There are few Philadelphians more beloved than our Bill Cosby. The runner-up in our Mayoral Madness race last spring is one of our favorite all-time local heroes. Through countless stand-up specials, albums, sitcoms and books, the man has (more or less) stayed a clean-as-a-whistle bastion of integrity, intelligence, wit and humor. And on Saturday, he reaches an unlikely milestone: his first Comedy Central stand-up special (ever) and his return to stand-up after an essentially 30-year hiatus.
Cos showed up on Jimmy Fallon last night and, well, it was weird. Funny, but weird. The 76-year-old acted as if he had lost his mind and believed an audience member was Jimmy, and then, after an awkward desk bit, proceeded to pretend like he was dead and that The Roots were there to play at his funeral (poorly). The clips are below, and it’s something that you really kind of have to see to believe. He also made an appearance on the Daily Show this week, and it was decidedly less puzzling.
One of the four sons born to Anna Pearl (a maid) and William Henry Cosby, Sr. (a sailor in the Navy), Cosby was the class clown at Mary Channing Wister Public School at 700 Poplar (now a Forensic Science Center for the Philadelphia Police Department). After bouncing from Central High School at 1700 West Olney Avenue to Germantown High School on 40 E High Street, the budding comic also managed to stock supermarket shelves, sell produce, shine shoes and apprentice at a shoe repair shop. He also became a clear track and field, basketball and football star, but dropped out of high school to join the Navy. As a lifelong educational advocate, he’d pretty quickly finish his high school degree with equivalency coursework before accepting a track and field scholarship from Temple and enrolling in 1961. He started bartending at a place called The Cellar, and once he started charming his clientele (after cracking up his Navy cohorts), he realized he could start gigging around. He’d make it up to New York and down to D.C. and over to Chicago and San Francisco before appearing on The Tonight Show in ‘63 and landing a contract with Warner Bros., who issued his first comedy album Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow… Right! in (1964).
Exactly 20 years later, The Cosby Show would debut and become the highest-rating sitcom of the decade and of all time. There’ve only been three shows to maintain the #1 Nielsen rating for five consecutive seasons, a distinction the Cos shares with American Idol and All in the Family.
For me, it was all about the 1983 comedy special that solidified Cosby in my mind as a hilarious, brilliant entertainer with a heart of gold. His Bill Cosby – Himself details gut-splitting stories about his wild children and perfects his observational humor, of which he’s become one of the all-time greats.
So it seems his newest special, set to air this Saturday, Nov. 23rd at 8 p.m., will be thoughts and ideas about growing old. He’s been married to his wife, Camille, for almost 50 years, and he’s still making funnies about the women being in control and the men being idiots. One could argue that we’d love to hear the Cos sound off on all kinds of things in our mixed-up, crazy world of 2013, but it’s still funny to hear bits about wives being queens on a chess board (taking long strides in whichever direction they please to pick people off) and the men being a lame king (one space at a time in one of four directions).
And clearly, Comedy Central will be pumping up the Saturday night event with gems from stand-up past in Cosby’s wheelhouse. Even if it’ll be weird to see the old man make jokes about death, at least we’ll get a few marathons of classic Cos.