Three years ago, Bill Cosby spun stories to an audience of one – me – for an hour over the phone (revisit "Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow," Feb. 27, 2009). We promised to meet following one of his Bass Concert Hall sets, only I got my dates mixed up until the morning after his performance, when I received an email from a Chronicle photographer asking me where I'd been when Dr. Cosby had been asking for me from the stage.
"Now, Raoul. This is the worst reason I have ever heard," begins the comedian, 75. "How can a prominent journalist ... [giggles] ... after you and I ran our mouths about how you've got to see the show."
We dissolve into laughter.
"Here's the good thing," he adds. "We're gonna try this again [laughs]. We're gonna try this again. And I'm gonna put a guard on you. You can't be around any people smoking anything on Sunday."
What follows is an LP-length routine on smoking – cigars, cigarettes, pipes, and finally, marijuana – that ends with the punch line, "So, that's how you missed my show, Raoul." At that point, I finally sneak in some agenda du jour.
Austin Chronicle: Comedians go to town on politics, but politics make a lot of people angry. How much comedy gets generated out of a root base of anger?
Bill Cosby: Naaah. Forget about that. Forget the angry. How can you be any angrier than the pundits? My wife Camille and I were talking – and we're on the same side – and I started laughing. And she says, "Well, what are you laughing at?" And this was the only political thing that I will never say to an audience. You can print it. I said, "Poor Biden." She said, "Why?" I said, "Will you look at the two people he had to debate?" [Laughs] Just the picture of Biden coming over to Obama and saying, "You know, you owe me. I had to be with Sarah [Palin], and then I had to be with Ryan. Wow."
What is the black female that came out, said she's gay? Not Whoopi, so don't make anything up. About three years ago, when Rush Limbaugh came out swinging against Obama ... [Wanda Sykes?] Rush Limbaugh, now there's a guy – you talk about anger. This guy chews glass. And then [Sean] Hannity. Those guys are angry people, so their humor comes directly from trying to hurt someone. Anger, and its accomplice, hate. If you have someone like [Jon] Stewart or [Stephen] Colbert, some of the things they put out can hurt your feelings if you're on the other side.
AC: How many sitting presidents have you met?
BC: Well, I met two standing – do they count?
BC: Lemme tell you. I did not meet JFK, but I am proud to say that Camille and I, in 1964 at a home in California, we met LBJ. [In a whisper] And Camille danced with him. It's a hilarious story, because we were newly married, and we had just been talking about LBJ and his civil rights stand, and by the way, in 1964 your cities in Texas were very much segregated.
AC: Not very hospitable.
BC: [In his best Jackie Gleason] Nooooooo. Jimmy Carter I also l-o-v-e. And I love the Clintons. And I met [George] W. Bush, who gave me the Medal of Freedom. And for some reason, the ribbon around my neck wouldn't snap when he was trying to put it on. So after a while, it looked like we getting ready to, I don't know, stay too long face to face that close. So I just stood and said, "Thank you, I'll close it myself." And, of course, I met with the president and the first lady, and the first lady's mother. And I'm still trying to get the first lady's mother to come to the Penn Relays, please, and fire the gun to start any race she wants to. Her mother used to run track, and I'm not asking her to run, I just want her to fire the gun.
AC: Thank you so much for your time today.
BC: When are we going to do the interview?
AC: [Laughs] Should I call you later?
BC: See you later. And hey, listen: I'm telling you man, I'm not going to hold you to it.
AC: I'll be there.
BC: I hope to see you. Bye bye.
Bill Cosby performs Sunday, Oct. 28, 6:30 & 9pm, at Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Dr., UT campus. For more information, call 471-1444 or visit www.texasperformingarts.org.