comedians you should know

Sheng Wang Refuses to Die on a Hill

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Sheng Wang.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“Check out that tree!”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I think I’m best known for the joke about having too many ripe avocados, which I performed on HBO’s 2 Dope Queens. I don’t think I’m proud of individual jokes, really. I’m just grateful and excited for the jokes that end up in my act. I’m proud that I’ve pursued this craft for 20 years. I’m still learning and growing as a human and comedian, and I feel like I’m just getting started.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
As a toddler, I had a reputation for slamming my head into the ground when things didn’t go my way. I think that explains everything up until now.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
Chang, office clerk. I would be high all the time, working as a gardener at the local botanical garden. I would secretly harvest the citrus, persimmons, and other fruits and hook up my homies.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
“Shut Up,” by Trick Daddy. It’s a loud, heavy, and imposing song, and very energetic. Good way to let the audience know it’s time to get hyped and pay attention. Also it’s a fun counter-vibe to my more chill and demure self.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
One of the more painful shows I did was in a small college in Iowa early in my career. They hired me to do an hour of comedy in a big barn before a homecoming ceremony. Everyone showed up for that event, but they had to sit through my act first. My jokes did not connect with these folks. I bombed from the start. But I had to do the full hour until the school president arrived from another meeting to host the ceremony. Nothing landed, attempts at crowd work failed, and I just suffered through my whole act along with the audience. Finally, the hour was over. The president walked onstage, grabbed the mic, and said, “When’s the comedian gonna get here?” He brought the house down. I stood there in the back of the room, now exploding with much-needed laughter and release, and I just absorbed this burn into my soul with a dumb smile on my face. Comedy, baby.

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
I nominate Hadiyah Robinson and Chase Bernstein. They are both hilarious comedians, talented writers with a unique voice and a strong sense of who they are.

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
I don’t know about dying on hills. I’m tryna live well.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
I’m trying to connect audiences with their humanity. I’m trying to convince audiences to see me as a worthy whole human being just like they are. That’s why I like to explore and play in those everyday moments and places where life is clarified and people are just people. Honest. Vulnerable and compassionate. Those are my jams.

What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
Best: Write every day, perform as much as possible, record audio of every set. And have fun. They can’t enjoy this show if you don’t.

Worst: “You should do more Asian jokes.”

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Sheng Wang Refuses to Die on a Hill