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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Emo Philips' new-found maturity
Emo Philips
The comedian has not visited Britain for nearly eight years
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

Emo Philips, the shy, diffident comedian with the crafted one-liners returns to the Fringe - and the first thing I notice is his lack of fringe.

It must annoy him but the talk of the festival this year is not his routine or his jokes, but his new hairstyle.

I have a lot more things to talk about now because I'm an adult

Emo Philips
Gone is the mediaeval-style bob he used to sport and instead he has a sharper, more mature cut.

"I was sick of people making fun of my hair and so I cut it off and I've got much more attention than ever before," he explains.

"It was like when Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in 1906 - three times more people came to see where it used to be."

It is only a shock because the Chicago-born comic has been away from Britain for almost eight years. He is also a lot fuller of frame than the gaunt, lanky and awkward comic with a nice line self-deprecating humour who found fame on Saturday Night Live.

"I've been on American shores, performing non-stop," he says, and thankfully his see-saw voice remains unchanged.

"America is a great big place and I've been working every night somewhere.

"I am here again for the British people - I should be here more often because we speak the same language."

While the gangling Emo Philips of old is gone, the comic with an eye and ear for detail is not.

He says: "I've tried to update my routine quite a bit. I have a lot more things to talk about now because I'm an adult.


"I got married, I'm 45. I love my wife very much. I'll do anything for her, it's turning out."

His humour remains observational and to a certain degree linguistic.

He takes every-day situations and adds a touch of the surreal, leading the audience down blind alleys before surprising them with a comedic fire escape.

His routine is as tangled and tangential as his responses in an interview.


At one point he talks at length about the Bible, scriptures, the devil and child molestation and I only asked him about the difference between British and American audiences.

"The jokes are honed over the years," he explains.

"You take the words and then very subtly change them a bit."

A whole encyclopaedia of his jokes can be found on the internet, a technology he dismisses as a "lot of neon signs with an arrow", but he has not tried to keep a log of them.


"My jokes are in my head and I have a duplicate copy of my jokes in a lot of British comics' heads, where they are safe.

"It's amazing where a joke might come from. I find a lot of humour just by metaphorically turning things upside down or literally like my wife's cat.

"It's like being a Ham operator in your basement with a radio and most of it is static.

But now and then you hear a police report or that your neighbour is having an affair and it is all worthwhile."

He must spend a lot of time in that basement because he has a joke for every situation, and not even his wife escapes.

"My wife is very nice. She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen on public transport.

"She's very sexy and for our anniversary she gave me a wind chime which is great because if there's one thing I hate it's sleeping through a sudden gust.

"Now I have the kite by the bed and I'm ready to fly at any moment."

His humour is like that kite; just waiting for a gust of wind to take off.

And in Emo's world it is very windy.

  • Emo Philips is at the Pleasance Courtyard and Over the Road until 27 August, although he does not perform every night.

    Comedian Emo Philips
    "Never shoplift in a fishnet shirt"
    Comedian Emo Philips
    "I was sick of people making fun of my hair so I cut it off"
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