On his new special, as always, Cosby frames life in universal terms, albeit now from the perspective of a septuagenarian with a solid, if sometimes trying, marriage, plus kids and grandkids, a sweet tooth he shouldn’t indulge and a habit of losing things.
“I’m telling you now, I’m not afraid to say it, I lost my key,” he tells the audience with leisurely yet manicured pacing: “It was given to me. I lost my key to the house. That was 48 years ago. I don’t have a key.”
The audience eats it up, rewarding Cosby, he says, with “a sense of how much they understand and trust” him.
“With that, it raises the self-esteem,” he goes on, as if at this phase of his storied career self-esteem were ever at issue, “and I am now driving as a coachman would, with some horses that can really moooove out.
“But you don’t want to go TOO fast,” he cautions, “because you have the carriage you’re on, the wheels, the balance.”
Meanwhile, what you don’t have, if you’re Cosby, is jokes.
“NO jokes! I tell stories,” he declares. “Because I believe you can do things that joke-tellers can’t do, and that is, bring your audience along.”
That’s what he discovered at Temple University in 1960, when, as a lad from a downtrodden Philly neighborhood, he rose to the challenge of his Remedial English professor. The assignment was to write a theme about the first time he’d ever done something. Cosby wrote an account of having pulled one of his own teeth. The professor gave him his first-ever A.
Not too much later, Cosby had vaulted to New York’s Greenwich Village as a burgeoning stand-up. He speaks of consorting with the likes of Richie Havens, Richard Pryor and Peter, Paul and Mary — “people who were going to be somebody someday.”