An acerbic breath of the ridiculous: A Q&A with Emo Philips

Emo Philips has been a purveyor of the absurd for 30 years. Perhaps, an acerbic breath of the ridiculous, would be a more appropriate description. He is an exercise in modern surrealism that defies explanation, literally becoming a genre unto himself. So mold shattering that he often gets cast in roles like “Venture Time,” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” or the Weird Al drive-in classic “UHF” — because there simply are no other “Emo Philips-like” or “Emo Philips-type” performers in the world … there is only Emo Philips. A solitary, high-pitched voice yelling into space, echoing through the vacuum that is the comedy cosmos. The manic, the myth, the lunatic, Emo Philips will be performing this Sunday, August 23 for a special one-night only show at The Laughing Derby.

LEO: You’ve been coming to Louisville for years. What is your favorite memory tied to this city?

Emo Philips: Seeing your baseball bat statue — when I was a kid, I beat up the school bully with a baseball bat; both his arms were completely broken — which is what gave me the courage.

LEO: Who were the comedians that inspired you when you started?

EP: I’ve always been inspired by the comedians that never had to do anything physical.

LEO:  Do you think the industry as a whole has become better or worse since those days?

EP: There are peasants in Tanzania that understand the industry better than I do.

LEO: Do comedians have to be better now than they used to be, considering the incorporating of social media – where every show, every open mic, every joke can be plastered on the Internet?

EP: In the old days, it was hard to get on TV or record an album, but once you did, you were famous. Now, it’s far easier to get on TV or record an album, but far fewer people watch TV, and it’s much harder to make people aware of your album. The last three decades have been like walking across a teeter-totter.

LEO: How would your career be different if you had social media when you were coming up?

EP: I’d probably have another hundred Twitter followers by now.

LEO: It’s been 14 years since you put out an album, and there was a 14-year gap before that — is there any chance you’ll record another album this year, to continue the trend?

EP: I never realized it’s been yearly intervals of 14 — an “Emonacci” Sequence!

LEO: You’ve done a lot of work in front of the camera, as well. Do you prefer to be in front of a crowd or a camera?

EP: My preference is to be behind a crowd. It’s the sheepdog in me.

LEO: When you look back on a film like “UHF” which has become a cult classic, did you know it was going to be as special as it has become?

EP: I was shocked it wasn’t deemed special the instant it came out.

LEO: What do you think has drawn people to that movie now for 25 years?

EP: In broad strokes, as soon as a boy turns 14, UHF becomes his favorite film. Kind of like a comedic bar mitzvah. Now if you just add up all the English-speaking males in the world that have turned 14 since ’89…

LEO: When the book about Emo Philips is written, what will the title be?

EP: “The Man who Couldn’t Predict Book Titles.”