While a high school student back in Louisville, KY, in the early ’60s, I used to watch The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson just about every night in the summer, when I could sleep late the next day. When Carson first took over The Tonight Show in late 1962, the show came on the air about 11:20 p.m. (Eastern Time), after the nightly local news, and didn’t end until 1 a.m.
I remember well some of those comics that Carson had on, like Buddy Hackett and Bob Newhart. But the one who made the biggest impression on me was Bill Cosby, who sprang onto the scene in 1963 with his routine about street football in his hometown of Philadelphia.
Cosby started the routine by describing “the greatest quarterback in the world,” the guy who had to control 23 players on a side and design plays around the various impediments in a busy downtown neighborhood.
Part of it went like this…
Here’s a guy with an ingenious mind. He’d call a football play like this….”Now, listen to this, now. Uh, Arnie, go down, uh, ten steps and cut left behind the black Chevy. Filbert, you run down to my house and wait in the living room. Cosby, you go down to 3rd Street, catch the J bus. Have him open the doors at 19th Street. I’ll fake it to you. They always have one fat kid they never throw it to, says, “What about me?” He says, “You go long.”
I thought that was about the funniest routine I ever heard, and I marveled at this African-American comic who played football at Temple University and then had gone into stand-up comedy.
That routine — and others — propelled Cosby to stardom, and he went on to have a sensational TV career, as well as continuing to do stand-up comedy and issue record albums.
Then, in recent years — in the twilight of his career — came the allegations that he sexually assaulted many women, mostly after inviting them over for a drink and mixing quaaludes into the drinks.
All of a sudden, Cosby went from being a funny guy and a legendary comic to a suspected sexual predator.
The nadir came today, when a heavy-jowled, sad-eyed Cosby was led into court in a Philadelphia suburb to be arraigned on a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault, dating to a 2004 incident. The complainant, a 42-year-old Canadian named Andrea Constand, alleges Cosby assaulted her at his home in a suburb north of Philadelphia.
The New York Times described Cosby’s arrival at the courthouse…
Carrying a cane and stumbling slightly along the way, he walked past the flashing bulbs and ignored shouted questions from reporters lined up behind barricades before entering the courthouse.
Judge Elizabeth McHugh ordered him to surrender his passport and to avoid contact with Ms. Constand, reporters inside the courtroom said.
Judge McHugh concluded the proceeding after about 15 minutes by saying “good luck to you, sir,” to which he replied “thank you,” a reporter in the courtroom said. He will remain free on bail of $1 million.
Although the allegations started coming several years ago, a comic named Hannibal Buress deserves a lot of credit for paving the way for what happened today in Pennsylvania.
In October 2014, Buress — who, like Cosby, is black — called Cosby “a rapist” in a performance in Cosby’s hometown.
And it’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the fucking smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. ‘Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches. ‘I don’t curse on stage.’ Well, yeah, you’re a rapist, so, I’ll take you sayin’ lots of motherfuckers on Bill Cosby: Himself if you weren’t a rapist.”
Ripping Cosby publicly took a lot of guts, even though several women had already filed civil lawsuits against Cosby.
Buress, though, has shown he doesn’t hold back on anybody. At a roasting of Justin Bieber earlier this year, Buress, standing several feet from a seated Bieber, said: “I don’t like you at all … I’m just here because it’s a really good opportunity for me. I hate your music. I hate your music more than Bill Cosby hates my comedy.”
He was smiling when he said that, but it was clear he was saying what he felt. Discombobulated, Bieber smiled awkwardly and self-consciously…A nice bit, indeed.
I noticed that when he arrived at the courthouse today, Cosby was wearing a handsome, black-white-and-gray-flecked hoodie, which appeared to be cashmere. Must have cost at least $500.
Even though Cosby lives a high-end lifestyle and can afford the finest and most expensive apparel, I find it comforting that a fancy hoodie doesn’t count for much when a rich guy with a big ego is charged with a felony that may land him in prison. He’ll look just right in black and white stripes, or orange, or whatever colors the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections puts him in.