When I was a kid, and got my first record player, the first albums I listened to were comedy albums, because those were what I had. I listened to them repeatedly, until I could recite them verbatim. And I would do exactly that, for anyone who would listen and several who wouldn’t.
Those records provided me plenty of material for my standup routine. Records by comedians such as Shelley Berman, Dick Gregory, Brother Dave Gardner, The Limelighters (a singing/comedy group), and Jonathan Winters. Look them up, kids.
Oh. And Bill Cosby.
He was easily my favorite. He made me laugh more than anyone I’d ever heard, first with his recollections of childhood, then his anecdotes of marriage and parenthood. As far as I was concerned, he was the funniest human being in the history of the world.
I so wish I could hang on to that. I wish I could always remember him as “America’s Dad,” the way we all came to know him during his hugely successful television show in the 1980’s. The guy in the commercials, sharing Jell-O pudding with the kids.
But Tuesday, he was led out of a courtroom in handcuffs, on his way to prison, to serve a three to ten year sentence for sexual assault, a crime of which he was accused by some 60 women.
And America’s Dad, whose hilarious stories I used to recite to friends and family, died for good in that moment.
And, in all honesty, I grieve that loss.
But, even more, I want to give a standing ovation for all the women who stood up to Bill Cosby, the Good Guy, the Icon, and said, “You raped us! And you’re done getting away with it!”
I mean, think of what a burden these women have carried over the years. The guilt. The shame. The fear of recrimination if they dared to accuse one of the most beloved entertainers of all time.
And, the recrimination they, in fact, received when they did finally speak up. People didn’t believe them, of course. After all, this was BILL COSBY!! How dare you accuse such a good man of such a horrible deed?!
But, they didn’t back down. They found strength, courage and tenacity in each other. And, in the end, they found vindication. That’s worthy of all our cheers, as well as our support going forward, for any and all women willing to hazard an unmerciful, unrelenting, unforgiving gauntlet of skepticism, ridicule, judgment, contempt and far worse, to tell the stories they have ashamedly kept inside, perhaps even for years. We must encourage these women – these victims – to bring those stories out into the sunlight, and expose the predatory men who violated them.
In this case, those stories brought down a man who believed his fame entitled him to any woman, anytime. Now he gets to contemplate his actions in a prison cell for the next few years.
I wonder: will he have the nerve to ever look his wife – or his daughters – in the eye again?