Published Jul 27, 2016Emo Philips has still got it. It's difficult to say what "it" is when confronted with his bizarrely sedated, madcap style, peasant bowl-cut and dream state style of standup. The audience was fortunate to see Emo in such a small theatre space as the Salle Claude-Leveillee in Montreal's Place des Arts for Just For Laughs. Every oddly timed breath and toddler-like expression of shock and awe was amplified to full effect in the small auditorium.
Emo was clever, worldly, hilarious and inimitable. Perhaps one could imitate Emo — replicate his odd inflections, strange Shakespearean gestures and his knack for the "ol' switcheroo" approach to comedy — but one could not emulate him. He is such a singularity that any attempt to channel even a smidgeon of Emo Philips results in complete and utter parody. Emo has been perfecting his angle on guffaws and one-liners since the early '80s.To this day, there is nobody who comes close to being on Emo's wavelength.
When perusing his old material, one might be forgiven for predicting a novelty act and expecting him to fizzle out the way most of that sort do. However, Emo's jokes were fresh, sometimes political and always clever. Emo's performance was a timeless, uproarious wonder; he was weird, intelligent and hilarious. Remarkably, and without making any effort to be politically correct, he exuded a strange warmth and kindness, which is a rare feeling to experience at a comedy show.
Emo's crowdwork was excellent and he maintained his strange efficacy for prop humour, bringing books and portfolios full of greeting cards he claimed to be working on, while often simply using them as props to be repeatedly introduced and forgotten about to hilarious effect.
Emo's connection with the audience was a rare thing. He didn't play things too safe, but it was clear in a sense that he cared about each and every audience member having a good time. He was fearless, but not careless.