Ramp Legend Wall: The Honorable Philip Banks
It was tough to decide which of these two similarly-shaped giants I should nominate for the Ramp Legend Wall: Uncle Phil, or James Avery, who played Uncle Phil for all six seasons of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. After all, without James Avery, Uncle Phil as we know him might never have existed. And Avery is a considerable thread in any ‘90s kid’s internal pop culture tapestry. Not only did he play The Honorable Philip Banks, intimidating patriarch of the Fresh Prince clan, but he also provided the voice of The Shredder in Teenage Mutant
Hero Ninja Turtles. That is an impressive legacy. In terms of how important he was to Irish kids twenty years ago, he’s practically the American Miley Byrne.
But it’s the character of Uncle Phil I’m putting forward for your consideration today, Rampies. For he is truly a legend. A massive, ball-busting, bellowing, bust-a-moving legend.
A civil rights activist in his youth, Uncle Phil acquired his considerable fortune from hard work, dedication to his career, and having more common sense than a Boots perfume counter. As such he was the perfect foil to the show’s hero, Will, who, as you know, was sent to live with him and his aunt Viv in Bel-Air after getting into one little fight back in West Philadelphia with a couple of guys who were up to no good. Will was cocky, exuberant and flippant, and his number one priority was having fun. Phil was sombre, stern and possessed of a temper that, once stoked, would put the heart crossways in a cage fighting rhino.
Together, they made a legendary comic partnership: Will with his wisecracks at his uncle’s
expanse expense, and Uncle Phil with his repertoire of glorious facial expressions which could broadcast anything from mild exasperation to the simmering fury of Yellowstone.
But Uncle Phil wasn’t just there to react with clownish horror to his nephew. He was a disciplinarian, a smooth operator, a cuddly glutton and a Papa Bear. He was a pushover to spoiled daughter Hilary, overprotective towards his little girl Ashley, supportive (if slightly impatient) in his dealings with son Carlton, and desperate not to frighten baby Nicky. He was frequently browbeaten… by his butler. He liked to manhandle freeloaders, but was quite the pool shark.
So why the desire to have him immortalised on the Ramp Legend Wall? After all, Uncle Phil isn’t real, right? He’s only a character, and a habitually terrifying one at that. Well, not being real should be no impediment to winning hearts and minds; certainly, unreality never did religion any harm. And why not have a Philip Banks religion? Who wouldn’t want someone so kind, clever and petrifying as a messiah? Having Uncle Phil on your side would be like being shoved into battle by your very own cheerleader driving a bulldozer. Uncle Phil is a juggernaut of awesome and you know it. No matter how fantastic your own uncles are, you know you wish you had an Uncle Phil. If only to scare you straight.
Look at Will for guidance. No matter what that man puts him through, he knows he’s onto a good thing.
So I implore you. Put this legend on the Legend Wall. Vote for Philip Banks.