The missing Marx brother

Funny man Emo Philips comes to Minneapolis.

Emo Philips early on in his career

Photo courtesy

Emo Philips early on in his career

Stephanie Nusser

Who: Emo Philips

What: Comedian

Where: Acme Comedy Club, 708 N. First St, Minneapolis

When: Nov. 2-6


When someone mentions the name Emo Philips, they are usually met with a blank stare. His name might not be familiar, but anyone who has seen the Weird Al movie, âÄúUHF,âÄù âÄúDr. Katz, Professional TherapistâÄù or âÄúHome Movies” should know his face

The comedian, who was described in People Magazine as âÄúa cross between Peter Pan and a plucked chicken,âÄù is coming to our fair city. Since 1983, Philips has been in the Twin Cities at least once a year âÄî and, allegedly, he once crashed on Tom ArnoldâÄôs couch in Minneapolis.

Sawing his thumb off in âÄúUHFâÄù is not what Philips should be solely known for (table saws, along with women, are now one of his phobias). Philips is one of the best, most underappreciated comedians of his time, and ours.

Unlike many comedians who are on Comedy Central, Philips is actually funny. With his awkward movements, falsetto voice and garden path sentences, his act continues to prove that âÄî by comparison âÄîDane Cook isnâÄôt funny, the entire Blue Collar Comedy group isnâÄôt funny and, for the love of God, Carlos Mencia is definitely not funny.

Philips has been performing since 1976, which has allowed him to perfect his delivery and develop a strong cult following, and he has continued to get better with age. Most of his material comes straight from his life experiences. (âÄúThank you, life! I owe you one,âÄù Philips said.)

One of PhilipsâÄô traits that makes him a good comedian is his ear.

âÄúI canâÄôt tell you how many comics IâÄôve seen do the same gag, the same way, year after year after year, to the same silence, as if theyâÄôre expecting an angel to come down from heaven some evening and touch it with a wand and magically make it funny for them,âÄù he said.

Phillips always gives 100 percent in his comedy. If the joke is funny, but the delivery is off (or vice versa), the audience wonâÄôt respond as expected. Good thing Philips has flawless delivery.

âÄúIn terms of the balance between delivery and content, here is a handy formula: They both need to be at 100 percent,âÄù he said.

His act is similar to The Marx Brothers, as he uses paraprosdokians as his punch lines.

âÄú[The Marx Brothers] will forever occupy a special place in my heart, along with the other immortal 1930s movie comics that I grew up watching on television: W.C. Fields, Laurel & Hardy, the Three Stooges,âÄù he said. âÄúFor some reason, the Great Depression was really great for comedy.âÄù

Even though Philips is not the most well known comedian of our generation, he still puts on a performance we can connect to. In a performance in 1987, Philips said, âÄúI think todayâÄôs college students are some of the most perceptive, intelligent people in their age group.âÄù

This opinion has changed slightly, as recently Philips said, âÄúThere is no finer subset of humanity. It pains me, though, that I rarely encounter college students, because most places I play, the minimum age is 21. The Acme Comedy Company âÄî where itâÄôs 18 âÄî is an enlightened exception.âÄù

Even though Groucho Marx admitted that every comedian steals a few jokes every now and then, Philips, although he reveres Groucho, said, âÄúIf you, dear reader, happen to be a budding comedian, please, I beg you, do not take his words to heart. You will get branded for life. Most comedy clubs âÄî including, of course, the Acme âÄî wonâÄôt even let you vacuum the stage if you are a joke thief.âÄù

And Philips is no thief.