Much of his stand-up comedy makes use of paraprosdokians spoken in a wandering falsetto tone of voice. The confused, childlike delivery of his material produces the intended comic timing in a manner invoking the 'wisdom of children' or the idiot savant.
The character of Emo Philips is widely known for his unique look and on-stage antics, appearing as a fidgety, possibly mentally disturbed, nervous but highly intelligent individual with an obsession for coleslaw. Philips constantly moves throughout the routine, often shifting from sitting to standing positions, wandering from end to end on stage, playing with his hair or clothing, or going as far as to partially undress as he delivers punchlines. His comedy, which is largely self-deprecating and ironic, is often delivered in a modulated falsetto. His look (occasionally described as geeky, disco and vaudeville-inspired), particularly his hair - a 70's style bob with straight lined front fringe - has been a signature part of his appearance and act for most of his career.
Philips has recorded three comedy albums. His album E=mo², recorded live at Caroline's in Manhattan, New York City, won the 1985 New Music Award for best comedy album. It was later re-released along with his Live at the Hasty Pudding Theatre album on a single CD. He also released an album called Emo in 2001. A joke of his was voted funniest religious joke ever in a 2005 online poll. In 2006, he appeared at the Newbury Comedy Festival. He was included in the top 50 of E4s 100 Greatest Comedians, and also appeared number 54 on Channel 4's top 100 greatest standups.