Bill Cosby – Our Greatest Comedian?
by Dr. Robert Rose
There have been (and are) many great comedians. Men and women who have made us laugh until we cry, but also give us insights, teach us about the human condition. We all have our favorites and I have enjoyed most of them. One reason my wife and family are healthy is because we laugh a lot, which is almost as important as our expressing our love frequently and openly. Bill has helped us learn to laugh warmly at ourselves as we accept our human frailties.
Why place Bill Cosby at the pinnacle of comics? Because his character, heart, creativity, intelligence, and ability to be gut-wrenching funny without being cruel, demeaning, or disrespectful while making us laugh.He was mainly a standup comic when many were getting famous for their vulgarity and ability to cut down individuals and groups. He didn’t need to do that.
I did and do laugh at those like Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce who used their act to insult and expose those people or groups who were vicious or destructive to others. They paved new territory and were on the forefront of forcing change by challenging the evils, prejudices, and insanities of society. They should be applauded for their courage to do so, even with death threats and real jail time.The physical comics placed their bodies under stress, often getting seriously injured. They, like the above, deserve their rightful place as great comics.
Bill, beginning with his stint in I SPY with Bill Culp, didn’t allow himself to be used as a comic relief black man to a white hero. He was a model for all black men to standup and be equal to anyone. He was also changing the mindsets of many white Americans who had been taught that blacks were genetically inferior. Nothing inferior about Bill’s actions on I SPY.
However, it was the Bill Cosby sitcom that he used so skillfully to prove that a black husband and father was not a buffoon, but was a model for all fathers to emulate. For the first time an entire black family showed us that their life and problems were just like ours. Of course, BIll being a doctor and Phyllis being a lawyer, didn’t mirror the average American family. He took dramatic license to overcome the genetic inferiority beliefs so prevalent at the time.
My experience teaching in an all black school proved how strongly the children and their parents believed that fiction until I found ways to disprove it. Bill’s children also were not stereotypical, but were sensitive, loving, intelligent children with minds of their own, but who respected their parents and each other. This was very different than what I saw as the cruelty between black parents and their children as they all suffered from the realities of socially accepted racism.
His show further went against the dominant stereotype of males in general who were depicted as clueless and incompetent as husbands and fathers.
Even in sarcasm to make a point the children knew he was joking and loved them, but that there were definitely consequences to any bad behavior. The difference is that knew they would be listened to and would receive justice as a fair consequences. Again, this was not common in most families, no matter what race.
He taught the world that no matter your race, religion or gender what was possible, what could be “normal” human behavior if mutual respect became an actuality. If every family member was listened to, talked with, and each one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors were respected, no matter their age, that feelings of helplessness, anger, even rage would be replaced with understanding and love. Of course now, in the reruns, the messages may fall on deaf ears, but they are clearly there in living color demonstrating what is possible.
Now, with a doctorate in education and years of experience Dr.Cosby is still teaching all humans to be better humans. He is traveling across the country speaking at colleges and to groups trying to get his messages to them. He may fail with some, maybe at times with many, but one message is consistent and all understand – never give up fighting against any evil.
The above is why I say he is our greatest comedian, because he has used his comedic talents to improve the lives of millions.
And – he is funny!