Emo. Even the name sounds like a strange bird. Most often associated with emo rock, the name is at its most subversive when applied to Emo Phillips, the comic whose willowy form is perpetually draped in ill-fitting, mismatched hand-me-downs. A broken-mold hybrid of Kafka and Buster Keaton, Phillips was one of the handful of neon names from the 1980s comedy boom. A pantheon performer, Jay Leno once called him the best joke writer in America.
Like the music that shares his name, Phillips is intellectual, decidedly out of step and never afraid to get a little grizzly. Unlike the music, Emo's act moves at a deliberate pace. He's a slow talker. His delivery is theatrical, even cartoonish: full of wheezes, befuddled stares and marionette-like dances, but his punch lines, delightfully off-kilter and always on target, hit quick and deadpan à la Stephen Wright.
You can get your ticket punched this week at Crackers in Broad Ripple (6281 N. College Ave., 317-255-4211) where Phillips is appearing March 30-April 2. Get a free peek at Emo's work, old and new, at www.emophillips.com. Also appearing is Jeremy Essig. Tickets start at $8 and go to $20, except Thursday, which is college night ($5 with I.D.). Show's at 8:30 p.m.; 8 and 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The early shows on Saturday and Sunday are non-smoking.