When it comes to comedy, I’m old school.
Standup was different then than it is now. Nowadays, if you turn on cable you hear words, as Simon and Garfunkel sang, “you wouldn’t hear in a Bible." My parents were from the "wash your mouth out with soap" generation and weren’t afraid to follow through if your language dictated it.
We learned that early. We learned that fast.
Along came Bill Cosby.
Bill is one of my major heroes and I’ll tell you why. He was smart. He was funny. He was classy. And, oh, yes, he was clean. That last thing was important because my parents would let me buy his records and play him (loudly) in our house. This was long before cable, and back then I was too young to stay up for Johnny Carson. Records were the only way to get comedy into our house.
And Cosby was the guy.
He had a profound effect on me. I always liked smart and funny, and with him I found the perfect storm. In school I was always the class clown and he kind of gave me the guts to blurt things out in class. Did I say blurt? Yes, I did. When I first heard of people skipping class, I thought “Why?” It was so much fun IN class that it never occurred to me to skip school. I used to hold court in the classroom so much that a teacher said, “If you keep it up, I’ll make you sit with the girls.”
Which was fine by me.
Cosby taught me the importance of being funny AND clean. I did standup comedy and back then if you had 40 minutes of material and 20 had curse words, they said you had 20 minutes. So I learned how to tell jokes without cursing.
Just like Bill.
I met him when he came on "The Early Show." I was all excited. He said, “Nice to meet you.” I said the same, followed by a line from one of his albums, titled “Why Is There Air?" The line is about when his dad comes home from work, with change in his pockets that he leaves on the dresser before he goes to sleep. And the kids get his dough. They say, “The giant has money!” right before they take it. I put my dad in the place of his dad and kind of mentioned the money thing.
He cocked his head and said, “That sounds like something I said.”
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
A few memories…
In New York, when I was on "The Early Show," Bill came down to the set when he heard me say on TV that there wasn’t a crowd outside. HE was the crowd.
Down here, he had me introduce him at The King Center in Melbourne, on stage, when he appeared there.
He wrote the forward to my book.
I truly am a child of Bill Cosby.
There is no one who has had a bigger influence on me.