By LAURA CARRELL
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Talking to comedian Bill Cosby for just a few moments, you suddenly understand how appropriate the name of his "Far From Finished Tour" really is.
One of the most legendary personalities of all time, Cosby is coming to spend an evening in Ottumwa at 7:30 p.m. June 7 at Bridge View Center.
"Comedy Central gave me an opportunity to go into the lions' den of the young lions and lionesses — the young ones — and I really very much respectfully appreciate that because of the differences," Cosby said, "in the viewpoint of the subject matter, storytelling as opposed to short bursts of very funny thoughts. If Comedy Central had not allowed for the filming of this, I would still be coming to your town. So it's not just a tour, it's an honest way to make a living."
Going into that lions' den for Cosby means bringing his comedy, which has spanned five decades and virtually all media, to a generation that is used to a very different type of performance. Younger people may have heard some of his comedy thanks to their parents, and he says that's a good start.
"'I listened when my father played his CDs in the car (they say).' And even though they laugh at it, they don't see that I'm a laugh-causer. I'm a smile-causer, but the other (comedians) are armed with things that are 'their things' today," he said. "You have these people who are 30 (and younger) and they have their heroes, and they've heard their heroes talk about me, but if I come to town, the excitement of seeing one of theirs as opposed to seeing me ... see, I'm 76 and 10/12 years old ... so do they see me coming out and doing rest home jokes?"
Far from it.
[Press play to hear Bill Cosby talk about his encounter with a younger fan]
Cosby has captivated generations with his comedy routines, iconic albums and best-selling books, including "Fatherhood," "Time Flies" and his current bestseller, "I Didn’t Ask to Be Born, (But I’m Glad I Was.)"
He broke television’s racial barrier with "I Spy," becoming the first African-American to co-star on a television series while winning three consecutive Emmys. He created and produced the Emmy-winning cartoon "Fat Albert" and the "Cosby Kids," which began airing in the 1970s and was made into a film in 2004.
The former U.S. Navy serviceman has received the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Marian Anderson Award. Among his many awards for his stand-up comedy albums are five Grammy Awards, eight Gold and five Platinum records.
Perhaps Cosby’s greatest contribution to American entertainment and culture is "The Cosby Show," an iconic show about a close-knit, upper-class black family. Those who grew up with the albums and television shows have now introduced it to their own children, securing the Bill Cosby legacy for another generation.
When asked to identify just one thing he'd like to do that he hasn't done yet, Cosby answered without hesitation.
"I would like to have permission, and the money, to put my ideas of today's 'Fat Albert' on TV, and I would like also to put up a full two years' worth of new 'Little Bill' shows," he said. "I want to produce new ones, and I want a network or somebody to give me the money to do them because I have so many wonderful ways to put that back on. I hear so many people tell me 'My 11-year-old is watching 'Fat Albert.'' So yeah, we need to make some new ones."
Tickets for the Ottumwa "Far From Finished Tour" show can be purchased at the Bridge View Center Box Office, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or at Ticketmaster.com.
— Follow reporter Laura Carrell on Twitter @CourierLauraC