Just For Laughs Sydney - Phil Wang talks ‘Wang in There, Baby!’ and touring Down Under
Back for another hilarious year, Just For Laughs Sydney is hosting a variety of local and international comedians, including the wonderfully funny Phil Wang.
Hot off his own Netflix Special Philly Philly Wang Wang, as well as appearing in Life & Beth, alongside Amy Schumer, Phil is bringing his highly anticipated new tour; Wang in There, Baby! to Sydney as a part of the Just For Laughs Sydney 2023, week-long event. We caught up with Phil to hear all about his new show and what audiences can expect.
“I don't think relationships come up, this time around. I talk about race, as always. I'm always talking about being Malaysian and Chinese and coming from Borneo.”
Phil, who was born in England to a British mother and a Chinese-Malaysian father, spent most of his childhood living in Borneo before moving back to the UK, where he attended Cambridge and was a member of the renowned Footlights comedy group.
“I feel like as the years go on, I'm going into more and more detail of my origins. Like when I started, I talked about being Chinese because I was like, 'no one knows what Malaysia is.”
Race and identity have been recurring themes in Wang’s comedy, throughout his career. Wang in There, Baby! sees him draw on those ideas again, and approach the cultural differences in his identity in a new way;
“I've now spent half of my life in Borneo and half of my life in the UK - these two islands, and I sort of compare them.” He says of Wang in There, Baby!
“Animals is the other theme that has come up - this show has sort of grown rather organically… I didn't choose a theme and write to it, but the themes that have sprung up naturally are food and animals…and my old life, my Borneo life.”
“But then there's just other stuff that you know. I've got stuff about travelling and becoming a recognisable figure in the UK. It is a kind of collection of thoughts.”
Unlike his previous work, Phil is taking a less rigid, more free-flowing approach with his current tour.
“It's always changing,” he said. “This is the first time I'm just replacing routines with new ones if I prefer them and not being precious about it. In previous shows, I go ‘this is the hour show now and any new bits I need to save for the next show.’ Now, if I come up with something new and funny, if it's funnier than something in the show, I'll just replace it.”
“It's a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster, but it's, I think, a funny Frankenstein’s Monster. It keeps it fresh for me, for sure, and I'm always tweaking it.”
Phil, who is no stranger to Australian audiences, having most recently performed at The Melbourne International Comedy Gala in 2019, is excited to be once again, touring Down Under.
"Australians are similar to the Americans in that they want the show to be good. Now, that might sound like an obvious thing to you, but you'd be amazed how many British people come to a comedy show, expecting, and almost wanting, to see a car crash. The highest praise you can get from a British person is when you can overhear them leaving your show saying, "that was quite good, actually.”
"In that sense, of course, it depends on which part of the country you go to. Melbourne is kind of like good-looking librarians, you know. They're upbeat, but they've got like cool glasses and stuff. And then Sydney are good looking surfers but very sophisticated as well.”
"I think, basically like Melbourne's New York. Sydney is LA, and the Gold Coast is Miami,” he joked.
"In general. Australians would come wanting to have a good time. And that really helps. All in all, Australians are good audiences."
At only 33, Phil Wang has been a fixture not only on the live comedy circuit but also on British comedy television for years. Many will recognise him from the likes of Taskmaster, 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Live at The Apollo, however, Phil's 2021 Netflix Special, Philly Philly Wang Wang, catapulted him to international fame when the platform shared the release to its millions of subscribers, worldwide.
“It was made at such a surreal time - just towards the end of Covid. And you know the room was only half-full due to the social-distancing laws, and people were in masks, so you can’t really have many audience shots, and I hate my outfit. I look back now and go, ‘what was I wearing?’
We were coming out of lockdown. I just completely forgot how to dress,” he mused.
“We filmed it a while ago now, and all it did was make me want to do another, without the lockdown version of me…Now I know how material translates onto the screen like that.”
And yet despite internationally watched specials, huge television gigs and a booming podcast, Budpod, Phil says his first love will always be performing live.
“It is an addictive substance,” he says of stand-up.
“It's just the thrill of trying something new out, seeing if it'll work, and it's such a rush when it gets a big laugh. You know, something that just existed in your head that day, and it gets a big laugh that night that feels really cool. I don’t know of another format that has that immediate a return.”
Phil Wang’s Wang in There, Baby! is a must-see for all comedy fans! Thankfully, the wait is only short-lived, Phil’s performance is scheduled for November 13 at the iconic Enmore Theatre. Book your tickets now.
Just for Laughs Sydney is running from November 12 - 21, with performances at a plethora of Sydney venues, including the All-Star Gala on November 17 at The Sydney Opera House.