Retrospect: The Cosby Show

Self-tutoring about people and events from the past: the tutor reflects about the 80s comedy hit The Cosby Show.

I recall, back in 1984, the first episode of The Cosby Show. I wouldn’t say I found it funny, but it was entertaining. Back then, entertainment options were limited compared to now, so I looked forward to it after that: a lot of people did. The Cosby Show was a hit for many years.

Bill Cosby was/is a talented comedian, and The Cosby Show was quite well written. That said, it did visit a lot of safe clichés. However, that’s what Americans seem to like: you can chalk it up to “writing to the audience.” Even so, Cosby himself seemed behind numerous of those clichés: Watching the show for a season, it was easy to get the impression that he was a conformist who believed in them. In particular, it seemed to me he mainly agreed with the baby-boomer world view that I found very tiresome.

I thought I might be alone thinking the way I did about Cosby, until around a year and a half later: In music class, during a discussion, The Cosby Show came up.

“I stopped watching The Cosby Show,” the music teacher observed, “because I noticed something: Every episode, he’s preaching a sermon.” Not too long later, one of my schoolmates, who didn’t have that music class, echoed the same idea: “Every episode of that show seems to want to teach you a lesson.”

The music teacher was artistic and non-conformist, while the schoolmate who echoed his sentiments was conformist, through and through. Yet, they agreed they didn’t want to be preached at by Cosby. It’s true, however, that while one was conformist and the other wasn’t, both those people were intellectuals.

Preaching and all, The Cosby Show continued strongly for many years after I abandoned it: I’d moved out to an apartment without a TV by the time it finished. I only discovered today its end date.

I think it’s much easier to be a comedian when you make fun of “safe” things rather than your audience’s core beliefs. One assumes Bill Cosby, being a smart man, already with more than two decades’ experience in comedy, knew that.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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