Bill Cosby’s debut on Comedy Central is something of an occasion, and clearly one the legendary comic himself feels obligated to address right up front, reassuring audiences that just because of the venue, he will not curse. What he will do, as he has for 50 years, is gently and to all appearances effortlessly tickle an audience with seemingly universal truths, at one point asking, “You thought it was only happening to you, didn’t you?” There’s admittedly nostalgia in seeing Cosby perform again after a 30-year TV standup special hiatus, but he still delivers some of the old wonderfulness.
If there’s one nit to pick with the material – taped at the performing arts center in Cerritos, Calif. – it’s that despite the title, “Bill Cosby: Far From Finished,” Cosby, who has built comedy around every stage of his life, hasn’t quite pivoted to the seemingly ripe grandpa stage. Instead, he’s content to riff on the “Till death do us part” aspect of marriage, the ways wives control their husbands and, for good measure, a closing bit about his kids when they were still of school age.
In a sense, it’s a missed opportunity, inasmuch as a young Cosby created indelible portraits of a childhood filled with Chicken Hearts and impossibly obese or old weird pals, then breezily segued to marriage and fatherhood, which he eventually translated into one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. The indignities associated with being a septuagenarian frankly seem like a logical chapter, but maybe Cosby will save that for his next special.
As is, Cosby takes a seat and keeps his motions to a minimum while spinning stories about married life, including a particularly funny bit comparing wives to queens on a chessboard – moving in all directions to pick people off, while husbands (or kings) are limited to advancing one space at a time.
If these are all areas Cosby has covered twice-over in the past, there’s still a kick in seeing him do it again. Besides, how many occupations allow one’s childhood heroes to still play the game at a high level, as it were, at 76?
Comedy Central offers no shortage of standup specials, but adding Cosby to the lineup can’t help but class up the joint. Because even if his movements are a bit more limited these days, with all the would-be jesters out there, he’s still a true king of comedy.