Anti-Hero

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Phil Wang promises us intellectually justified dick jokes – and delivers.

That’s both literally true and symptomatic of an assured debut that can be silly and smutty, but also comes with a healthy measure of intelligence and self-awareness.

Wang, winner of the Chortle Student Comedy Award in 2010, is a quietly spoken young man who starts his hour modestly, putting himself down as the shy nerd, with a degree in computer systems engineering that wasn’t the gateway to glamour he might have hoped. Not for him the tumultuous childhood, leading him to rebel though comedy; instead he’s a clever middle-class chap, well supported by his parents, with an aptitude for smart everyday observation.

His father’s Chinese and his mother English, which in stand-up is is usually the set-up for a gag based on tedious stereotyping, but not here. Wang mentions his background frequently but lightly. Yes, he does have a hair-trigger for accusing anyone of racist behaviour, but it’s a playful ruse to keep Whitey on his toes.

Of more importance is his desire to escape singledom, though his attempts to appear the strong silent type prove ill-judged, and the Missed Connection column of the newspaper os not for him.

He has a sometimes brilliant turn of phrase as he talks us through all this, alongside broader routines about impatient Londoners or the crass comment Justin Bieber left in the visitors’ book of the Anne Frank House, which earns him bursts of laughter in unexpected places. Even when the audience think they know where he’s headed, droll asides keep the journey interested.

We’re lured in by his polished, low-key delivery. Nonetheless, it’s nuanced enough to wring extra chuckles out of a line with the subtlest of inflections; while one sound-effect he recreates is so disturbingly creepy, he keeps doing just to keep us wincing. Here, as he so often does, he’s gently teasing the audience in a rascally dance.

Though occasionally in need of a bit more oomph or momentum, Anti-Hero is overall a slick, distinctive and funny debut from a well-rounded young comic headed for greater things.

Review date: 12 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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