Emo Philips

The Observer, Jul 2006

This Much I Know: Emo Philips, 50, comedian.


Also at The Observer

I don’t really hang out with people. I like to be by myself. In fact, I’ve been arrested a few times because I like to walk around at two or three in the morning, looking at shop windows. The cops take me to the station and fingerprint me. But I wouldn’t call that hanging out.

This is my 30th anniversary as a stand-up. I’m on the road about three weeks a month and it’s a wonderful life. I don’t have children yet, so maybe I’m not enjoying it as much as I might be.

Sex is logically impossible after marriage. You have to overcome the paradox of ‘Not this again’ and ‘Hey, where d’you learn that?’

I saw a psychologist once because I thought I had depression. It cost me $100. When I left, I realised that there’s nothing he could have said that would cheer me up as much as if I found a $100 bill on my way home.

Writer’s block is a myth. I never see the gardeners suffering from gardening block.

If you’re worth over $50m you should have to dress like that guy on the Monopoly box. The super-rich shouldn’t get all the benefits of looking like a regular guy.

Nepal is the most fun place in the world. You’ve got monkeys roaming around, cremations and animal sacrifices. And there’s no vehicle that you’re not welcome to ride on top of. The country could have been invented by Beavis and Butt-head. Even the gods have nice breasts.

Charlie Chaplin is the greatest artist of the 20th century. He takes me from laughter to tears in seconds. And he was one of the very first funny men. It’s like the original violins were made in Cremona and there’s never been any better since. Sometimes the best come right off the bat.

Thinking up jokes is easy. The hard part is trying them out on stage, because you never know if they’re funny until you get there. Not one comedian in the world ever really knows.

The Scots are a very tough people. They have drive-by headbuttings. In Glasgow a sweatband is considered a silencer.

There’s a joke in everything, the trick is finding it. The best compliment a joke can get is what Huxley said about Darwin’s theory of evolution – ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

I grew up in an era when strange adults would grab me on the street and say: ‘Don’t do that.’ You never see that these days. ‘Hi, we took the liberty of spanking your son.’ Oh thanks, my hand was getting worn.

I give money to Unicef because I like the ‘bang for your buck’ aspect. Here’s $10, go and save 1,000 kids from blindness!

Writing jokes for others is like having babies for someone else. It’s sad. Like the woman who gives up her baby but needs to be close so she secretly becomes the maid in the household.

I think of people as members of an audience. But an audience acts independently of every individual. It’s an organism on its own. I focus on that living hydra in the dark.

Race is still somewhat of a taboo in comedy. But if you’re a minority, then you can make fun of your own minority. And that’s a nice service that many of them provide.

I’m totally normal in every respect, but I have this one quirk – I can’t give out a number without laughing. It’s a problem when I’m giving my credit card number over the phone because they always think: ‘He must have just stolen it.’

There’s only one joke that I do in England that doesn’t work in the States. It goes: ‘There was no place to eat last night, so I went to a kebab shop and had a doner. Which my body rejected.’ But you don’t get doners in America. They don’t exist.