Not unlike, some of the jazz artists that Bill Cosby admires, who have mastered their own personal sound and genius approach to improvisation, he, too has mastered those same skills associated with the art of making people laugh with him, and at the same time made that art form look deceptively simple. His prowess as an all-around entertainer is undeniable, so when he comes to town, it’s usually considered a must-see occasion.
The 76-year-old veteran comedian, actor, author, and avid jazz supporter was scheduled to bring his signature style of stand-up comedy to Orchestra Hall for two solo shows on Saturday, May 31, but according to a May 14 press release from Orchestra Hall, the shows were cancelled by the performer due to lower than anticipated ticket sales. The intention is to reschedule in the future.
Since his 1963 appearance on The Tonight Show, he has entertained audiences with his roles in I Spy, The Electric Company, and the iconic Cosby Show. His first TV concert special in 30 years is Bill Cosby…Far From Finished, which aired on Comedy Central.
The press release further states that Cosby was originally slated to appear at Orchestra Hall in February 2013, a date which ultimately was postponed twice by the Orchestra due to the organization’s labor dispute.
Cosby said, “I was asked to move the date two times because of the labor dispute, and I complied even though I don’t use a band. When these performances are reset, I guarantee to perform two shows. Orchestra Hall and its supporters are my friends.” Minnesota Orchestra Vice President and General Manager Robert Neu said, “We are very sorry to disappoint Mr. Cosby’s fans with this news, but we very much respect Mr. Cosby’s desire to perform before full capacity audiences.”
Concertgoers will be contacted directly by the Minnesota Orchestra, which was presenting the performances, and sent a full refund for their tickets.
Cosby’s first comedy album was Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow…Right! Recently, he was the recipient of the Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence at the 2014 “American Comedy Awards” ceremony taped on April 26 in New York City.At the awards show, after being introduced by fellow comedian Chris Rock, he spoke passionately about his first big gig and on the importance of showing up. Cosby said that you’ve got to show-up. You’re the only one who can represent yourself.
Speaking of showing up, Cosby emceed his last Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles in June 2012. He served as the master of ceremonies for the festival since 1979. Cosby and I met backstage at the festival in 2002. I had the rare opportunity to thank him for sharing his touching story that I had read somewhere about him growing up with other little poor boys from his Philly neighborhood and how each one wore a piece of the Boy Scouts uniform, but never a complete outfit because they couldn’t afford it.
In 2004, Cosby (also a racial spokesman and critic) gave a speech to the NAACP that sparked a national debate. He criticized poor Black parents for lack of personal responsibility. Author, scholar, and pop culture intellectual Michael Eric Dyson wrote the book, Is Cosby Right? (Or Has The Middle Class Lost Its Mind?) (Basic Civitas Books, 2005) where he remarks on Cosby’s comments to the NAACP by saying he attacked the most vulnerable among us.
Only days after Cosby’s speech, Dyson told NPR that in The New York Times he said that Cosby’s comments “betray classist, elitist viewpoints rooted in generational warfare,” that he was “ill-informed on the critical and complex issues that shape people’s lives,” and that his words only “reinforce suspicions about Black humanity.”
In his book, Dyson told journalist Paula Zahn that he didn’t consider Cosby a traitor, and that while he defends his right to speck his mind in public view, we must never lose sight of the big social forces that make it difficult for poor parents to do their best jobs and for poor children to prosper. Dyson also said that his book was his attempt to unpack those issues with the clarity and complexity they demand.
The New York Post reported that at a recent Blue Note Records luncheon at the Highline Ballroom in New York City, backed by fellow Philly native Questlove as his DJ, he talked about how jazz endures in Europe, yet here “in the US of A it’s been ehhh.” However, Cosby admittedly said that it could make a come back. He also joked about being mistaken for living saxophonist legend Sonny Rollins by a gardener while staying at a hotel in France.