Friday, November 20, 2009

Celebrating a Living Legend

I had the pleasure a couple weeks ago of learning that Bill Cosby had been chosen to receive the Mark Twain Award for Contribution to American Comedy. As I watched the taped tribute and ceremony, the realization dawned on me that when I was growing up, Bill Cosby was everywhere. I watched him on television every morning in the children's show The Electric Company, right after 3-2-1-Contact and Sesame Street. Every afternoon, my family guffawed and snickered our way through the Huxtable family's antics on The Cosby Show. In between television shows, I watched him dance and get silly as he plugged Jello. And every night, when my mother had run out of stories and lullabies, she would put on a tape or a record for my sister and I to fall asleep to. There were a few to choose from, but the most popular was our Fat Albert record. I lay awake every night not falling asleep to Bill Cosby's brilliant wisecracks and one-liners. His "Hey, hey, hey!" still rings in my ears and brings a smile to my face.

As I look back on my life as a parent, and as a performer and a storyteller, I realise that Bill Cosby's influence is there throughout everything. It is there in my timing, in my pacing, in the books I read, in the way I handle my children. Echoes of a man I watched perform so long ago, in so many incarnations, are seamlessly interwoven with all of the other influences - teachers, parents, books, films - that have changed me and shaped me throughout my life.

I still have a long way to go, but I am a better performer for having grown up with Bill Cosby in my living room. And the world is a better place for having had him in it.

Thanks, Dr. Cosby. You deserve this award.

And thanks for stopping by.

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