Bob Phillips Comedian
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oakland press headlineLaughter is the Best Medicine

 

What happened at the comedy club Saturday night was only a minute away from being incredibly, incurably awkward.

 

Instead, Bob Phillips of Novi saved the day, or at least the routine. As for the woman who was carted out by paramedics, she’s apparently okay. And Phillips, a student of comedy, learned something new about audiences and human nature.

 

At about the 5-minute mark, Phillips was telling some jokes at his own expense about being 51 years old. (“I don’t see my favorite bands anymore. I see their surviving members.”)

 

In 60 seconds, he would segue into a bit about Bill Knapp’s and the age bracket of its clientele — a segment in which he demonstrates keeling over into the mashed potatoes. But before he could go there, he sensed a commotion a few rows from the stage.

 

The stage lights make it almost impossible to see into the crowd, but “you’re keenly aware of anything that doesn’t sound like laughter,” he says. He stopped, dipped, shielded his eyes, and saw an older woman being propped back upright in her chair.

 

From what the paramedics told the club owner, it appears she’d had a stroke.

A quick segue

He was the sixth of eight children, and in a way, he owes his side job to the last two in the food chain. “Wait a minute,” he remembers thinking. “Who are these people everyone is paying attention to?”

 

To reclaim the spotlight, he started being funny, and a decade ago he started being funny for money. Not large money, at least not yet, but he isn’t chasing a sitcom or a seat next to Jay Leno. He just wants to keep getting better at getting laughs and to see his name at the top of the marquee outside all the clubs where he started at the bottom.

 

“Comedy is a serious business,” he says, and the lunacy of it helps keep him sane. One night a drunk fell backward and smacked his head on the corner of a table during his act, and Phillips had to help cart him out. But a stroke was something new.

 

Roger Feeny, who co-founded the Comedy Showcase 29 years ago, says the woman felt poorly before she left home but joined her husband and four others anyway.

 

She never lost consciousness, and heck, four members of her party stuck around for the rest of the program. The paramedics had her out the door in eight minutes, Feeny says, and the total delay was maybe a quarter of an hour.

 

Then the lights dimmed, and Phillips stepped back out with a question:

 

“Was it something I said?”

Enjoying the moment

The crowd erupted. “Now, where was I?” he said, and it roared again.

From that point, as the comedians say, he killed.

 

“I was surprised at how much more fun they were having,“ Phillips says, even if they were deprived of the Bill Knapp’s segment. He says the audience was at least 50 percent more emotive than before, and the applause was noticeably louder.

 

“This tension had built up,” he says. “Everyone understood that we’d all been through something together.“

 

They had paid $10 or $12 on a date night to get a glimpse of their own mortality — and then they had enthusiastically looked away.

 

Have a laugh. Have a daiquiri. Heaven can wait.

 

 


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