Friday, April 27, 2018

How long can you tread water?

One of the enduring images of my childhood:

Image result for bill cosby fat albert intro
Hey hey hey!
And a defining comedy bit:

And now, Bill Cosby is a convicted rapist. He may be able to appeal the verdicts long enough to avoid actually going to prison, but that's the endgame. So, what do we do with his significant legacy? This is a man who entertained my father in the 1960s (he owned the album pictured on the YouTube link), taught me life lessons in the 1970s, and was America's Dad in the 1980s. We are 30 years on from his greatest triumphs, but it's all out there to see and hear. Or do we pretend those triumphs don't exist going forward, because Bill Cosby the man behaved in despicable ways when the camera was put away and the recording devices weren't running?

As a rule, comedians are screwed-up people. Aside from perhaps Bob Newhart, you'd be hard pressed to find a great comedian who didn't behave badly in their private lives. Cosby's contemporary, Woody Allen, is a monster in dozens of ways. He continues to work because his work remains profitable to the niche audience it targets. Cosby hasn't been so fortunate.

We struggle with work of geniuses who are monsters. I can't pretend that Bill Cosby's work had no influence in my life. Nor do I think I should.


R.A. Crankbait said...

It is sad. We had several Cosby albums in the house while I was growing up. My sibs and I had most of them memorized, and I'm sure some of that imprinted on the way my mind and sense of humor are wired today. In fact, as each accuser came forward over the years, I kind of pictured it as Twilight Zone version of the Buck, Buck game. "Buck-Buck #1 come in...Buck-Buck #2 come in...Buck-Buck #3 come in...." Boom.

Now even the sainted Tom Brokaw is coming under the spotlight. The topic has come up at the prison Bible study I lead, which prompted me to write about things done in darkness a few months ago.

Bike Bubba said...

Never had an album, but my friends could recite them by memory. My favorite bit was about how, when giving birth, his wife informed the whole room that his parents were not married when he was born. And I loved "Fat Albert" when I was young. Even now, it is only with difficulty that I resist saying "and if you're not careful, you just might learn something." Triggers and sad. I'm ready to have old heroes have feet of clay, but this is something else.

And Brokaw? Gonna hold my fire on that one. He could be totally in the wrong (with a lot worse to come), or he could have done some things he meant more or less innocently that didn't seem innocent to the women he was interacting with. Time will tell who else stands up.

Mr. D said...

Cosby is a tough one for all the reasons you both describe. As for Brokaw, I think it's possible, but I wonder. I remember seeing Linda Vester on television and it's obvious why someone would want to make a pass at her. Whether it happened the way she relayed it, though, who knows?