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Good Bill, Bad Bill

Over the weekend, my folks took me to see a benefit concert put on by Bill Cosby. Before the benefit concert, naturally enough, was a benefit dinner, co-hosted by Cosby and Barack Obama.

Unfortunately Obama had to leave before he introduced Cosby's act. Instead, Obama taped a short intro video that convinced me he is, like most politicians, a torso bolted to a desk in front of a bay window somewhere in Washington. But, in his case, a torso with a heart of gold.

On to Cosby. I grew up on Cosby. Not his TV show, but his earlier concert albums. Cassette tapes of these were fixtures of any family vacation that involved driving for more than a couple of hours. Thanks to him, I learned the perils of putting bullets in furnaces, and came to understand the plight of newly tonsil-less children upon their first, tragic encounter with ice cream.

Now, thirty years later, Cosby can still make complaints about wives and children sound startling and new. And he can do it while sitting in front of an audience that's dressed to the nines, while he himself is clad in a University of Chicago sweatshirt and elf socks. Proof, if any is needed, that the man is his own tuxedo.

A lot of it is in his delivery. He sounds like he's seen it all and still can't believe it. Take his bit about sitting with his wife. There he sits, and sits and sits. Then he makes the slightest, Swiss-clockwork-fine motion to get up -- and receives a peremptory query about what he's doing. So far, easy to follow.

But then...ah. The magic ensues. Cosby discovers that, in order for his justification to be taken at all seriously, it has to involve voices in his head.

Whatever you have to do to make your marriage work!

Great stuff.

Now, if Bill can make sitting with his wife sound funny, surely I can make last week's Military Commissions Bill and the death of habeas corpus sounds funny.

Only I can't.

Try? Okay...hm...



"In other news, ABC is under heavy pressure from advertisers and policymakers not to run the names of the 800 Habeas Corpi killed in Iraq. Pictures of their flag-draped coffins have been widely circulated on the internet, prompting many lawmakers to decry what they call blatant election-year politicization of the sacrifices these Habeas Corpi have made in the cause of freedom."

I'm sorry. This isn't working. Or at least there's hearsay evidence it isn't working, and that's pretty much the same thing.


Pretty funny. Especially when you imagine Cosby saying all that.

Ah, thanks man. I never tried for that Cosby cadence -- for that equanimity that's been tested almost, but not quite, to its limits. It's just too authoritative for me.

He did handle the audience well. I wouldn't have thought that an audience in tuxes would be fidgety, but there their tux-clad asses were, finishing Cosby's sentences for him. He made his pauses sound too inviting, I guess.

But he handled everyone well -- even the young gentleman who rushed the stage, gave Cosby a CD, and started talking about this one time back in school when some kids borrowed his firecrackers and lit them on the school bus. He kept saying "To make a long story short..." until, finally, Cosby said "Don't make it short. End it."

If you can gracefully handle the persistent and unfunny, then you're a real comedian.

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