Phil Ellis's Excellent Comedy Show is the comedian's tenth at Edinburgh. Or so we believe. James Macfarlane talks to him about life, loves, and lifesaving... and discovers you shouldn't believe eveything he tells you.
Phil Ellis, lovely to speak to you. How are you doing?
I’m as well as any 41 year-old who shares a house with six idiots and has half a shelf in a communal fridge can be. How the hell are you?
For anyone not familiar with your work, tell us a little about yourself.
You can’t call what I do work, it’s more a labour of love. Also most people’s work pays a lot more.
My shows have ranged from heartfelt hours about finding out I was adopted (I’m not) to it being my last ever Edinburgh show (that was in 2019, I’ve been back twice since). So my work is mainly based around a lie.
Probably my most successful show was a take on a 2014 kids' show called Funz And Gamez: trying to rip off families with games they couldn’t win. (It included) musical life lessons to help with adulthood, such as “Don’t ask for a dog when you’re seven years old because you’ll lose it doing your A-Levels”. That show went on to win the Edinburgh Comedy Award Panel Prize. It led to a BBC pilot and eventually three series of Phil Ellis Is Trying for Radio 4.
I’m a professional stand-up who actually does it for a living and I’d like to think I’ve always pushed myself as a performer and a writer. But most importantly, I used to work in an airbags factory, so I’ve also been a life-saver (circa 2006).
You’re back in Edinburgh for the tenth year with Phil Ellis’ Excellent Comedy Show. How does it feel celebrating ten years at the Fringe?
It’s scary how fast those ten years have flown by but it’s also nice to look back over all the things I’ve achieved and all the wonderful people I’ve met during those years.
I love coming to Edinburgh and trying to create something fresh and exciting. I’ve always tried to get the most out of it and deliver the best shows possible, so the month just flies by and it's good to still feel like I have something new to bring to the table after all that time.
A five-star review for The Scotsman called you "both completely likeable and absolutely appalling". Is this a fair description of Phil Ellis on stage?
If there’s one thing that I’m most proud of in this world, it’s my lack of character development. I’m still a likeable cretin and what better combo is there?
You’ll never hear people say that I have grown as a person. No thank you! I’m always happy to grow as a comedian and change my direction artistically. But if you want me to suddenly feel empathy or remorse, you’re going to be very disappointed.
You’ve also had success hosting podcasts and radio series. What are you most proud of outside of your stand-up?
Being a father. My twins Maureen and Lucas are my greatest achievements.
I tell everyone I can about the beautiful, funny and dynamic, young adult my daughter has grown up to be. I love sharing Lucas’s new drawings and poems with friends and family. Lucas is such a sensitive and caring person who inspires me daily.
The love I feel for each of them is overwhelming. It rules every decision and action I take. Everything comedy involves, or has led to, means nothing without my children.
Now, do Maureen and Lucas actually exist? No. Do I have any children at all? No.
But just imagine for the moment that they did both exist? Wouldn’t they make you proud?
Of the thousands of comedy shows at the Fringe this year, why should audiences come and see yours?
Because it is the best show in Edinburgh.
I try and deliver exciting, hectic, silly, surprising, and most importantly, funny shows each year. I genuinely do believe that this one is going to be my best one to date. And I’ve had some doozies.
Finally, do you have any shows you’re excited about seeing this year?
The only show I’m excited to see is my own, reflected in the eyes of my overwhelmed audience each day. Those beautiful wide eyes, glazed over with tears of pure joy.
Oh and Seymour Mace Does Drawring at The Stand.