He landed a gig at a club on MacDougal Street “where I came on at 8 and left at 4 in the morning, and my job description was to break up the monotony of the folk singers.
“And over the club,” he goes on, savoring the memory, “was a store that sold very cheap beads, things like that, and was run by a retired ventriloquist, an alcoholic. The story on him was, he had become jealous of his dummy and one night, in a drunken rage, he shot the dummy, then retired.” Cosby is wearing a mischievous grin. “I’m serious!”
Soon he was a star, having soared after making a key decision as he surveyed other rising black comedians, who typically tailored their acts to their identity and experiences as black men.
“I figured, if Godfrey Cambridge does this, if Dick Gregory does this, there’s no need for ALL of us to do it,” Cosby says. “So, I decided a very simple thing: I’m not going to tell you what color I am. If you’re unsighted, your friends will tell you!”
But whatever your color, “you can identify with what I’m talking about. It goes all the way back to freshman Remedial English: I never said, ‘And I looked at my black face and my tooth was white.’”
Cosby chuckles again at that messy self-extraction and adds, “There WAS a lot of red.”