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A Cosby cavalcade

A Cosby cavalcade — A look at Bill Cosby’s currently available work

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Bill Cosby wasn’t always Cliff Huxtable. Here’s a selective guide to his other work currently available:

Live Stand-Up Recordings

Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow, Right! (1964)
Some of the short tracks fizzle, but the ”Noah” routines, wherein God commands a hapless suburbanite to build an ark, hold up beautifully. B+

Wonderfulness (1966)
Cosby’s Sgt. Pepper, a thematically consistent album that recounts childhood terrors with hilarious insight, from hospitals (”Tonsils”) to scary radio shows (”Chicken Heart”). A-

To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With (1968)
Skip immediately to the sublime 27-minute monologue about two fidgety kids and the angry father who wants them to go to sleep. It remains the sagest thing Cosby has ever done. Best heard while engulfed, as the protagonists are, in ”pitch black.” A+

The Best of Bill Cosby (1969)
More of the Best of Bill Cosby (1970)
First-rate selections from the early albums but hardly comprehensive enough to be called ”the best.” B-

Cosby and the Kids/Cosby Classics (1986)
From Fat Albert to Old Weird Harold, this budget two-cassette package is the compilation to buy. A+

On Home Video

I Spy (1965-68)
Cosby helped break the TV-drama color barrier when he starred with Robert Culp as a cool secret agent. A

Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
Let’s Do It Again (1975)
A Piece of the Action (1977)
Sidney Poitier directed and costarred in these crime-caper comedies. Amiable but uninspired, the first two films achieve a serviceable sitcom pleasantness. The third entry veers into tiresome socially conscious melodrama. Uptown; Do It: C+ Action: C-

Bill Cosby, Himself (1982)
It might be better titled Dr. Cosby and Mr. Hyde. This concert film starts with an uproarious riff about drunkenness. But soon an ugly tone seeps in as Cosby fumes about abusive fathers, nagging mothers, and whining, lying children. Fascinating as a dark version of the material that became The Cosby Show. B

Bill Cosby: 49 (1987)
In full designer-sweater regalia, a hoarse Cosby meditates genially on paunch, trifocals, hair loss, and advanced marital warfare. B-

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