Emo Philips (born Phil Soltanek, February 7, 1956) is an Illinois-born comedian who is best known for his dark and surreal stand up routines, as well as his flat-out bizarre stage persona, which is characterised by a flutey, dreamy, almost childlike vocal tone, scruffy, mismatched clothing and excessive body language (he often walks with his arms held at right angles to his body, and then runs his hands through his hair whilst talking, if he's not struggling to assemble a trombone that he never uses). A lot of the humour comes when he merges this innocent character with Black Humour, much of which occurs when the audience least expects it. He is very good at twisting standard punchlines, taking a predictable end to a joke and swapping it for an unexpected and often very grim one.
As well as performing stand up comedy, he has acted in a few television series and films, appeared on UK panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats, and was the executive producer for the 1992 version of Meet the Parents.
He has also lent his unique vocal talents to Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (as a version of his on-stage persona), Dooper in Slacker Cats, Shannon in Home Movies, a series of Bill Plympton-animated commercials for Sugar Delight and three episodes of Adventure Time as Cuber, the narrator for the Graybles episodes.
In the late 90s, he changed up his look and comedy style, ditching the trademark pageboy haircut and mismatched attire for a more conventional appearance, leading many journalists to comment on his "new grown-up image" and question him on his hair ("It's like having a child and you think, 'How can this child be any more the center of my life?' And then he's kidnapped.") He'd drop the new look by the end of the 2000s and has since returned to his old style.
Is famously close friends with "Weird Al" Yankovic and has appeared with him in several works, including Al's 1989 vehicle UHF, a cameo appearance in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, his 1999 video for "It's All About The Pentiums" and a couple of episodes of The Weird Al Show. He was also the opening act for Al's 2018 and 2022 live tours.
He wrote was was voted the Greatest Religious Joke Of All Time - and is a little miffed that most people don't know he wrote it.
In 1988 he married fellow comic Judy Tenuta, but the couple later divorced.
Tropes that apply to Emo Phillips:
- Alter-Ego Acting: You rarely, if ever, see Emo Philips being himself in public. The stage persona is more or less all you get.
- Black Comedy: Emo's jokes often consist of him cheerily discussing tragic or depressing events that have happened to him, or violent actions he himself has committed."My Cat gave birth to kittens, and My dad took me and the kittens down to the lake and we drowned them, and I was crying my eyes out because I couldn't get them to skip."
- Location Song: "I Like to Shop in Downtown Downers Grove", about the Chicago suburb where Philips grew up. In the liner notes for the album in which it was included, he facetiously claimed to have written it for a Chamber of Commerce contest. He added that it supposedly won 5th prize, "honorable mention."
- Major Injury Underreaction: When he appeared in UHF, his scene involved him accidentally sawing off a finger. His reaction was one of mild embarrassment at his clumsiness.
"It's a good thing I heard 'em!"
- In his own stand-up, he tells a story about going to a bar and being puzzled as to why people are giggling behind him, and when he turns round he realises they've been throwing darts into his head for half an hour.
- Mood Whiplash: Animal Square Dance is Emo's vision of what it might be like if the animals in the zoo were freed. The song starts out jaunty and merry with the animals dancing but very quickly devolves into murderous chaos.
- Psychopathic Manchild: His stage persona sort of fits this, as rather than being deliberately violent, he gives off an impression of not totally understanding right from wrong, or serious incidents from trivial ones, resulting in horrible anecdotes being delivered in the same way someone might talk about the weather."Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps."
"I love to go down to the schoolyard and watch all the little children jump up and down and run around yelling and screaming.... They don't know I'm only using blanks."
- Rapid-Fire Comedy: Most of his routines are a series of one-liners, each of varying sanity.
- Riddle of the Sphinx: One of his jokes involves telling this riddle to an assassin about to kill him, on the terms that Emo goes free if he answers incorrectly. The assassin gives the most well-known answer, but naturally, he's wrong. Emo's answer: A donkey has four legs in the morning, then you saw off two of them in the afternoon and then you glue one of them back on at night.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: He tells a long story about going to a library to find out information about the Heimlich maneuver where he has multiple long exchanges with librarian, has to make a side trip to get change for a Xerox and so forth when he finally gets back to the car, his sister is purple from the chicken bone she's choking on. So it's a subversion.
- Silly Walk: He often walks unusually slowly with his arms held out to the sides of his body.
- Single Malt Vision: "The principal said, 'Emo, Emo, Emo...' I said 'I'm the one in the middle, you drunken slob.'"
- "Other than that, though, it's been a good day."