One of the most surprising things to come from the post-Christmas holiday week was the announcement that stand-up comedian, actor and storyteller Bill Cosby – the one-time dad-to-America-turned-convicted-rapist – would be touring again in 2023, you, now that he’s out of stir.
This December announcement came days after five women filed new sexual assault lawsuits against NBC and Bill Cosby under the fresh New York state law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations for older sexual assault claims. According to the new lawsuit, the five women allege that Cosby raped and, or forced them into sexual acts. While four of the allegations come from the time when the Philly-born actor and was at the height of his fame as the centerpiece of NBC’s “The Cosby Show,” the fifth allegation involves Cindra Ladd, a one-time Hollywood executive who accused Cosby of raping her in 1969.
Hey, hey, hey.
While Bill Cosby’s representative, Andrew Wyatt, told Variety that the 85-year-old comedian is looking at a spring/summer 2023 timeframe in which to start touring, the Cos himself told WGH Talk radio host Scott Spears on December 28, that “When I come out of this, I feel that I will be able to perform and be the Bill Cosby that my audience knows me to be.
Is there an audience for this? Really? A man who convicted by the Pennsylvania court system in April 2018 of a criminal sex assault charge and released in 2021 after the conviction was overturned by the PA state Supreme Court? A man who lured and drugged women, year-after-year, situation-after-situation with his fame and the help of what he himself has praised as the power of some-sort-of Spanish Fly concoction?
“Yes. Yes, because there’s so much fun to be had in this storytelling that I do. Years ago, maybe 10 years ago, I found it was better to say it after I write it.”
Is it me, or does the prospect of having Cosby out-and-about and touring his comedy – family friendly STAND-UP COMEDY at that – seem eerily akin to, say, booking a greatest hits tour with R. Kelly or watching Harvey Weinstein going into production of his next film?
Just? Plain? Impossible?
One could argue that the case for or against Louis CK is of interest when it comes to welcoming Bill Cosby back to the stages of your city. CK is currently winning Grammy after Grammy for his stand-up comedy albums and selling out show after show on what seems like an unending tour of independently self-booked gigs after having admittedly been a sexual aggressor and manipulator to many women comics over a lengthy period of time. If CK can do it, why can’t the Cos? And while, I would agree that CK and those who continue to see his shows and buy his product are morally bankrupt and in the wrong, at the very least, CK did not rape anyone or go to prison for rape. (For the record, I have witnessed CK’s act since he’s forgiven himself for degrading those many women. I’m not necessarily proud of having done that, and, to tell you the truth, CK simply wasn’t that funny any longer after his public crimes and punishment).
What makes Bill Cosby’s exploits so reprehensible – you know, beyond heinous physical/sexual assault against women’s wills – and his hubris at wanting back in on the action is how he sold himself to America’s families in the first place.
Black, Brown and White, Bill Cosby was a Father to the United States, not a founding father, but a father figure whose very essence oozed knowing calm and easily established homespun rhetoric.
Cosby was a lovable Saturday morning cartoon figure – Fat Albert and his crew – before animation held such sway. Cosby made history when, for I Spy, he won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1966, making him the first African American to earn an Emmy for acting. He was buttoned down and gently funky on the cover of his many stand-up comedy albums.
When it came to welcoming in the kids, he was part of the original cast of The Electric Company alongside Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno and was the man behind the Jell-O ice pop treats, the Pudding Pop. I can see his face now with its triple smile – a grin without teeth. Between The Cosby Show and its spin-off, A Different World, Cosby was the well-intentioned dad and doctor to all.
And yet, by the 2000s, Cosby was more of a crank than a cool dad figure, telling the young hip hop generation that perhaps they should pull their pants up instead of the fashionable fanny sag adopted by Black, Brown and White alike. It was that Cosby that Hannibal Buress dissed in 2014 at The Trocadero nightclub when the young stand-up comedian addressed Cosby’s legacy of “talking down” to young black men about their style of dress, by saying “Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby, so that kind of brings you down a couple notches” before encouraging his audience to Google “Bill Cosby rape” when they got home.
After that, the earliest rape and sexual assault allegations against Cosby dating back to December 1965 began, the floodgates broke and the metaphorical blood poured.
Somehow, all that rape just doesn’t seem fodder for a Bill Cosby comeback in stand-up comedy. Mainly though – not unlike the jailable offenses Donald Trump finds himself in for crimes against the Constitution – it’s up to the Cos’ audiences at this point. If you can stand him, hey-hey-hey.