Some Thoughts about Bill Cosby

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The accusations against Bill Cosby have left me feeling conflicted. I grew up listening to his early comedy albums and watching his TV specials. I would listen to his records with my friends and my brothers and sometimes with my whole family. I recently re-listened to some of the routines from those old albums, and I must say that they hold up pretty well.

During the 1970’s, however, I began to lose interest in Cosby. First, he produced a Saturday morning cartoon show called Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which flattened all the subtlety and nuance that had made his childhood stories funny. (The fact that the show was “educational” only made it worse. Comedy isn’t supposed to be educational.) Then there were the TV commercials. Jello pudding and Jello pudding pops. He did a commercial for Hi-C, in which, with a perfectly straight face, he assured us that this soft drink is good for us because it contains “ten percent real fruit juice”. He was the pitchman for Coca-Cola during the “New Coke” fiasco. (Spy magazine once called Cosby “grimly unavoidable”.) It seemed to me that Cosby had ceased to be a comedian and had become a brand. (It’s perhaps worth noting that the accusations against Cosby date back to this period.)

I never watched Cosby’s 1980’s TV show. For all I knew, it may have been funny, but I didn’t really care. For me, Cosby was someone who had started out being really cool and had become uncool. I could never get over my disappointment.

Whether or not the accusations against Cosby prove to be true, I will always think fondly of his early comedy. It seems to me that he is someone who got lost.

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