Picks and Pans Review: E = Mo²

updated 08/12/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/12/1985 01:00AM

Emo Philips

The mop-headed creature with the bean pole figure doesn't so much climb onto the stage as waft onto it like a breeze-blown gum wrapper. Staring goggle-eyed at the audience, he runs his hand through his hair and gives off a goofy gasping laugh that raises serious doubts as to the contents of his cranium. "Pro-ba-bly," he begins, at last, in a quavering, swoopy voice, "the toughest time in anyone's life"—he mops his brow—"is when you have to murder a loved one because they're the devil." When the laughs finally peter out 20 seconds later, Emo adds, "Other than that, though, it's been a good day." Therewith, one of the more bizarre and original acts in stand-up comedy today is off and flapping. If you've seen Emo Philips, whose physiognomy suggests a cross between Peter Pan and a plucked chicken, and who at one recent performance kept assembling and disassembling a beat-up trombone while he talked (but never played it), you might wonder whether his material will fly on vinyl. It does, thanks to one of the most distinctive vocal styles in the business and flawless comic timing. Emo, 28, who sings a ditty about the fun of shopping in his hometown of Downers Grove, III., has several sides to his character. One is the perverse nerd, who "was in a bar a few nights ago, moving from stool to stool, trying to get lucky—but there wasn't gum under any of them." Then there's Emo the Protestant Woody Allen. "My parents were very protective," he confides. "I couldn't even cross the street without them getting all excited and placing bets." Though often hapless, Emo's humor is far from doltish. He deftly wriggles out of a jam with the IRS when he is informed that, "I owe them $800. So I sent them a letter back. I said, 'If you'll remember, I fastened my return with a paper clip, which according to your very own latest government Pentagon spending figures will more than make up for the difference.' " (Epic)

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