Jokes are How We Avoid Violence and Other Insights from an Evening With Emo Philips
Updated: Sep 7, 2018
In public, Emo Philips (a master comedian known for his keen intellect, falsetto voice, and irreverent one-liners) never, ever breaks character. In doing so, he pulls the audience into a world where it’s ok to laugh at anything, especially ourselves. This excerpt from The Guardian captures the importance of his work:
“Jokes are how we humans avoid violence. Jokes are our safety-release mechanism. Sure they can sometimes be offensive. So can burps. But if you ban them even worse results happen. And believe me, if someone tells a joke that truly offends, he or she will be punished for it. That's one area for sure where the government can take it easy and relax.” -- Emo Philips
I had the honor to see Philips perform live this evening and talk with him briefly after the show. In Emo’s case, after the show is clearly an important part of the show. On stage, Philips portrays an exaggerated character; one that we can all recognize and laugh at, especially as he fumbles around onstage and delivers each punchline as if it is a discovery. When he carries that persona into the meet and greet portion of the show, perhaps it’s simply to remind us that we, like he, are constantly in character throughout our lives? Maybe the reason he maintains the facade is to help us see that we, like he, constantly cast ourselves and others into various roles (hero, victim, martyr, idiot, evil incarnate)? What makes us different from him is that he does it deliberately; we for the most part do it without knowing. It's a distinction that matters.