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Bill Cosby

Is a Very Funny Fellow

By Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Feb. 27, 2009

Bill Cosby

By his own account, Bill Cosby's been a monologuist 46 years, which coincides neatly with the 1963 release of his debut LP, Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow ... Right! Follow-ups I Started Out as a Child; Wonderfulness; Revenge; To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, howling with live recordings of familial anecdotes, began an entertainment empire. What's the nexus of storytelling and comedy? Cosby has exactly two words for you:

"Mark Twain."

Which explains everything, of course, especially Cosby's own burble of mirth over the phone. Your laughter only encourages him.

"I want to tell stories. I want warmth. I want exaggeration," he presses. "I want – and I have it now – the smile to be as important as tears of laughter. So that in the break between laughing so hard, there's a smile. So that when people come out, they say, 'You know, my face hurts.'

"Now when I was young, in my 30s, it was important to just leave the audience burning, fire. Just make people do things on themselves. I aimed to hurt stomachs! Aimed at causing fluid to go into the lungs and having people just hacking and spewing and almost choking to death.

"I remember one of the great faces of all times, man. I had just written these [routines], and I just wouldn't let them breathe. And I looked down, and there was this black woman looking at me. She had been laughing and laughing, and in her hand ...

"Well, she was no longer laughing at me. She was just looking at me, and she was not laughing anymore. People were rolling. In her hand was her wig, which had fallen off while she was laughing.

"And she looked at me.

"I mean, she had a look like: 'I'm just not laughing anymore. And I don't know who you think you are.' And I looked at her, and I found a way to motion for security to come. And I put the mic down at my side. I said, 'Take her to my dressing room so she can put her piece on.'

"And she got up and looked at me, and she said, you know, like a church woman – this is a black woman – she said, 'Thank you.' Her friends bent over they were laughing so hard.

"She went off, and I went on about my routine. When she came back, she had it on, but now, while her friends were doubling over again, she just sat there, and this woman, the most I got out of her in the next 45 minutes was a smile. She was not laughing anymore. No. She had enough of this, and to her, Bill Cosby was out to destroy her.

"So I had her come back to the dressing room with these other ladies. I hugged her. She said, 'You are awful.' I said, 'Do you think I picked you out?' She said, 'There you were, looking at me, and you saw I was having trouble, with my wig.'

"And her friends were falling now, down on the rug, in my dressing room.

"She said, 'And you saw me' – and she was serious, man, serious as fried bacon. She said: 'And you just kept it up. And like a fool, I kept laughing. And I tried to fix it. And then it was all sideways ....'

"And she had them, her friends, laughing so hard. I said, 'Well, look at what you're doing to your friends.'

"She said, 'They don't have sense anyway.'

"It was wonderful."

Correction: Wonderfulness.


Bill Cosby performs Saturday, Feb. 28, 6:30 & 9pm, at Bass Concert Hall, 23rd & East Campus Drive, UT campus. For more information, call 477-6060 or visit www.utpac.org.

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