My Cosby Memory

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Back in the early 1980s, when I was still a kid, my family had a cable package that included Cinemax. One of the films it had was a comedy special called “Bill Cosby: Himself”, which was about an hour and a half of him doing stand-up. It was really the first comedy special I had ever watched (which began a lifelong love affair of such things), and I’ve found it for you here:

I haven’t watched the movie in decades, but I remember some of the routines from it by heart. I had only been acquainted with Bill Cosby from watching the Fat Albert Show on Saturday morning when I was a little boy, so this was a side of him I had never seen. I thought it was hilarious.

He could have never performed another day in his life after “Himself” and still had an esteemed place in the history of American entertainment. Of course, he went on to do, among other things, the Cosby Show, which was the biggest hit in television history. I never saw a single episode of it – – by that time of my life, I had no interest in television, much less a popular sitcom – – but there’s no way you could avoid knowing about his success and his imprint on American culture.

Of course, this has all come tumbling down in recent years, particularly this week when he was found guilty of sex crimes. What an incredible fall from grace. I thought of something curious, however – – a joke from Himself which in a way was prescient about the turn his life would take.

He is recounting a conversation with some big shot in Hollywood. As he tells the story, the producer says to him, “What I like about drugs is that they amplify your personality”. And then Cosby replies, “Yes, but what if you’re an asshole?”

The audience roared with laughter, particularly since it was so out of character for him to say anything obscene (I think that was the only dirty word in the entire show). Decades later, this joke from the early 1980s has taken on a different resonance.

But, hey, at least there aren’t any sexual predators from the entertainment industry still walking the streets, right?