ALL TOO HUMAN
Bill Cosby: Comedian Extraordinaire
Back in the day I spent six years at Howard University getting a Bachelor of Architecture degree. Back then (1965 – 1971) all undergraduate architecture programs were five year programs. That extra year? Well after five years at the drafting board, I had to make up a required Freehand Drawing 101 course that, as a new freshman, (and very much intimidated by the sea of Black faces around me) I had been closed out of. I didn’t know the ins and outs of how to threaten, punk or charm my way into a class that was filled back then. (I learned, but too late for that one.) I won’t bore you with the details about how I wound up at one of America’s Historic African American institutions of higher education. Later for that.
It’s with all the controversy of late surrounding Bill Cosby that I was reminded that 1965 – my freshmen year – was also the Centennial Anniversary of the founding of Howard University, the nation’s only urban Land Grant University. The university staged any number of celebrations, but none could top the raft of entertainers and singers who performed in Crampton Auditorium that year. Who, you might ask?
Well here’s a sampling:
The Four Tops
Martha and the Vandellas
The Isley Brothers
And there were more. It was a fabulous year. But I have to say that it was Bill Crosby who, among the three or four comedians who entertained us in 1965, was far and away the funniest. My stomach literally ached from so much laughter by the time he left the stage. And I was surprised that he was so downright funny. I was a great admirer of Richard Pryor back then and have seen other comedians over the years, but none have surpassed Bill Cosby in that performance nearly 50 years ago. I was not a fan of “The Bill Cosby Show” – I found it too artificial although I recognized the “normalizing” influence it had on African American family life. Plus the fact that one of my roommates, Chuck by name, had dated Phylicia Allen Rashad a couple of times. Or tried to.
But I admit that I am chagrined – if not terribly surprised – at the rape charges that have been leveled against Cosby. It’s a sad and tragic set of circumstances that can allow for no justification or rationalization if they prove to be true. And I suspect they will be. Although as a human being and as man Bill Cosby is certainly not be a paragon of virtue and integrity (the charges are particularly disturbing when for a decade and more Bill has lectured the Black community about family values, mores and behavior) I can’t shake the realization that nothing can take away from the fact that, to my mind, he is certainly one of the funniest comedians in the history of American entertainment.