Bob Phillips Comedian
oakland press headline

By Gary Allison

Special to the Oakland Press


He wears suspenders not because his pants keep falling down but because he likes how they look. His suits are all black and, occasionally, his ties are a different shade of black.

He looks like a government agent. You know, the ones who come with accessories like black helicopters and mind-erasing gadgets. The difference, of course, is that Bob Phillips of Novi has a sense of humor - and a wicked one at that.

The most common question Phillips gets from other comedians is not where his material comes from, but how he gets so many nights and weekends at clubs in Michigan and throughout the Midwest.

“Since I really began this whole crazy thing, I’ve developed a network of friends that are comedians,” Phillips says. “You swap recommendations; you wind up doing shows together, and sharing club information, however, if you can’t make people laugh, it doesn’t matter.”

“But, the No. 1 thing is that you have to care about the art, the people that are watching you, and you have to understand that club owners aren’t in business to make you famous.”

He likes to remind people that its called show business, emphasizing the business aspect.

Phillips hates that it sounds cynical. He says he’s not a cynic, even though he admits most comics are. To him it’s just being practical. By keeping the people who hire comedians happy, he gains the ability to book nights at clubs and continue working.

“It can sometimes be a cynical business,” he says. “Every comedian can tell you that there are many nights you’re not shown the love from the people that hire you, but if you understand the business side of the job, you can quickly get over it.”

Phillips started his career late in life. Working in the world of corporate marketing until he was 41, he had done a lot of public speaking.

“It was second nature for me to put a couple jokes in my presentations just so I could lighten the mood.”

It wasn’t for the benefit of the people he was speaking to, but for his own comfort. Making people laugh put Phillips at ease. He liked hearing their laughter and grabbing an audience’s attention. Then when he unexpectedly found himself a bachelor again, he thought why not try something he’d always wanted to do. That was nine years ago.

“I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I could do pure comedy for many years,” he said. “I had been divorced for a year and decided that now was the time. So, I went to an open mic.”

Bob Phillips Comedian


Phillips fell in love with what he now calls “a pageant of the bizarre.” He admits that he was a bit naive at the time, thinking that not only could he jump into the world of stand-up comedy with both feet, but that he could rise to success much quicker than his fellow comedians.

“That may be the first pitfall for many comedians,” he said. “You know you have something to say. You know you have that thing that makes other people laugh. But you don’t know that there is a lot of preparation that goes behind that first show.”

It took Phillips six months to build a 15-minute act. That 15 minutes gave him three years of work as an emcee.
Then for a year, he split his time between emceeing and featuring.

“It took me five years to have enough material to headline, and another year to be comfortable. When you’re trying to get from one level to another, there is no other way to do it, but to do it.

I look back on the audiences that I assaulted with my act during those times and feel like I should apologize. I want to send them all a card.”

His act has changed considerably since those days. In the beginning he was the smart-mouth Republican, but now his material consists mainly of stories about his daughter and being a single dad. It’s not the material, however, thats important.

“I don’t want to get philosophical, but I think there’s an underlying thread running through my life,” he said. “When I was a kid, I played every sport. After high school, I boxed and I loved that more than anything that I’ve ever done. And the reason is, I didn’t have to rely on anyone else. It was just me, and I’m either winning or losing by myself.”

He stops, then smiles and says, “Comedy is the same. I live or die on my ideas and on how I present them. Besides, who’d want to see me in a pair of boxing trunks now?”

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