There was a time when Asian comics would only be known for rolling out rice jokes and tiger mom bits but since then we’ve seen something of an evolution from the lucrative stereotype. Comedians like Ali Wong have shown in her last special, “Ali Wong: Don Wong”, that there is a wealth of material outside of easy cultural and racial tokens. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not allergic to a good bit of self-deprecating stereotypes from time to time. Especially when it’s done well by comedians like our favourite Pinoy Boy, Jo Koy and the hilarious Jimmy O Yang, who did a fantastic job in “Silicon Valley”. That being said, there comes a point when your background becomes an easy crutch to lean on. This is where Sheng Wang piques our interest.
He at times does play into his Asian identity but his picture of how it shapes his perspective and humour is so idiosyncratic that it feels both familiar and fresh. Till this day, we still remember his gut-busting avocado joke. He’s been around the block, appearing in shows like “Last Comic Standing” and in the HBO comed special “2 Dope Queens” but the man has never had his very own comedy special. Until now that is.
Will we see him break new ground with “Shang Wang: Sweet and Juicy”? Let’s find out!
Unlike comedians like Nigel Ng’s Uncle Roger or Ronny Chieng, Sheng Wang doesn’t exactly have a big personality. He isn’t loud or boisterous. In fact, if you’re going off on nothing but his voice alone, it’s hard to tell if he’s even Asian! And yet, this is where the Taiwanese American comedian finds his niche and angle. He is absolutely deadpan in his delivery. Something that is extremely rare within the Asian entertainment circle, and for a good reason. It’s a very ballsy move. There’s always the risk of losing the audience due to low energy, or even getting heckled. However, Sheng Wang sticks the landing over and over again!
It is precisely because of his smooth, low voice and relaxed demeanour that his jokes are all the more funny. Sheng Wang has shown himself to be a master of incongruity. Ok, so without getting too technical, there is a theory of comedy called the Incongruous Juxtaposition theory. Basically, upon confronting something that subverts our expectations of how things should be, we find it absurd and humorous. Think of a monkey doing your tax returns or an MP actually doing their job. There’s a mismatch between what ought to be and what is.
So, hearing Sheng Wang wax poetic about ego death like a Zen Buddhist monk in his pursuit of cheap, affordable pants at Costco is utterly amusing to us. In some sense, there is truth in what he’s saying but the triviality of the subject matter is so unexpected that it catches you off guard. He is playing into the image of the enlightened Asian mystic but with all the real world sensibilities of a single uncle. It’s novel, it’s engaging and it’s something that feels like only Sheng Wang can do.
That being said, we wouldn’t recommend Sheng Wang to everyone. There will definitely be some folks out there looking for a bit more flair and hype in their shows. Comedians like the wickedly vulgar Ali Wong and the flamboyant British Malaysian Phil Wang could fill that void (even if one of them says his name way too many times). Unlike comedians like Bill Burr or Tom Segura, Sheng Wang doesn’t veer into culture war diatribes or spectacular gross-out stories.
A lot of his bits and jokes are related to millennial humour, namely towards trying to live your best life without having to break the bank. So yes, don’t expect him to do anything particularly spicy or political here. No, the taboos and lines he does cross are the ones we don’t often think about like willfully wasting paper at work or attending a church only to use its basketball court. As kiasu Malaysians, we found those lines absolutely hysterical! If you’re looking to sit in after work or for something to play in the background of a commute, “Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy” is the perfect way to mellow out with a chuckle.
There are times, though, when the comedian will break out of his quiet persona and adopt a blaccent when describing certain situations. Sometimes, it lands well like when he’s describing when he skipped merrily over to the drive-thru of a Wendy’s only to be told they can’t serve him on foot. Other times, it can be a tad grating. It’s not quite as pronounced as Awkwafina’s but it is a noticeable feature of the comedian. For us, it wasn’t really a big deal because most of the time, the accent isn’t just there for a quirk. It’s meant to play into the incongruity of this nerdy Asian guy spitting mad bars as he reads a children’s book to his friend’s toddler. In short, it’s in service to a greater theme of his character.
If you’re thoroughly done with cliched Asian jokes about price-maxing, bordeline abusive parenting and competitive spice-eating then Sheng Wang is the man for you. The comedian absolutely kills it in his first ever Netflix special, “Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy”. Methodical in his setups, deeply insightful in his observations and distinctly zen in his delivery, Sheng Wang is a unique voice in the comedy world that deserves to be heard. The man has avoided going for low hanging fruit and like any self-respecting grocer, goes for only the freshest of content. Admittedly, he’s not quite as memorable as the baby-hating Phil Wang but in time, he’ll be as big as Bobby Lee!
You can now check out “Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy” on Netflix today!
Netflix's "Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy" Review
If you're thoroughly done with cliched Asian jokes about price-maxing, bordeline abusive parenting and competitive spice-eating then Sheng Wang is the man for you. The comedian absolutely kills it in his first ever Netflix special, "Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy". Methodical in his setups, deeply insightful in his observations and distinctly zen in his delivery, Sheng Wang is a unique voice in the comedy world that deserves to be heard.
- Netflix's "Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy" Review