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March 8, 2013

Cosby reflects on comedy, life and family

(Continued)

JOHNSTOWN — Memories on stage

In his thoroughly honed bits, the pristine, halcyon nature of childhood memories or the unsmoothable wrinkles of the modern family dynamic are coupled with a language that makes familiar-sounding music out of situational comedy. It’s arguably the strongest driving force behind his humor writing.

“One day when my father was reading in the living room, my brother and I decided that we could play basketball without breaking anything,” wrote Cosby in an excerpt from his best-selling book, “Fatherhood.”

“When I took a shot that redesigned a glass table, my mother came in with a stick and said, ‘So help me, I’ll bust you in half.’

“Without lifting his head from his book, my father said, ‘Why would you want twice as many?’ ”

The irreverent nature of the childhood and family portraits he’s painted in over 40 years on the stage hasn’t changed. Instead, he said, his routine has matured.

“The style has morphed into a deeper character study,” Cosby said during a Thursday morning telephone interview with The Tribune-Democrat.

Instead of painting from childhood memory a vivid Philly afternoon with “the gang” – who formed the basis for the educational children’s program “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” – his newer material focuses on one of the most basic human struggles.

‘A change that comes’

“It’s husband and wife,” he said. “There’s a change that comes (when you marry).”

It’s a change he can sum up in two words: “Give up.” His voice, however, betrays a mind that’s looking back on a full and colorful career, with her by his side. And, like the goofy, fun-poking grandfather everyone wishes they had, he broke off bits of the wisdom he’s gained in all his time spent studying – and joking – about love and life.

“If you let her have it all,” he said, “as a wife, she will guide you to the end of your life.”

Reviews of his latest comedy tour see the comic still warmly spinning yarns, but from an uncomfortable-looking chair in the center of the stage. He makes tender jests at his wife – or warden, as his slightly fearful tone suggests. Although Cosby seems helplessly led around by the women in his life – for his unique brand of self-deprecating comedic effect – it’s clear he can still command an audience from on high, or even sitting down.

In the interview, he compared his earlier bits to “fast food” or himself as a young pugilist dancing in the ring – weaving and jabbing with some dry wit before stepping back, letting the widely relatable scene he’s lovingly crafted form in the mind, then knocking the audience silly with an uppercut punchline. And he was certainly fighting fit on Thursday.

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