Tuesday, February 16, 2010

There Was Life Before Cliff Huxtable

The Cosby Show was great. Apparently it was so great that it made some people forget that Bill Cosby had about twenty years of brilliance, fame, and success before it came along. At least that's what I have to figure after getting an email from the Huffington Post titled "The Twenty Most Influential Black Comedians in America" that purported to celebrate black comedians for Black History Month but listed Cosby's influence in the 80s. Sorry, Bill, but in their book the eight Grammys (six for best comedy album) and four Emmys that you picked up BEFORE The Cosby Show just don't matter to them. If you link to the article, which is now called The 21 Most Influential Black Comedians (don't know who got a last minute add) you will see that there is no attempt at getting any historical perspective on the struggles and contributions of black comedians. It was a "Hey, it's Black History Month, get a bunch of pictures and quotes and throw them together for people to vote on" sort of approach. Interestingly, the quote they use for Cosby is one of the racier things I've ever seen him say.
So Bill, this thing in 1965 where you started a six-year domination of Grammy awards for Best Comedy Performance? They don't so much care about that.

And why isn't 1970's "Sports" on Amazon?

In a way it's easy to see how Cosby's accomplishments can be overlooked. It's because he managed to make it all look so damn easy. But it wasn't easy, he just made it look that way with his innate charm and class, so you could say that he's the Sidney Poitier of comedians. And you want to talk influence?
Jerry Seinfeld states in the inner sleeve of his album I'm Telling You for the Last Time that [Bill Cosby's Grammy Award winning Why Is There Air?] was the first comedy album he ever listened to, and that it subsequently helped inspire him to become a stand-up comedian. Seinfeld was finally able to meet Cosby in person in 2002.
So not only did he break ground as a black comedian, he inspired a Jewish kid to go on to become one of the most famous (and rich) comedians of all time. And the Cos influences me, too. As I've said before, Bill Cosby is one of the comedians whose bits work their way into my daily speech. Whenever a TV character is about to walk into a situation they shouldn't my husband and I say, "Tonto! Don't go in to town!" And the recent snowpocalypse inspired a lot of snowballs and shouting of "I'll get you Junior Barnes!"

So, in case no one else has done it, let me say it here and now. Thank you, Bill Cosby, for all the contributions you have made to comedy, comedians, and the laughs in my daily life. I never go to the dentist without thinking about you. I never wave people around my car without thinking about you. And I certainly never have chocolate cake (especially for breakfast) without thinking about you. You make all these annoying or mundane moments in life more bearable because now we can laugh about them.

For some of Cosby's award-winning humor (or dvds of I Spy and The Cosby Show) go to our Cos section of Stuff That Gets Stuck in My Store.

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