Henry Phillips [Interview]

It’s all about the comedy this week, good folks! And we have another amazing interview for you all today! Henry Phillips has been one of my favorite working comics for a while now. I first came across his film Punching the Clown on Netflix oh so many years ago, and knew right away that this man’s comedic styling and self-deprecating attitude was exactly what I wanted to see. And as it turned out, his stand up turned out to be even more impressive than his filmmaking.

Phillips has been pleasing audiences since the mid 90’s, and definitely has a great story to be told. He’s experiencing more of the ups and downs of the comedy world than you could even fathom. Thankfully for us, the highs have been extremely high, casting a large shadow over the lows, of which I could even name. I just love what he has done with stand up comedy, and am extremely grateful that he was willing to share a few words with us here today. So ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some very nice words from the amazing stand up comedian, actor, filmmaker, writer, love maker……Henry Phillips!

How old were you when you realized you wanted to be hilarious for a living? What drew you to the world of stand up comedy?

I was 24. As a teenager the dream was to become a musician for a living, but when that started looking unrealistic, I went to college and gave up on the arts. I had always been a big fan of comedy, but never even imagined myself doing it professionally. But in 1994, I had a song that my friends all used to laugh at, and I was urged to go up and try it at an open mic. It ended up being a hit, and I was so excited to have people laughing at my humor, it was addictive. That’s what I said to myself, “maybe I can do this”.

What are some of your favorite cities to perform in that are not NYC or L.A.? What places tend to surprise you with their crowds? (For example, I hear the words “Bloomington Indiana”, and I have no idea where that is, but it seems like a decent place for comedy)

Yes, Bloomington has a reputation for being one of the best comedy audiences. College towns in general are pretty good. Not necessarily because of the college students themselves, but maybe because of the cultural influence a university has on the community. Maybe more open-mindedness? Which I think is extremely important for humor. San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville, Austin, Madison, are all wonderful Comedy places. My first “road” experience was the Laff Stop in Houston Texas, which had a magic about it. The audiences used to laugh so heartily at that club, it’s a big part of the reason that I decided to stick with it. No idea why that was, just one of those things.

You’ve been going at it in the comedy world for a quite a while now. In your opinion, how has the comedy world changed since you first began doing it? And has advancements in technology elevated the comedy game, or is it hurting it?

The biggest change that’s happened since I started Comedy in the 90’s is that now there are more things that you can do to be proactive. It used to be that you would try to make your act as good as possible and hope that you were picked to be a TV or a movie star. Kind of like waiting for a winning lottery ticket or a seat on a lifeboat. Now, if the phone doesn’t ring, you can make your own TV show and put it on YouTube, or you can start your own podcast, or you can develop a personal fanbase and organize a tour and sell your tickets online, skipping the middleman. There are just so many things that can be done now that empower the individual comedian. That’s a change I welcome, and really try to take advantage of. I have 2 web series, several digitally self-released CDs, and even 2 independent films, which would’ve been nearly impossible to achieve back in the 90s.

Your film Punching the Clown has been hailed (at least by me) as a MUST WATCH for true fans of stand up comedy. And now we are fortunate enough to get a sequel with Punching Henry. For old fans of Clown, what can we expect to be different this time around? What direction are you taking our beloved Henry?

Plotwise, it’s similar, but you would replace the record label with a TV network, and replace my brother with my lesbian musician friend, played by Tig Notaro. It’s much higher production value, some really beautiful imagery, great sound and some big name cast members. The feedback I’m hearing from fans of the first one is that this one’s a little bit darker, and a little bit more desperate. There is no female love interest, and the villain in the movie is really just life itself. Ha, that definitely doesn’t sound like a winning pitch for a comedy movie, but in my opinion it really works. Not only do I feel that we really nailed the big funny scenes, but I think there is a very honest pacing throughout that lets you know that you’re watching something real.

I adore your amazing web series Henry’s Kitchen. On the surface, one might think it’s just another set of cooking videos on YouTube, but in reality it is so much more. For those who are unaware, can you tell us a bit these videos and what makes them unique? And where did the idea for your version come from?

Henry’s Kitchen was inspired in 2011 at a time when I was doing a lot of cooking by myself at home. I would go to YouTube and Google, for example “French toast recipe”, and I used to really laugh at some of the amateur chefs out there teaching how to make French toast. At one point I said to myself, “I have to do one of these”. So I made my French toast video, and it was a hip among all my friends. Then I made my video “chili for one”, and it actually went viral. I was so excited, I always wanted something like that, and I finally got it. So then I just started cranking out more and more. There are 25 now, and there have been a great outlet for me creatively. I love coming up with one liner type jokes to say while I’m cooking, and scoring the soundtrack and writing the songs has really helped me stay in touch with my musical side. They are a ton of fun, and I’m amazed at how many people out there have seen them. I’ve been recognized at several airports, and in the streets in cities from Montreal to LA, by all these people that think that I’m just a terrible cook.

I am a huge fan of the podcast Doug Loves Movies, and you are hands down one of my favorite guests to frequently appear on the program. And whenever I get the chance, I have to ask people who are fortunate/insane enough to be on the show…what is that experience like? Is it just another for of publicity, or do you really enjoy doing it?

That podcast is nothing but pure fun. At first I was intimidated to be a guest on it, because I’m insecure about my knowledge of recent movies, especially all the marvel/superhero ones. And I’m not really good at coming up with trivia answers on the spot. But the bottom line is that Doug Benson is one of the funniest people ever, and he’s a genius at making the show funny, regardless of the trivia performance of the guests. It’s really fun.

What would you consider your greatest non-artistic accomplishment? 

It might be boring, but I guess finishing my political science degree at UCLA. it was great to learn all about a field that I had previously known little about. And there was a real sense of accomplishment, especially toward the end, when I was fulfilling all of the requirements. I had to study French, learn about statistics, take random science classes, etc. I guess I consider it an accomplishment now, because looking back it’s the only real time period when I wasn’t interested or involved in the arts at all.

So what is next for you? Anything coming soon that you can tell our readers about?

Well, Punching Henry is now out on Blu-ray and on iTunes and Amazon. It will also be on Showtime in August. I’m also working with an animator on a potential animated comedy Christmas special. And I am really hoping to make a couple more episodes of my other web series You and Your Fu&king Coffee, by the end of this year. In general, I think there will be much more filmmaking for me from this point out. But I will always be a traveling comedian as well, as long as there is an audience that wants to see me.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

A video I just saw. Comedian Brendon Walsh has been pranking this gossip show by appearing as a guest Skyping in from home, and he keeps getting naked dudes to walk by in the background. Pretty damn hilarious.

Henry has made more recent Henry’s Kitchen episodes since this one below, but for introductory purposes, you HAVE to check out this amazing episode:


About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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