Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang on Netflix | Stand-up special reviewed
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Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang on Netflix

Stand-up special reviewed

Phil Wang should have had his moment in the Netflix playlist a year ago, but the small matter of a global pandemic that delayed his debut full-length special has given some of his material an extra charge.

He remains at his sharpest when playing with the racial stereotypes behind his half-English, half-Chinese Malaysian identity. To that repertoire he can now add South East Asians’ propensity to eat ‘weird shit’ – like bats – as well as both the blatant racism that’s flared up over coronavirus and the more insidious, subtle kind that has been snuck into Western depictions of the Far East for decades.

Of course, only someone with his background would get away with leaning into these portrayals as he does. But Wang takes a position of aloof high status, befitting a man who notes that being white and Chinese makes him ‘the most powerful race on earth’. 

He even suggests it’s OK for Westerners to mock the Chinese accent since it’s a matter of little concern for a nation set on global domination. But maybe don’t take him at his word: he admits he’s not a good person as he discusses how low the moral bar is set to be considered ‘decent’ - at least for men.

Despite mocking blokes who would claim to be an ‘ally’, Wang is switched on about sexism, as demonstrated by a routine about why only women are expected to take the contraceptive pill, even though a male version has been developed. It’s a straightforward argument, but demonstrates Wang’s skill at creating memorable images and phrases. He loves how sonorous the words ’a cork on my balls’ sound so much that he repeats them at every opportunity.

The ironic distance that informs his writing isn’t such a friend when it comes to the static performance, and his standoffish persona can be difficult to warm to. But the gags and well-crafted turns of phrase are undoubtedly strong enough to overcome that – and give him further justification for his superior stance.

Phil Wang: Philly Philly Wang Wang was filmed at the London Palladium and released on Netflix today.

Review date: 10 Aug 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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