Bill Cosby Is Himself Again

Bill Cosby has a special called “Bill Cosby: Far From Finished” airing on Comedy Central this Saturday at 8 p.m. Believe it or not, this is Mr. Cosby’s first comedy special in 30 years – the last being “Bill Cosby: Himself,” which helped to create “The Cosby Show.”

Comedy Central has been promoting it on television and its website, and Mr. Cosby has been making the rounds – the most recent an interview with Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”

We talked to him too – not so much about the special as about its potential impact on his live dates that will follow.  He has shows scheduled between now and May. 

(Note: we don’t use the “Mr.” moniker often, but c’mon …)

Photo: Erinn Chalene Cosby

Here’s my preamble: Pollstar is all about the live space, the concert business. Any thoughts on how the special will impact attendance?

I think this is important, not only for managers of the talent, not only for the promoters of the talent but for the people who run the venues. And there are two things that I do, and I’m known for – this is my preamble and then you can ask me. One is, I’m on this phone to talk to radio stations, to talk to writers. Now, the writers may go into the internet, etc., as long as they have a legitimate stand.

The second thing is, aiding and abetting the promoter to bring the promoter at least up to break-even on a date or any date that may wind up being weak. So from what I understand, I’m sort of different when it comes to that, including the manager and the talent jumping in to give more attention to the fact that they’re coming.

So, we were contacting you to see if you think the special will bring more attention to the upcoming tour.

OK, let’s try this. Let’s look at this as show business. And let’s look at it as management of the act, or the talent, that is in this business – and I’m trying to feed you in the business area, and you ought to be able to understand this – so I’m going to play a place. There’s a promoter involved and a venue involved.

The place is in the state of Washington. It’s Pullman. Heretofore I have done well playing the college. So this particular date which is about two to three months [away], it’s very, very soft. Very soft. The promoter and the venue are both perplexed. OK. It’s college. So the promoter has a certain number of dollars to put into [advertising] and it stayed soft.

We always have coming across our desks what we call the numbers. We keep check on the sold tickets, etc. (As if he’s at his desk) “Pullman Washington. Washington State College. Ah, this is really perplexing because we look at this as a natural.”

So I call the venue manager, who’s a partner, and I said, “What’s going on?”

We talk. He’s perplexed. He doesn’t understand. So we go over the checkpoint. He has done everything. He is a veteran at finding places to say that the talent is coming and here’s a chance for you to see the talent.

We’d covered everything, but it stayed soft.  So I said to the promoter, “What about the school paper?”

The school paper says yes and I get a student writer. A female who was, I think, in her junior year. And I decided in my interview to [ask] the writer if she has any idea why this is soft. And as we talked … as I manipulated the questions … what I culled was something that I had to think was … just in this particular area, there might be a difference of what these kids think about Bill Cosby while still liking Bill Cosby. In other words, I had not, for some reason, made an impression on the kids, in this school, in this area, that I am something they want to come to see. And somehow these kids loved Bill Cosby but they’re not excited about coming to see him perform. And I can only guess, as I said to the young lady, “Today’s standup monologists are more party oriented and coming from the television of Comedy Central.”

With Comedy Central, there’s what I call a party dialog, meaning they use a language, there’s a no-holds-barred, you say anything you want. It’s really party and the laughter’s party. I don’t mean they’re smoking, drinking, etc. It’s just a party, it’s free-form, it’s quote-unquote youthful.

For me, I’m imagining these kids are thinking, “Yes, I love him. … I saw him on the Huxtables, he helped raise me” and so forth “but he’s not a party comedian. And we’re here in college and the weather is great so it’s just an older thing. But we know he’s not a party person.”

She came to the show, she came backstage and we talked, and we took pictures, and she still couldn’t really nail [down] why the attendance was only one-third of the house. So I just said to her, “Enjoy yourself.” And she wrote a nice article afterward.

So that was important to me, to try and dig and see that.

Then about two weeks later I’m in a sold-out venue and we are having a ball. And a young fellow – couldn’t have been any more than 15 – yelled out, “Can you tell us about Rudy.”

And so I stopped and I said to him, “Well, I don’t have anything for you about Rudy. I’m working on this particular subject.”

And he said, “Well, I was just wond—“

And the audience started to rarrarrarrarr.

Photo: Erinn Chalene Cosby
“Today’s standup monologists are more party oriented and coming from the television of Comedy Central.”

So I said, “No. Be quiet, be quiet.”  This kid – and I don’t know if there was something that was special about him or something – but he was there and he wanted to know about the Huxtables.

He didn’t interrupt me anymore. Only one other time and it was to apologize to me, which means he was obviously with someone who told him to say, “Mr. Cosby I’m very, very sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

I said, “Look, you’re fine. I’m not going to speak about Rudy and I hope I have some things for you here that will make you laugh.”

And he said, “Well, I apologize, sir, and thank you.”

And I went on.

So the importance of this Comedy Central special and the opportunity they’ve given me to put my wares in front of the people on an extended time and at my pace, it’s very, very important because the people who tune in happen to be the ones who maybe don’t know and associate me with just the Huxtables, associate me with maybe other things that I’ve done on television.

But today you don’t find many of the late-time shows that will give a monologist the time to walk out and perform the monologue. So the special, “Far From Finished,” says what I do. And it says it clearly. …

So what Comedy Central has done for me is given me the opportunity to put a look on TV – and a wonderful, classy look, an up-to-date picture (there’s not that big knot in the tie from “Himself”) – and clearly in the 30 years, if a viewer has not seen me, it gives them the clarity of what I look like and will probably entice them moreso than before to buy the tickets and come and be entertained.

So if this brings more attendance, would you consider extending the tour?

Isn’t Pollstar about the business end of things? Well, then this is exactly why I’m doing this interview! This is not to just be on TV. It’s a business move and a wonderful opportunity for me to go directly to the soft part of the business, the soft part of the ticket sales.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. Number two – your particular avenue is – how old is it?

Pollstar? The magazine has been around about 35 years.

OK, but I’m not really sure if I’ve ever spoken to or with this particular division. And you’re not going in a quote-unquote newspaper traditional way. So that too is important. We’re reaching out to different avenues, different sections to say, “Hello! Watch the special, you guys” and, in that, along with what Comedy Central has allowed in my contract, we can cull from the special, as you have seen, the different soundbites. Those things are very funny – as far as I’m concerned. They show what I do, they show who I am, what I say, for the youth. … We will be even moreso when we update, when we hand the promoter things to hand to the different stations, TV, print, radio, so this catches us all up to date.

And we hope this particular end of the marketing gets better.

OK! Thank you, Joe.

Photo: Erinn Chalene Cosby
“But today you don’t find many of the late-time shows that will give a monologist the time to walk out and perform the monologue.”

Upcoming shows for Bill Cosby:

Nov. 21 – Virginia Beach, Va., Sandler Center For The Perf. Arts     
Nov. 22 – New Orleans, La., Xavier University (Xavier University Scholarship Fund Benefit)
Nov. 23 – Columbia, S.C., Koger Center For The Arts     
Nov. 24 – North Charleston, S.C., North Charleston Perf. Arts Center     
Nov. 29 – Las Vegas, Nev., Treasure Island Hotel     
Nov. 30 – Boston, Mass., Wilbur Theatre     
Dec. 1 – Boston, Mass., Wilbur Theatre     
Dec. 6 – Columbus, Ohio, Palace Theatre     
Dec. 7 – Evansville, Ind., The Centre – Aiken Theatre     
Jan. 10 – Corpus Christi, Texas, Selena Auditorium     
Jan. 11 – El Paso, Texas, Abraham Chavez Theatre     
Jan. 17 – Fayetteville, N.C., Crown Center  
Jan. 18 – Birmingham, Ala., BJCC Concert Hall
Jan. 19 – Knoxville, Tenn., Tennessee Theatre   
Jan. 31 – North Bethesda, Md., Music Center at Strathmore
Feb. 1 – Kansas City, Mo., Arvest Bank Theatre At The Midland     
Feb. 8 – Hartford, Conn., Bushnell Center For Perf. Arts     
Feb. 14 – Pasadena, Calif., Pasadena Center     
Feb. 15 – San Rafael, Calif., Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium     
Feb. 16 – Santa Barbara, Calif., Arlington Theatre     
Feb. 21 – Redding, Calif., Cascade Theatre     
Feb. 22 – Sacramento, Calif., Sacramento Community Center Theater     
Feb. 28 – Salt Lake City, Utah, Kingsbury Hall     
March 1 – Fresno, Calif., William Saroyan Theatre     
March 7 – Newark, N.J., Prudential Hall     
March 9 – Wilmington, Del., DuPont Theatre     
March 16 – Sarasota, Fla., Van Wezel Perf. Arts Hall     
March 17 – Lakeland, Fla., Youkey Theatre     
March 29 – Naperville, Ill., Pfeiffer Hall     
April 4 – Boise, Idaho, Velma V. Morrison Center For The Performing Arts     
April 13 – Bozeman, Mont., Brick Breeden Fieldhouse     
April 26 – Forrest City, Ark., East Arkansas Community College
May 9 – Holland, Mich., Central Wesleyan Church   
May 16 – Staten Island, N.Y., St. George Theatre

Please visit for more information. Click here for Comedy Central’s website.