Bill Cosby accepted the vaunted Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at Lincoln Center last night, complete with two hours of highlights from the 72-year-old’s career: his standup on The Jack Paar Show, his breakthrough role on I Spy, and of course, The Cosby Show, among others. In accepting honor, and joining the likes of previous winners Richard Pryor and George Carlin, it marked a relaxing of Cosby’s own strict standards: He’d turned down the honor twice before because of objections to the profanity-laced ceremony, the prize’s first, for Pryor in 1998. (“Too much foul mouth,” he said. “Too much N-word.”)
Luminaries paying homage to the iconic humorist last night cited their own defining Cosby moments: Comedian Dick Gregory noted the importance of I Spy to aspiring black comics, Seinfeld mentioned his 1965 album Why Is There Air as a major inspiration, and Phylicia Rashad was there to represent for the Huxtables. For me, the Cosby moment came with his 1983 comedy special Bill Cosby: Himself, in which he memorably skewered everything from dentist visits (a bit he still kills with even these days) to — my personal favorite — his own lack of breakfast-making ability. (As I read of his honor, I was instantly humming the “Dad is great…he gives us chocolate cake” song to myself.)
It’s truly amazing how well his stuff holds up, not unlike reruns of The Cosby Show (which would be just as timeless, if not for the sweaters!):
How about you, PopWatchers? What is your defining Cosby moment?