There was no safer comedian for a child to listen to growing up than Bill Cosby. I can still remember one Christmas Eve in the mid-1980s when an audio cassette copy of Bill Cosby Himself arrived in the mail. I still have that cassette and numerous others in a box somewhere in my parents’ house but I doubt I’ll ever listen to them the same way, or simply play them, again.
Cosby offered family friendly material and he rarely used obscenity to get laughs. I say rarely because he used them on occasion, and when he did, they were perfectly timed and placed in his routine.
“Why do we have to learn this shit?!”
That in and of itself isn’t an especially funny sentence. But Cosby used it as a punchline toward the end of an hour-long monologue I heard live at the NJ Performing Arts Center in 1997. An audience of thousands laughed uproariously. I mentally filed away not the joke itself, but the mechanics and timing, and still think it’s one of the most brilliant routines I’ve ever heard.
That was around the time Cosby was alleged to have fathered a daughter outside of his marriage–a charge he denied. Cosby took the stage while holding the hand of a little girl, and said, “ok, now go away, you’re not my daughter.” The audience laughed at Cosby’s ability to make fun of himself. Why? Because we couldn’t imagine The Cos doing anything like that.
Seventeen years later, I’m not so sure. And that’s a minor league accusation compared to the ones made by more than a dozen women, all of whom claim he drugged, molested or raped them. Some of these ladies were Playboy models who said the dirty deeds were done in the 1970s. The heat became so intense that Hugh Hefner was forced to leave the Mansion in his PJs to issue a statement saying, in part, that the allegations were truly saddening, and “I would never tolerate this kind of behavior, regardless of who was involved.” (That makes me chuckle because there are numerous other kinds of behavior that have occurred within that mansion that I, as a mortal man, could imagine tolerating but would also have to imagine hiring a good divorce lawyer.)
Yes, Cosby was married at that time, and still is, meaning that for all the decades I was laughing at his wholesome material, Cosby was allegedly engaging in–forget immoral–reprehensible, illegal behavior.
I’d like to be one of these people who immediately leaps to Cosby’s defense–but I’ve not seen or heard of any of these people. Maybe because they all smell smoke.
When you have mealy mouthed lawyers (and no yourself) addressing horrendous rape allegations lodged against you, then clearly something’s wrong.
I’ve seen nor heard a peep from Cosby, who’s hunkered down somewhere, not screaming from the rooftop that these allegations, all of them, are false and there’s nothing to them!
So, now the classic routine of a young Cosby seeking revenge on Junior Barnes by hitting him with a snowball saved in the freezer in July — only to learn Cos’s mother had thrown the snowball away: “So I went back outside and I spit on him” — I don’t find it funny any more. It saddens me to hear more than anything. Now, I can’t help but thinking what was Cosby up to in between recordings?
Woody Allen is by far one of the funniest essayists around. If you’ve never read Without Feathers or Getting Even, you’re missing out. I justify reading his material, knowing what he did, by saying “Just so long as he’s not babysitting my daughter, I can live with it.” Don’t get me wrong, Allen’s a creep. I sometimes read his essays or watch his movies, wondering if it’s acceptable for me to support this guy financially. Allen admitted to his behavior. Hell, he married the girl he seduced! It seems society hasn’t exactly applauded this unseemly behavior, but certainly has accepted it, perhaps somewhat begrudgingly.
I can’t live with what Cosby did–if he did it. And right now, Cosby’s giving me no reason to think he didn’t.