Less than two years after he performed at Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall, iconic comedian Bill Cosby is returning to Southwest Virginia for a show in Roanoke.
According to a press release from the Roanoke Civic Center, Cosby will appear at the Roanoke Performing Arts Theatre on Saturday, July 27. Tickets for the show are $59.75 and will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 22.
The tickets will be available at the Roanoke Civic Center Box Office, online at HomeTownBankTix.com or by telephone at 1-877-HTB-TIXNow.
Cosby’s last performance in Roanoke took place in November 2010. His bestselling book “I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was)” was published about the time of his Virginia Tech appearance one year later.
The book, which took on topics such as the Bible and becoming a grandfather, further lengthened the staggering list of Cosby’s achievements, which include comedy albums, music albums, films, television movies and a dozen books.
Hit the jump link to see the story we wrote about Cosby before he played Virginia Tech in 2011. I would link to it at roanoke.com, but our redesigned site appears to have purged it, and our redesigned site also has killed the embed of our podcast with him. C’est la redesign.
Source: By Tad Dickens email@example.com 777-6474
Hey, hey, hey! It’s Bill Cosby
Say the name Bill Cosby, and lots of associations emerge – groundbreaking television star of “I Spy” and “The Cosby Show,” creator of the iconic cartoon “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” Jell-O Pudding Pops pitchman, best-selling author, sometime social critic, lifelong jazz aficionado.
But for Cosby, it all began with live comedy. And he is still considered one of the best. Stand-up comedy heroes such as Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have agreed that his work humbles them. And at 74, Cosby is still working live, including an Oct. 20 gig at Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall.
Seventy-four years old. That’s a time when most people are through with any kind of hard work. And comedy, as much laughter and fun as it elicits, is some of the most mentally demanding work of all.
Ask him what keeps him motivated to continue doing his “sit-down” act – he objects to the term “stand-up comedy,” in his case, because he does it sitting down – and Cosby goes back to the very root of his career.
He was just out of the Navy in 1960, discharged at Norfolk’s Little Creek base, and back in his hometown, Philadelphia. He enrolled that May at Temple University, where because of his previous lack of scholastic interest, he was placed in all the “remedial” classes, he remembered.
An English class set him on his path.
“Thank God for Temple University allowing me in with a GED and a 500 SAT score,” Cosby said. “I’m not talking about 500 for verbal, 500 for math. They put me in remedial everything.”
But Cosby had a talent for writing. His first remedial English professor read to the class Cosby’s essays “The First Time I Ever Pulled Out My Own Tooth” and “Procrastination (The Perfect Point).”
Cosby, who said he had quit studying, caring and being responsible during the fourth grade, was reborn as a student.
“And man, I was so happy – I don’t care what you call it, special, remedial, anything. … I’m here, and I’m here to learn whatever it is you want to tell me,” he said.
Doing his “sit-down” in front of college audiences, Cosby goes to that well of memories, and to his experiences as a parent and grandparent. He says it’s fun “to just blow them away” with those stories.
“So they just better be ready when I come out,” he said. “I’m just throwing it there, and they get it, and they laugh and have a ball. And I don’t do anything that has to do with the excitement of today’s comedians, with the – I’m not challenging nor taking away – but please don’t come in thinking I’m going to spice up something with … profanity.”
That’s not to say that Cosby hasn’t trucked in what he calls a “naughty joke” in his day. Back in college, the 23-year-old freshman took a job as a bartender. There, his act began to take shape. Meanwhile, his English class successes had inspired him to “write and write and write.”
He did not yet see himself as a professional funnyman, “because I had low self-esteem about this United States of America putting me on TV as a comedian. I just did not see myself doing that,” he remembered.
But he was building an audience from behind the bar.
“I tell jokes to the customers, and they tell me jokes,” Cosby said. “We laugh, and I make these terrible drinks from the book. And they leave a tip under the ashtray, because I’ve been telling the jokes funny. And people start to come down to see me. And then I started from the dirty jokes, which I call them now naughty jokes, compared to the profanity or the spice that people have added now, spicy. I was naughty.
“And I began to infuse my own writings. I began to fade out the naughty jokes that I knew, unless there was one that was super, because some are just fantastic. … I enjoyed all of them, but I began to move them out because my material was taking over. And I was doing these things that had to do with connecting with people. And people were smiling and laughing. And I did that [by] myself.”
His own channel
Before long, Cosby’s act was blowing up. He made hit comedy albums that went gold (at least 500,000 sold) and platinum (at least 1 million sold) and earned him five Grammy Awards. Soon, despite his youthful doubts, he was on television, becoming the first black person to co-star in a television drama. That show, “I Spy,” ran from 1965 to 1968 and won him three Emmy Awards along the way. Reruns air on RTV, Cox channel 113.
In 1972, his cartoon series “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” began dominating Saturday mornings. And in 1984, he was on the air with “The Cosby Show,” which had millions tuning in to NBC on Thursday nights to see the Huxtable family, effectively establishing NBC’s franchise sitcom night.
If he wasn’t on a series, he was often featured in Jell-O commercials that still resonate with people who saw them.
Does he watch television today?
“I don’t like any of it, and I want my own channel,” Cosby said.
Maybe he should talk with Oprah Winfrey about that.
“No, no, no,” he replied. “I’m going to talk to the people at Comcast. I want my own channel, and make it family-approved and hip.”
Cosby stays on top of the social networking world, via Facebook and Twitter, among other sites. He considers Twitter (find him at twitter.com/billcosby or follow him -@-billcosby) essential to his business.
“It took fan mail and put it in the time capsule,” he said. “This is a must, because the person tweeting … can do that, boom and bam, I’ve got it. Then depending on the time when I decide to answer it -bing, [it's] shot right in.
“The annoying part of it is people asking, is this really you? Are you really doing this? And I have no way of proving it, and they have no way of disproving it.
“Now maybe somewhere down the line, after they’ve been … reading me enough, back and forth, they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s him, that’s his sense of humor and nobody else could really do this. Nobody could think this way. I hope.’
“Because then that would put me in the category of Don Pullen and John Coltrane. Nobody could do it the way they do it.”
Roanoke native Don Pullen (1941-1995) was a jazz pianist and organist who worked with Charles Mingus, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Ruth Brown – and Cosby. See video of Pullen and Cosby together via youtu.be/VaOASVQ5vz4, with Cosby directing a band that included guitarist Sonny Sharrock, Al Foster on drums and Mark Egan on eight-string bass with wah-wah pedal.
Early on in our phone interview this month, we asked Cosby about Pullen, which is likely how the late pianist wound up in Cosby’s thoughts about Twitter. But it was clear from his answer that Cosby thought highly of Pullen, who was on two of Cosby’s records. Cosby’s band, which performs once a year at the Playboy Jazz Festival, has performed Pullen’s “Jana’s Delight” at that concert. Cosby said Pullen was a genius.
“He was one of the calmest people I ever met – but man, … when he started to get into what I call those [musical] spritzes, that’s when in my brain the Christmas tree lit up,” he said. “And of course, you can’t be all wrong if Mingus makes you his pianist.”
He spreads his love of jazz throughout the social networking world. Recently, he tweeted praise of drummer Roy Haynes, “whose hands & feet can do things with drums, cymbals, & stick that no one can write down.”
Reminded of that line, Cosby responded with an enthusiastic “Yeah!” In the response that followed, he hummed the melody of what sounded like “Coming on the Hudson,” from Thelonius Monk Quartet’s “Live at the 5 Spot,” then explained the beauty of a drum lick in that number. Cosby finished that line of thought by saying he tweeted about Haynes so that he would know that Cosby remembered and appreciated Haynes’ conversations and advice.
Speaking of conversations with jazzers, remember Cosby’s assertion that some naughty jokes are “just fantastic”? We asked him which were his favorites.
“A guy told me one about two old guys, 102 and 105, who went to a place of, you know, where women, you pay them and they will make you happy,” he said. “And I’m not going to tell you the punch line, but it’s one of my favorites.
“As a matter of fact, Clark Terry told me that story.”
A jazzer told him. Of course.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20
Where: Burruss Hall, Virginia Tech
How much: $45 to the public and to Virginia Tech faculty and staff; $20 to VT students; $11 to children 12 and younger
Info: 231-5615, studentcenters.vt.edu/tickets/events.php, billcosby.com
Go to this story at roanoke.com/entertainment or to blogs.roanoke.com/cutnscratch to hear an audio file of our interview with Cosby.
1. By Erinn Chalene Cosby: Bill Cosby
2. “The Cosby Show”
3. By Erinn Chalene Cosby: Bill Cosby