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Bill Cosby at Lincoln Center: Purposefully losing his way, slamming NBC, and killing it

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Given that when the 72-year-old took to the stage at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall he immediately took a seat, it could be said that Bill Cosby no longer does stand-up comedy. At that age, Cosby said, “when you stand up, people clap.”

His advancing years were a big facet of Cosby’s act — his two-hour set found him talking about cataract surgery, colonoscopies, grandchildren, and urinary flow issues — as was the manner with which he strung them all together. Cosby designed his set like an intricate series of nested non-sequiteurs: Telling stories buried within stories, Cosby comes across like the good-natured, old-school grandfather who occasionally loses his place — but that’d be wrong. Cosby has taken his already immaculate story structure and added a temporal playfulness.

Everything comes around in a Cosby show, sometimes when you least expect it. Including a little dig at the network he elevated to prominence in the ’80s. He started telling a story with “Some of you might’ve seen me talk about this on The Jay Leno Show. Or not. NBC? Whooooo! And they keep the same people there all the time.”

Cos spent a good 20 minutes laying on the ground, prone, to tell the story of when his wife asked him to chop down the family Christmas tree. As for his visit to the Mayo Clinic for his first colonoscopy: I have now seen two notable funny men (Bill Cosby and Kevin Smith) at two of New York City’s most celebrated performance spaces (Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall) and they both killed with elaborate, detail-laden, cringe-inducing poop jokes.

If you get a chance to see Cosby live, I can’t recommend it highly enough. He’s still got It — the It that captivated audiences in the ’60s (the legendary performances that were captured on albums like 1968’s Grammy-winning To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With), and later in the ’80s, with his 1983 stand-up special Bill Cosby: Himself and then NBC’s The Cosby Show — but who knows how long he’ll keep it. “My grandfather told me about senility,” Cosby joked. “He said, ‘Junebug, don’t worry about senility — if you get it, you won’t know it.'” In case you’ve forgotten how masterful Cosby is on stage, here’s his Dentist bit — which he performed as an “encore” last night — taken from Himself:

I know it’s morbid to say, but Cosby was on my Bizarro Bucket List — entertainers I want to see live before they die. I missed Ray Charles and James Brown. I got Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, and Bill Cosby. Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner are still waiting. Who’s on your Bizarro Bucket List?

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