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Emo Philips: Please Witness My Act

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Corry Shaw

King of the one liners and universally respected gag-smith Emo Philips returns to Edinburgh for the first time since 2001. He explains he had such a horrific time that Fringe he vowed never to return until America elected a black president, presuming it would never happen. And so begins the journey into the mind of this oddly captivating act.

With his trademark wheeze and strange, strained speech he dives head-first into a barrage of jokes. Sadly most of them date from further back than his last Edinburgh visit and I feel I'm not the only person in the crowd that have heard them before. This 'best of' collection is impressive if only for the sheer size of the back catalogue of cutting and often dark one-liners. However more new material would have been welcome.

Philips does try to personalise the show to the audience in front of him, making some jibes about the Scottish diet, teenagers and weather. There are occasional snippets of banter with the crowd, especially with the younger ladies in the front. There is an edge to Philips and a darkness which, in a younger comic, may create an uncomfortable tension. But the scruffy hair and the skeletal build of this 54-year-old makes him seems vulnerable even when spewing bile about his ex-wife or The Deep South. He is not a personable performer but he is strangely endearing.

There are numerous lines that you can imagine making their way round office water coolers, some which are incredibly clever and unexpected and some which are worth nothing more than a groan and a roll of the eyes, but all performed with the unapologetic confidence of someone who has been in the game for decades.

Even when introducing his new range of greetings cards, hastily scribbled on A4 paper there is a sense of a man who knows that he is padding out a set with material which is beneath him, but he delivers it with an unabashed vigour.

It would be worthwhile trying to catch this comedy legend while he's here, but if you are already a fan expecting something new, then don't be surprised if you leave feeling a little disappointed.

Review date: 16 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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