By David Gavri
Sheng Wang is a Taiwanese Texan who developed and honed his comedy in the thriving stand up community of the San Francisco Bay Area. A working comic in New York City, he has toured with the Comedians of Comedy and American Eagle’s Campus Comedy Challenge. He also appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and was invited to attend the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, Canada. Sheng recently filmed his half hour Comedy Central special back in 2011. After that, NBC awarded him with a holding deal that same year. Sheng also appeared on the John Oliver NY Stand Up Show. After headlining at the Improv here in Houston, Sheng gave us his time, as well as his knowledge.
[As the interview began, we were interrupted by a heavily intoxicated patron]
Intoxicated Patron: Sheng Wang! You the man! You the MAN! Hey lemme tell ya somethin, lemme tell ya somethin…you wanna hear somethin? Check it out, I got the next best joke for ya, it’s gunna rock your hat off!
Sheng Wang: Uhh…I’m not wearing a hat…but…umm maybe later?
Intoxicated Patron: What? Later? No! Okay. Come to me when you’re ready to make it big!
Sheng Wang: Thanks, but I gotta go…
Intoxicated Patron: [passes out face first on the patio table]
That was interesting…
Well, let’s talk about jokes that are not written by drunken fans. You joke about your parents immigrating to the United States in order for you and your siblings to have better opportunities—and then their son goes into stand up comedy. How supportive have your parents been for you and your stand up career?
Honestly, my folks are rather supportive—I think [laughs] I think they’re as supportive as I would expect them to be. At first, they did suggest that I look into other careers—but they were never like, “Don’t do it, don’t do this.” It was never like that.
Plus, I don’t think they were bankin’ on me—my two younger sisters both became pharmacists—they’re both married and one of them has kids. And then here I am—a stand up comedian. So it definitely balances out the family.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
I’d say my style is heavily influcend by Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg. I love the one-liners. But as I’ve been headlining more, I’ve started to evolve and move away from those types of jokes and do longer form stories and such. Just when you think you have it all figured out, things change and you get stuck in a rut. But it’s all part of the process. I get frustrated with myself because I’m all over the place—I’m scattered. [discovers a squirrel and turns away]
So you’re from Houston, but this isn’t where you started. Tell us about how and where you got your start in stand up comedy.
I studied at University of California, Berkeley, so I started doing stand up in San Francisco at a place called the San Fransisco Punchline. I entered a talent show and that’s where I really got my start. San Fransisco’s a very supportive scene, also very talented. It taught me a lot about the history of comedy out there.
Now you live in New York City. What’s the comedy scene like out there?
It’s a bigass pool with alotta bigass fish. So big, that there’s little pools within the pool. It’s a great place. Tons of talent.
From the time you started doing comedy, how long did it take for you to get work?
It took a good nine months for me to get my first crack at showcasing at a real comedy club. It probably took me a good two years before I got my first gig as a host.
But everyone’s different, and every city’s different. New York is a very competitive place—it can be tough to find work. Nowadays most my income for me comes from going on the road.
So you went from Berkley to comedy. How’d you make such a leap?
When I tried it at that talent show, it was a thrill. It’s strange because stand up was never a childhood dream or even a suggestion. It just kinda happened. And from then on, it got me interested in other artistic crafts: photography, film making, poetry—for a little bit [laughs]
They say it takes a LONG time for a comedian to find their voice. How long would you say it took you to finally have that breakthrough?
Shit dude, this is something I’m still workin on [laughs]. I dunno to be honest. They say around 10 years—and I’m 10 years in…
Where would you say you’re at right now in your career? And what are your next aspirations?
Being in the game for this long, my main focus right now is on time frame. There’s a window of opportunity and it gets smaller by the day. When you finally get that shot—and you don’t know when it’s gonna come—but when you get it, you gotta knock that shit outta the park. You better be prepared.
I need to make sure I’m ready for when that opportunity comes. So far the ones I’ve gotten have been great. Each opportunity is gonna be bigger than the next one, so as long as I can be ready, I’ll be okay.
Any advice that you can give us?
Don’t trip out! Life happens—go with it.
WATCH comedy! Watch your fellow comics and learn from each other.
Be patient—especially you young comics. Take the time to work on yourself.
Find inspiration from all kinds of comedians—even the ones you don’t like. Find inspiration from others, but stay true to yourself.
And don’t be a dick—don’t burn any bridges.
What’s next for Sheng Wang?
To become a dominating monster on stage. And then I want to put out an album.
Click Here for the official website of Sheng Weng.
Written by: David Gavri