Bill Cosby

Speaking with Bill Cosby via phone last week was like having a chat with a grandpa. Mr. Cosby is 71 years old, but it’s not his age that now makes him grandpa-like. His voice has a warmth and familiarity that make me feel I’ve known the man my entire life. Then it occurred to me: I have known the man my entire life! And so have most Americans. The Cosby Show first aired in 1984 when I was five years old (and Cosby was in his 50s), and remained on the air until I was in my early teens. But even before and after The Cosby Show, he was a constant presence in American culture, whether through comedy albums like To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, his stand-up video classic Bill Cosby: Himself, or his hawking Jell-O pudding and Kodak film. After all this, you have to wonder what the man has left to give. Plenty, he says: “I try to go out with at least 82 percent new material every time.” (Note: Aside from George Carlin and Jonathan Winters, few other comedians manage still to be funny and original in their later years.) Hearing his stories about all the times he’s performed in Seattle (first in 1968), it’s obvious he’s got a deep well of region-specific material to draw from. He still remembers Bobo the baby gorilla! And he knows we love to bash our south-end cousins in Puyallup: “Their only claim to fame is waiting around for someone to mispronounce ‘Puyallup’ so they can correct them!” he says. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., 215-4747, $25–$100. 4 & 8 p.m. BRIAN J. BARR

Sat., Nov. 1, 4 & 8 p.m., 2008

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