NZICF 2018: Phil Wang

When your last name is Wang, why not milk it for all it’s worth? Phil Wang has mastered the art of incorporating his name into any scenario or sentence to comical effect. It is this brilliant balance of silly and smart comedy that make this show such an enjoyable experience.

With a Malaysian Chinese father and mother from Stoke-on-Trent, Wang is a product of the British empire and it’s this dichotomy which shapes his material. He takes turns tackling both cultures, poking fun and playing in to common Asian stereotypes as well as critiquing the all too well known idiosyncrasies of the British.

Over the course of the hour we get to know a lot about Wang and what makes him tick. He hates scary movies, is a closet baby enthusiast (especially the fat, confused kind) and has a hilariously elaborate plan on how he will pull off a hero’s death. These eccentricities range from the relatable to the outlandish but all garner laughs effortlessly under Wang’s deft comedic eye.

In between these droll musings, Wang also takes the opportunity to share his political views with the crowd. His thoughts on racism, post-colonialism and notion of Britishness from the perspective of an immigrant are particularly compelling and insightful.

Overall this debut offering from Phil Wang was a solid and engaging hour of political-personal commentary without a dull moment to be had. His dual ethnic identity brings something quite unique to the table, one which resonated well among Kiwi crowds with NZ being such a melting pot of cultures.

Phil Wang pretty much sold out his entire run at The Classic so here’s hoping this is the first visit of many to our shores! There’s still an opportunity to see him in Wellington as part of The Big Show in Te Auaha which is on until 19 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

 

NZICF 2018: 5 Star Comedy Preview

The well established 5 Star Comedy Preview is always a great precursor to the NZ International Comedy Festival for punters and novices alike. This year’s showcase boasts a solid lineup of rising stars in the international circuit, returning favorites as well as more seasoned acts.

The Mexican bundle of energy that is El Jaguar was our dynamic host of the evening’s festivities and boy is he good at it! He is a natural entertainer and uses his jovial persona to easily keep the audience engaged and in high spirits, even managing to orchestrate an impromptu Mexican wave complete with party props.

After such a lively start, Ian Smith‘s easygoing style of comedy is the ideal first act to ease us in to what we’re all there to do – have a good laugh. He makes the usual run-of-the-mill humorous quips about being a first timer to NZ but where Smith really hits his stride is when he regales us with an amusing anecdote about the time he went dog sledding. He has a clear penchant for storytelling which leaves you only wanting to hear more.

Phil Wang is up next and if you hadn’t heard of him before, after his comic routine of recurrently introducing himself, you’re unlikely to forget his name. While making fun of one’s heritage is not a new thing, there is something quite refreshing about Wang’s approach. He uses his mixed parentage to great comedic effect, nonchalantly poking fun at and playing to popular stereotypes.

It’s quite satisfying to see a seemingly unassuming comedian totally hold their own onstage and this is what Lauren Pattison did. Don’t let her svelte stature and sweet persona fool you – her comedy has bite. From her lament about looking young to how she found herself a foster mum at the zoo, she had us lapping her every word.

Rounding up the first half is the irreverent Fin Taylor. He forewarns us at the start that his comedy has been described as provocative which is a pretty accurate assessment. We get swept up in Taylor’s impassioned rants which hurtle along at breaking speed; his harrowing tale about a spinning incident in particular had the crowd between horrified gasps and side-splitting guffaws.

NZ’s favorite Welshman Lloyd Langford is back and kicks off the second half. There is always something about NZ that bewilders Langford and this year it’s infomercials. His deep Welsh brogue just pairs so perfectly with his delightfully deadpan delivery which made his anecdote about a massage gone wrong even more hilarious.

The always well-dressed Jimmy McGhie, another Festival favorite, is up next with a solid set about how different generations view the world. His observations on the baby boomer generation in particular are so funny only because it’s so true and resonated with the audience. McGhie’s ability to find the funny in life’s hard truths is what makes his comedy so enjoyable.

Last to take the stage is Andrew Maxwell who draws you in effortlessly with his brand of sharp comedy and social commentary in that distinctive Dublin drawl. He is enjoying being back in NZ, or “Polynesian Scotland” as he likes to call it. Being a self-professed news junkie, Maxwell’s material is largely topical, though for this set he pays particular focus on Australia’s lack of newsworthy news.

Once again the 5 Star Comedy Preview delivers a solid night of laughs which will leave you hungry for more. To get a taste of the international comics that are on our shores for this year’s Festival, this is a great place to start.

All these acts have solo shows at the Festival in the coming weeks – click on their names for more info. Some of them are also performing at The Big Show and Comedy All Stars at the Bruce Mason Centre. Go check ’em out!