It had to be over 25 years ago that I first brought home a VHS copy of Bill Cosby’s Himself to watch with my Dad. Dad was a huge Cosby fan, so I thought he would enjoy it. Mom was asleep and Pop decided to stay up late and watch it with me. It was the first time I saw my Dad laugh and cry at the same time. In short, it was hilarious. Real life can be that way. I have to hand it to the Cos, he knows how to make the everyday seem insane and the insane seem like every day.
Because of this old 1983 performance, JD and I always board an airplane looking for that irritating little “Jeffrey” and the visits to the dentist have never been the same since the Cos talked about it on Himself. His takes on the middle years of marriage with gusto and the feeding of his children with chocolate cake, as ‘coping’ with fatherhood. I know the Cos is a true father mentor because my Dad did this once with the grandkids while he was babysitting them.
There is a lot about my Dad that has evolved into the Cos over the years. Cos loves to wear sweats and sweaters and if my Dad had a uniform, this would be it. I don’t know if it’s the dry demeanor, the facial expressions or viewpoints on the “mother”, but he has a gentle way of poking fun without being insulting. The man simply has to look at you when he speaks and I dare you not to giggle. It’s something about the face…I can’t put my finger on it, but the mannerisms are definitely there. My dad is a guy from Jersey and Bill is a guy from Philly, so that must explain it. It’s an East coast thing.
When the Ponderosa Bruins played in Fernley, Nevada for their first pre-season football game, we decided to stay in Reno for a couple days and catch a show at the Silver Legacy. When we discovered that Bill Cosby was performing, we knew we had to take the kids to the show. They have all seen Himself and old reruns of The Cosby Show, so we knew they would appreciate it. When we entered the ballroom at the Silver Legacy, the chairs were all pulled close to the stage. On the stage was his signature Queen Ann style chair with a tee-shirt draped over the back that said “Hello Friend.” The words, "Hello Friend" belonged to his son, Ennis, who was brutally gunned down on the streets of L.A. in January of 1997. A charity of the same name "Hello Friend" was founded in his memory. I often wondered how he has managed to carry on, and in true 'Cos' fashion, he is helping others. I always thought Bill Cosby was a man of faith; when he disclosed that he, a Methodist, married a Catholic in a Catholic church, I finally knew why I admired his wife Camille. You can’t appreciate the ‘Cos’ until you know Camille. She must be a living saint to put up with that after all these years!
The chair was saddled with a little table to hold a bottle of water and below it stood a small waste paper basket. That’s it. A chair, a side table and garbage can. Before I knew it was running late for the show to start, a gentleman came on stage wearing sweat pants and a tee-shirt and slippers. I thought he was stage hand, until he sat in Bill’s chair and the lights came up! There sat the famous Bill Cosby, himself. Printed on the tee was a picture of his family, with the words “Homeland Security” scribbled across the chest. There was no mistaking the face. Four rows from the stage, it felt like we were all having coffee.
Just 'himself' sitting there looking at us, we all started laughing. He certainly knew how to handle the drunks and the hecklers. He threw the zingers right back at them and he was funny. There is something about a seasoned professional who is comfortable in his own skin, telling his own stories from his own perspective of being over 70 years old. My only regret was that my Dad wasn’t there to see his African American twin brother. You can’t help but love the Cos and his whole family because he opens the doors, just a little, to allow a glimpse into his real life. It’s something everyone in the audience can relate to, because it’s not much different from your own. All the material in this show was brand new, except for the last bit, recited word for word, the insanity of going to the dentist.
As my whole family recited the routine along with him, we all wiped tears of laughter from our eyes, marveling at the timelessness of a man who simply feels like an old friend.