The Cambridge Geek

Phil Wang: Wangsplaining

I mostly know Phil Wang from his presence in the sketch group Daphne (which also contains Jason Forbes and George Fouracres who also get about), and which previously got a couple of series of Daphne Sounds Expensive on BBC Radio 4. (Those are actually available again at time of publication, so I recommend you go and have a listen.)

Given how much I enjoyed Daphne, this was easily added to the listen list, and can't say I regret it. It has similarities to Tez Ilyas' Tez Talks, in that it looks at the crossover between cultures (here British and Malaysian), but also dips a little into the history of those two nations and how they are joined by Empire.

Wang bridges the two, with a mother from Stoke-on-Trent, and a father from what was North Borneo under the British Empire, making him either the whitest or most Asian kid in his school depending on what age he's looking back on. His mother was a VSO volunteer, and her father managed a tea plantation in India, so there's a lot of knowledge in his family from various locations of the world which still feel the effects of British colonialism.

That nicely makes him very evenhanded, contrasting with the polarised positions frequently seen, those being either "all Empire was evil, and we must forever apologise" and "bugger the EU, let's set off on our own and go for Empire 2.0". Admittedly, this is mostly more personal than historical, with a lot of autobiographical information, and a few phone-ins from his parents, and it would be nice to dig deeper into the detail.

I suspect the primary aim of this is more to entertain than inform however, and Wang certainly delivers on that account. There's some lovely wordplay in here, but the overall feeling is a gentle poke at some of the silly stereotypes of Britishness. He's very deft at puncturing some of those snobby ideas of Whiteness, while still taking a lot of sting out of the blow. (See references to "economic migrants".)

Suspect he'll probably get a series of 4 out of this pilot, and then it's seeing if he can maintain the same level for a couple of hours.

Score 4

Tagged: Radio Comedy Monologue Stand-up Autobiographical