Comedy review: Phil Wang: Kinabalu

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Phil Wang has been gradually refining his stand-up but raises his reputation significantly here with the irresistible Kinabalu, allying his lightly-worn intelligence to post-colonial insight and an instinctive capacity for silliness.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)


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The latter arrived with his distinctive surname, which he has always tossed around with goofy abandon. And he applies something similar here to “lube”.

Having his sexy cake and eating it, his smugly assured, even arrogant persona hails his recent supermarket purchase as a defining point in a man’s life, even as he acknowledges its potential for embarrassment. The erotic import of the item is of decidedly secondary importance to the sonorous qualities of pronouncing it though, as he rolls variations around his tongue in a delightful display of wordplay.

His daft credentials established, Wang is free to explore his ethnic identity and defend the British Empire without seeming worthy or controversial if approaching a taboo line. That’s significant, given that the second truly memorable routine in this dense hour involves him casting his head back and delivering a “ching chong” stream of stereotypical, supposedly Chinese gibberish, admittedly with himself as the scenario’s idiot.

Well aware that his Jamaican friends feel differently about the Empire’s legacy, this son of a Chinese-Malaysian man and English woman who met in Borneo, he nevertheless owes his very existence to it. Raised in Malaysia, with its mix of Malay, Chinese and Indians, he has developed a nuanced appreciation of race which informs such potentially tricky situations as a trip to a Japanese barbers.

No such special insight is required for him to be piqued by the BBC Asian Network perpetually ignoring him though, its focus on the Indian subcontinent tolerable until he’s leapfrogged by Afro-Caribbean acts.

Poignant on his parents’ weird courtship, Wang is hilariously prideful about his own mixed-race relationship, capping an hour of perfectly intertwined personal-political belly laughs.

Until 27 August, Today 7pm. Extra show on 17th August at 11pm.

Phil’s sketch group Daphne perform at the Pleasance Courtyard on the 21st & 22nd August at 10pm.