On entering his small room at Pleasance for his first full-hour stand-up set Phil Wang promises us two things: that this set will get rather blue around the middle and that it will get much stranger towards the end. Well, it did get pretty dirty at around the half-hour mark; but, aside from a good joke about wanting to turn into an octagon, the strangeness never really emerged, in a well-crafted routine hampered occasionally by its unoriginal topicality.
Wang has a casual, conversational style, which creates an atmosphere far more relaxed than most stand-ups his age have the confidence to engender. We never feel hectored. He is a good joke-writer, with subtle set-ups and surprising reveals. He milks his own ethnic and cultural background for material very well. His dissection of Chinese representation in Western media seems a little old-hat, but his spot-on impressions and surreal details give it some freshness. He handles the circuit cliché of second-generation comics impersonating their parents in similar fashion, turning it not quite on its head, but at the very least on its side.
The success and limit of Wang's material is that it always feels slightly - but only ever so slightly - new. In that blue section in the middle he slips into the creepy loner persona common to (too) many male stand-ups. He does more than most to pull this persona apart, but not enough to make it feel truly exciting. The missed-connection parodies from the point of view of a stalker are a particularly lacklustre conceit and don't justify their length in the routine.
Still, there are lots of laughs to be had here and the hit-to-miss ratio is impressively high for a first full hour show. There is something to Wang's writing, a certain swirling potential just waiting for the right current on which to break. 'This show doesn't have a point,' he warns us at the start, 'you leave as hollow as you came in'. It's just enough, for now.