There are few modern comedy legends on the level of Bill Cosby.
Known and beloved by practically all, he is everyone’s neighbor, everyone’s husband, everyone’s father. After all, he’s been making the American public laugh for almost five decades – it’s no wonder we feel like we know Bill Cosby and that he knows us.
His performance Friday night in Kleinhans Music Hall reflected that – rather than a big-time star on an untouchable stage, Cosby seemed like he was sitting across your dinner table, one of your funniest and quirkiest friends, simply stopping by for a visit.
The subject matter of Cosby’s routine was nothing new. He stuck to the topics that have made him famous and made him millions: parenthood, the married life, growing older.
Clad in dark pants and a white sweatshirt with equally pale stubble covering his cheeks and chin, the 75-year-old Cosby reveled in his comfort zone of commenting on the trials, tribulations and funny moments of everyday life.
The audience loved every bit of it, providing an almost continuous laugh track as Cosby moved from story to story, joke to joke. It was like they were catching up with an old friend.
Part of Cosby’s genius and what makes him so memorable is his complete mastery of the pause. His silences, the way he delays the punch line and heightens the audience’s anticipation of what he’ll say next, express almost as much as the actual joke. He reads his audience, reacts to their reaction and adjusts his delivery accordingly. The man has his art down to a science.
Although he sat in a chair for the majority of his performance, he also embraces the physical side of comedy, emitting noises and pulling faces that are so ridiculous that the only possible reaction is a giggle. He’s let neither of these assets trail off in his older years, and they were out in full force at this performance.
Describing the torture of having to attend concerts and recitals of children just learning a musical instrument, Cosby winced, hummed and screeched his way through the sounds of everything from cymbals to clarinets to violins. In discussing his wife’s reactions to his criticism of her friend or his children trying to get out of trouble, his eyes were alternately narrowing, rolling or fluttering.
Every joke was G-rated, another of Cosby’s career-long standards.
He managed to tell two convoluted, slightly “naughty” bits without even mentioning what made them slightly risqué. If you can tell a joke about Viagra without mentioning the part of the body it– ahem – helps, and talk about flatulence without mentioning the word “fart,” all the while getting massive laughs, you know how to keep it clean.
He is a great example of the concept of leaving a little to the imagination, and why it can be so effective.
Although he occasionally got sidetracked in the middle of a joke or rambled off topic for a few moments, Cosby rolled with it.
He asked audience members to remind him to come back to certain topics and digressed into a crowd-pleasing joke about dementia when his train of thought completely derailed. His enraptured audience certainly didn’t mind the occasional stumbles – they were still laughing at his last joke, and there was never too long a wait until the next one.
Older he may be getting, but one thing is obvious: The Cos still has it.