On Oct. 30, former sitcom star, TV trailblazer and best-selling author Bill Cosby will come to Pittsburgh for a comedic performance at Heinz Hall. Well known for his controversial critiques of the African-American community, Cosby’s performance will throw seriousness aside for a night of laughs.
|NIGHT OF A THOUSAND LAUGHS—On Oct. 30 at 5:30 p.m., Bill Cosby will take the stage at Heinz Hall. (Photo by Erinn Chalene Cosby)
“What value is a Black human being in his or her own neighborhood? People say ‘don’t say that; that’s dirty laundry,’ but we’re trying to save beautiful Black lives. We’re talking about your children, your beautiful Black children,” said Cosby in an exclusive interview with the New Pittsburgh Courier. “Of course, I’m not going to talk about that at Heinz Hall. We’re going to laugh. We’re going to close the doors and we’re going to laugh. We’re going to have a good time.”
Despite his promise to have the audience rolling in the aisles, Cosby took time to discuss the less comical problems in the Black community. Primary among them was Black-on- Black crime and the role families and the media play in continuing the violent cycle.
“I remember a chief of police saying to me, ‘every morning I get a call telling me something I don’t want to hear—that there’s been a shooting and a killing and that it’s a Black male aged 17-25 gunned down by another Black male aged 17-25,’” Cosby said. “We have to look at the guns and then the educational system, public schools, the interest and participation of the caregivers of the children—the parents, the education to the young men, the gangs that are there, how many gangs, and then what is the knowledge of the people about the gangs. Do they know why a kid belongs to a gang?”
Cosby rambled off a laundry list of factors contributing to the high incidence of Black-on-Black homicides, including poor educational systems in urban areas. Still, with all the outside factors, he was quick to place blame on parents, an opinion he has often been criticized for.
“There’s guns in the neighborhood. You need to do something that says get guns out of the neighborhood. A young boy with a pistol and no license is setting himself up to go to prison. Why does he have a gun and what good is having that gun?” Cosby said. “There is no excuse when they’re carting your child off to jail, which by the way is going to cost $42,000 a year, and you shake your head and say, ‘he was a good boy.’ I believe that, but someone was responsible for making sure he didn’t have a gun.”
Cosby also blamed African-American celebrities for sending negative messages to young Black youths. In particular he mentioned Russell Simmons, a well-known African-American entrepreneur and co-founder of the hip-hop recording label, Def Jam Recordings.
“One of the problems with Simmons and some people like him is how they have set a philosophy and put it where young people think it’s hip not to know their history,” Cosby said. “They don’t want to hear anything from old people. We need older people to talk to them about why at age 14 are you not using protection if you’re having sex. What is conservative about not telling our children about things they already see on TV. Who are you fooling? I know that for Mr. Simmons, it means a lot of money because then he can still sell his profanity records.”
However, Cosby was not only critical of the music produced by Simmons and others in the hip-hop industry. In fact, he said he found it difficult to find value in any of today’s Black entertainment. He was especially critical of profanity on television channels such as HBO and Comedy Central.
“If I don’t like people using profanity for no other reason except to use it as exclamation or timing, why would I tune into HBO? They have people cursing and it’s not funny period,” Cosby said. “The only way you can get on it seems is if you have a nasty mouth; you don’t even have to be funny. It’s not my taste.”
When discussing Black programming today, Cosby reminisced to his time spent with his award-winning sitcom, “The Cosby Show,” and the struggles he endured to bring quality Black programming, to television.
“The show began 25 years ago and they didn’t want it then. The reason I wanted to do a sitcom was because of what I saw as the foolishness of what they were presenting as family situational comedy,” Cosby said. “The question is always the same, what about Black shows. The apathy of the people in terms of what is on and what will be put on, is the reason this continues.”