By GURVEEN KAUR
It was the work hours that attracted British comedian Phil Wang, who is half Malaysian, to the funny business.
“I really hate waking up early in the morning so I thought I’d try and find a line of work where I didn’t need to wake up early,” says Wang, 26, in a telephone interview from London.
Having dabbled in comedy since the age of 18, he decided to go into comedy full-time after university four years ago versus “becoming a security guard or groundskeeper in a cemetery”.
Along with four other stand-up comedians – Australians Bob Franklin, Ivan Aristiguieta and Sam Taunton, and Singapore’s Sharul Channa – Wang will be performing at PJ Live Arts in Petaling Jaya on July 28 and 29 as part of the annual Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow.
This is part of the Asian leg of the popular Melbourne festival. This year is PJ Live Arts’ third time hosting this festival.
The bachelor, who is half-Chinese and half-English, says: “I got addicted to doing comedy and making people laugh after my first show.
“Also, I’m quite arrogant and I think you have to have a certain level of arrogance to want people to listen to you, night after night.”
Wang’s arrogance is not unfounded. He was the president of Footlights, the comedy and drama troupe at Cambridge University in Britain, whose past members include comedians and actors Stephen Fry, John Cleese and Hugh Laurie.
The bespectacled up-and-comer has also racked up two national student comedy awards and performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Montreal Just For Laughs Festival.
Besides performing stand-up, he also writes and records material for sketch comedy series on BBC Radio and has starred in British sitcom Top Coppers.
His father is Malaysian, and Wang lived in Kota Kinabalu until he was 16. He moved to Britain to further his studies.
How would you best describe your style of comedy?
Smart but cheeky. I always find it hard to define my style as it is always changing but let’s go with that for now.
You cover a wide range of topics in your material. Is there anything you refuse to discuss?
No, not really. If I think I can make it funny, I will say anything, anything that doesn’t get me arrested. That’s where I draw the line.
Who are some of your comedy influences?
I enjoy the style of a lot of American comedians such as Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle. As for British comedians, I think Stewart Lee is excellent.
What is it about stand-up comedy that is so addictive?
It’s one space where you can go up on stage and be honest even if your honesty is ugly, offensive or strange. We all lie to one another for politeness, personal gain or whatever, but to have someone be honest, that I find really exciting.
What was it like growing up in Kota Kinabalu?
It’s a much slower pace of life with nothing much happening. I do remember that the first comedian I watched live was Malaysian comedian Harith Iskander. He was great.
Do you still recall your very first stand-up show? How was it?
I did a five-minute performance of mostly stolen material as I didn’t understand how it worked back then. I thought it was like karaoke but with jokes, so I used some of Russell Peters’ jokes but just exchanged Indian for Chinese. After that, I learnt my lesson and started writing my own jokes.
What’s the next big thing you hope to do?
I’d love to do stand-up in the United States and maybe China at some point. Eventually, maybe a world tour perhaps.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a good fighter, strong father and a pretty decent cook. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow is on at PJ Live Arts, 2A-3, Block K, Jaya One, Section 13, No.72A, Jalan Universiti, Petaling Jaya, Selangor on July 28 and 29. Tickets at tix.my. More info: pjlivearts.my. Call: 03 -7960 0439 or 03-7931 7426.