This is Not Wrestling but an exception had to be made,
On January 1st, 2014 James Avery passed away at age 65. According to TMZ, he had just undergone open heart surgery and took a turn for the worse. Avery was better known as Uncle Phil from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” He was a cornerstone member of the cast, which provided endless hours of entertainment for viewers in the 1990’s and even today through syndication. He played the roles of a father, successful businessman, disciplinarian, and he was the target of many jokes; all of which he sold flawlessly. Most of all he was the show’s calming voice of reason, and the anchor the rest of the cast was built around.
Bel Air was the Cosby Show of the 1990’s and Uncle Phil was its Bill. So with this news of Avery’s passing, I hereby declare the following ten performances Uncle Phil’s finest. There are 10 listed here, but there are so many more that are out there. If you have other outstanding performances that you would like to share, feel free to share them in the comment section or with me on twitter @DangerRich32.
Walk with me down memory lane as we go through times of laughter, pain, jokes about his weight, many Jazzy Jeff home ejections and overall moments of greatness from one of the best TV fathers, and uncles of all-time.
10. Uncle Phil Threatens Will & Carlton.
Will and Carlton embarrassed Geoffrey with a fake winning lottery ticket that forced him to quit working for the Banks. Of course Uncle Phil would get to the bottom of the dirty deed. He began his speech with the mind fuck of a question, “If you were me what would you do?” He faked laughter as Will joked, “Buy us some jet-skis then forget it all happened!” then morphed into the intense Uncle Phil we all loved, as he called Will a “big-eared freeloader” and told Will to take his “square headed cousin” (his son, Carlton by the way) down to the restaurant to find Geoffrey.
He then threatened that no one would ever find their bodies. Being a judge, Uncle Phil could make it happen.
9. Uncle Phil Fantasizes about Turkey and Mashed Potatoes
All the bad food Uncle Phil ate over the years finally caught up to him. Phil made the choice to start eating healthier, but it did not go as smoothly as he might have imagined. In one of the funnier Uncle Phil moments, Phil shares his love for turkey and pillowey mounds of mashed potatoes. When Uncle Phil is confused by the sight of chicken with no type of breading or gravy on it, he mentions “quitting his favorite foods cold turkey.” With the mention of turkey, Phil breaks off into his own sweet fantasy of Thanksgiving that Mariah Carey on a roller-coaster could not imagine. It’s lighthearted, but still a hilarious moment that would’ve been better had Will walked up on him mid-sentence.
8. Uncle Phil and Will Get Stuck in an Elevator
Vivian Banks was about to have a baby. Uncle Phil, of course was out-of-sorts….
Running late, he and Will found the nearest elevator to get up to the labor room. During their rise, they encounter a man smoking on the elevator. Phil calmly asked if the guy would mind putting out his cigarette, and was met with a rebuttal of, “Hey man it’s a free country!” After telling the man it was against the law to smoke on elevators, the smoker blew smoke in Phil’s face. Wrong decision. Phil grabbed the cigarette, broke it in his face, and then stomped on it. That act drew applause from the other people on the elevator. Speaking of the elevator, it broke 5 seconds after that, causing all of the riders to freak out.
The same man that was smoking was the only one with a cell phone that could notify Vivian of the hold up. Needless to say, in 2014 we would have to explain to kids why only 1 out of 5 people had a cellphone. Will attempted to get the phone from the man to no avail, but here is where Phil shined. His ability to go from zero to 60 out of no where is a special quality he was blessed with. Phil calmly explains that wild tactics wont work, and that he is skilled in the art of negotiation. He then turned to the guy and said “Sir, GIMME THAT DAMN PHONE, OR I WILL RIP YOUR LIVER OUT AND EAT IT RAW!” The smoker switched his tone to “yes sir” immediately. Absolutely hilarious.
7. Uncle Phil Being the target of Weight Jokes
Uncle Phil was a heavyset guy to put it lightly. Will, Geoffrey, Jazz, and pretty much everyone on the show got in on the jokes that lasted from the first episode to the day the Banks left the mansion. This collection above is a short mix of some of the notable comebacks from the jokes Phil seemed to walk right into.
Deciding who had the best jokes on Phil is a toss-up between Will and Geoffrey, as Will brought a “homeboy” style to each joke, while Geoffrey typically delivered straight laced verbal haymakers that took a second before the desired effect was reached. Uncle Phil’s weight was something that the show fell back on at anytime, and it always was funny. I don’t typically endorse fat jokes, but here I truly cannot help myself.
6. Uncle Phil and Will’s First Serious Talk
Will’s first night living with the Banks family was a disaster according to Phil. During a party which his legal partners were in attendance, Will put on a legendary performance. He showed up dressed ridiculously, and ran the gauntlet around them room. He referred to “Firth Wind & Meyer”(Phil’s law firm) as Earth Wind & Fire and rhetorically asked when their album was coming out . He then beat boxed at the dinner table while playing chimes with the glasses. Every moment that passed made Uncle Phil’s temper activate, and at the end of the night he decided to let Will know exactly what was on his mind.
Uncle Phil felt Will tried to deliberately embarrass him. Every solid point was met by a joke. They eventually got on the broad topic of “selling out” that is somewhat of a danger zone in the black community. Will accused Phil of selling out, and forgetting where he came from, which caused Phil to enlighten Will about his own past. That struck a chord with Will, and brought them closer for the first time. As Phil leaves he says, “Don’t judge someone until you know exactly what they’re about.” Will then turned away and began to play Beethoven, something that shocked Phil as he realized his own lack of self awareness when he was counseling Will.
This was the first episode of the show! Already the foundation was laid between Phil and Will for what was to come.
5. Uncle Phil throws Jazz Out Of The House
Speaking of running gags in the series, there was no bigger one than Uncle Phil throwing Jazz out of the house. Jazz was a habitual line-stepper, to quote Charlie Murphy. Every time he crossed it, that same clip of him being thrown to his doom followed. Sometimes, even Jazz knew what was about to happen so he walked towards the door himself.
Jazz sometimes was thrown inside of the house, or even thrown out of it by people other than Phil. It never got stale no matter how many times it happened. Part of me wishes it happened on the final show.
4. Uncle Phil gets Will & Carlton out of Jail
Will and Carlton were known to get in their fair share of trouble, but this trouble was undeserved. Will and Carlton were victims of racial profiling while driving Henry Firth’s car, and were mistaken as thieves. After spending hours being horrified in jail, Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian showed up to get the boys from behind bars. The cops were not easily convinced. Vivian ripped into the police as only she could, and removed her earrings seemingly ready to throw hands with the lawmen.
Getting nowhere, Phil approached the cops and was quickly rebuffed. The cop began raising his voice with Vivian, and Phil had enough. Phil and the Cop exchanged “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE TALKING TO’S?” with Phil’s having a greater impact. Henry Firth then enters and confirms the identities of Will and Carlton, but Phil wasn’t finished. Phil confirmed his legal partnership with Firth, and then ripped into the police in a way the average person never would. Phillip Banks was no one to mess with.
3. Uncle Phil Punches Ashley’s Bully’s Father
We never actually saw Phil put his hands on anyone too often, but this was different. Ashley had been getting bullied by a young lady at school, who also scared Will & Carlton. Ashley went to Will for fighting lessons that were hilarious in their own right. After figuring out their differences, the problem was solved. However, their parents still had some figuring to do.
The young lady had described Ashley to her parents as the bully in their scenario, which was an absolute lie. This became a battle between the parents more than it was about their daughters. Phil verbally executes this man by tearing down his educational background, labeling his daughter a future criminal with a jaw suitable for small rodents, and finally knocking him out following a “yo mama” response.
This situation kept getting more uncomfortable by the second, and showed what Phil would do when pushed over the line. It also doesn’t hurt that it was comedic gold.
2. Uncle Phil Breaks out Lucille
After being hustled by a pool shark, Will owed a lot of money that he did not have. Uncle Phil previously had warned Will about the dangers of pool hall hustlers, but Will being Will didn’t listen, and after a winning streak against some low level players,he was soundly defeated by a seasoned hustler. This left Uncle Phil to go to the pool hall to handle Will’s trouble.
Uncle Phil pulled the con-job of the decade by acting as if he had never played pool ever in his life. He referred to it as “Simple Geometry.” Phil lost the first game against the hustler on purpose, and looked helpless as he begged for a rematch. The bet was upped to 100 dollars a game, and then it happened.
Uncle Phil told Geoffrey, who was standing in his typical no nonsense stance, to…”Break Out Lucille.” Lucille was his pool stick Geoffrey had hidden in his pants. To the shock of everyone, including Will, Uncle Phil was revealed to be a master at the game of pool as he easily dispatched his opponent.
This added another layer to Uncle Phil that was previously unseen. He taught Will a lesson, and looked like a badass in the process. Uncle Phil forever.
1. Uncle Phil vs Will’s Father
This was the moment the entire show was leading up to. For years Uncle Phil had taken a young, mischievous, although good kid, who was his wife’s nephew into his home and raised him as one of his own. Uncle Phil changed Will’s life by giving him the father figure he desperately was searching for. After re-appearing in Will’s life randomly, Lou (Will’s Father) again attempted to run out, but not before Phillip Banks got a minute with him.
Uncle Phil ripped into “Lou” about his responsibilities as a father, and let him know that no amount of fear could justify his actions from the past. He exclaimed, he once was a scared young father who did not back down from the challenge of raising a family.It is the most emotional scene in the entire series by far, exceeding the time when Will was shot, or Carlton overdosed on speed. In this moment Uncle Phil clearly acknowledged that Will was now HIS son, and had been ever since he stepped out of the cab that brought him to Bel Air.
Although this is Will’s defining moment as a character on the show, it belongs to Uncle Phil just as much. It felt way too real for network television. This scene happened to many young men growing up, as they realize who some of their fathers really are. It’s just too bad there aren’t more Uncle Phil’s walking around.
I did not know James Avery the person any more than anyone reading this, but Uncle Phil will live forever. Upon hearing that he passed, I instantly began recalling the fond memories of being a kid watching every episode religiously. Avery was one of the most talented actors because Uncle Phil was so believable. Every season seemed to pull a layer back from his original “uptight” state, and reveal a man that ended up being the second most notable character, on the greatest show of my youth. Rest in peace.