CEDAR RAPIDS — My sides still hurt from being split by Bill Cosby, who was in rare form at the Paramount Theatre on Friday night. (11/16/12)
The masterful comedian and master storyteller gave a two-hour master class, instructing the sold-out crowd on the origins of our follies and foibles. He punctuated the session with questions, and with his trademark eye-roll, admonished those who shouted out lame answers to stay in their seats after the show for some tutoring.
He was especially distressed that we didn’t seem to know what God told Adam he was going to make after creating all the animals. Not “wife,” not “woman” (“God didn’t say, ‘Adam, I’m gonna make you a WOman,’ ” although he admitted Adam might have pronounced it “Whoa-man!” after seeing the creation).
So he gave us a clue: “help– (fill in the blank).”
“Not helpER. (eye roll) You’d think after the flood you would have …”
Um, read the Bible?
“HelpMATE,” he said. “God could have come out with a chamois and Adam would have said ‘thank you.’ ”
Instead, the gospel according to Cosby deems that what happened next is the reason women have dominion over men to this day.
Adam took a nap while God plucked his rib to create a woman, er, helpmate, so when Eve stepped out of the mist to meet HER helpmate, he was asleep.
“I’m married 49 years,” Cosby said. “You don’t do that to a woman. They don’t like that, even if it’s a nap. … This did not impress her.”
He then launched into a hilarious riff about all that transpired as Adam and Eve went about their days, eating from the Tree of Knowledge (because that’s what Eve made for dinner), then hiding in plain sight in the garden where God walked. “Obviously, the fruit has not kicked in yet,” he deadpanned.
That segued into perhaps the most hilarious part of the evening, where he asked a couple in the second row, married 43 years, how the marriage proposal went down. From the way the two were laughing, I really don’t think they were “planted.” I believe it’s just Cosby’s genius in finding the hilarity in everyday slices of life. It helped that the man hid the engagement ring in a box of pizza that he brought to her apartment.
“When he proposed, what did he say?”
“Open the pizza box,” she replied.
“That’s beautiful. You felt the romance. … You couldn’t even take her out for a nice dinner.”
Cosby was so “moved” by this story that he slid off of his chair, onto one knee, then crawled toward the woman to try to get more of her story to spill out, then when it did, he rolled onto his back, laughing. Needless to say, the audience was howling.
This is exactly the kind of shenanigans that have captured the hearts of his audiences for 50 years.
He told about three stories over the course of the evening — starting with a discussion of the flood that decimated the Paramount and ending with the way a man turns over all control when he buys an engagement ring. And how your wife can’t be your friend, because no man dares answer his wife’s question about “what are you doing” the way you’d answer your friend. “I’m going to sit here and do nothing” is not an acceptable answer, especially when leaves need raking.
It’s no secret that Cosby, 75, is a brilliant, well-educated man (in spite of his best efforts to slack off through high school). With miles of experience behind him, he’s still at the top of his game, ready to forge new paths.
He could easily dig out tried-and-true routines and have us doubled over in laughter. Instead, he started the evening bringing the humor home.
“It’s amazing to me that this city called Cedar Rapids would have become a reality,” he said, referring to the Floods of 2008.
“However, to know that at some point, this (hall) was covered by another 9 feet of water — and you people are still here. I am right now, at a higher point. I should have charged more for a potential second show which is synchronized swimming by the rich people.”
He then launched into what he feels is the “most humorous story” to come from the flood. As soon as he said, “you had this bridge,” I knew where he was headed, but the circuitous path he took to get there had us hanging on his every word.
Citing the one person who had the brilliant idea of parking a train on that bridge and filling it with stones and iron and steel and wood — you just know where Cosby was headed. What we didn’t see coming was this:
“Here’s where you blew it,” he said. “The water receded and you all cleaned it up. Think about a train upside down — with a bridge over the second largest piece of art. So now all you have is where that was. Do we have the name of the person who came up this idea, because he may have another.
“I’m just happy no one died. It’s because you all can swim.”
His humor transcends the written word — although he does have a new book out, titled “I Didn’t Ask to be Born (But I’m Glad I Was).”
The best way to experience Cosby is live and in person, to hear his careful pacing, see his signature eye rolls, watch his expressive hands and fall over laughing just because of a look he shot to the audience.
Thankfully, his every move was projected on a huge screen behind him, so even folks in the far reaches of the balcony wouldn’t miss a bit of his visual hilarity.
We, too, are glad you were born Mr. Cosby.