Bill Cosby will perform Nov. 16, 2012, as the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids continues its reopening celebration. (Erinn Cosby photo)
By Diana Nollen/ SourceMedia
I spent a couple hours yesterday (11/7/12) researching Bill Cosby and crafting what I hoped were intelligent questions to ask the whip-smart comedian, blending what I wanted to know with what my Facebook friends said they wanted to know.
Nervously, my freezing fingers dialed the designated number at the appointed time this morning.
“Hellooooo,” he said with a delightful singsong tone.
“Good morning Mr. Cosby, how are you today?”
I introduced myself.
“I’m ready for you,” he said, and then he put me on hold for a moment that seemed like an eternity. Would he be back? Ah, yes, he came back.
And with that, we chatted briefly about his home in Pennsylvania and my familiarity with that region, then I asked my first question:
“I grew up in Iowa and I saw you in Burlington about 30 years ago, and I could barely breathe, I was laughing so hard.”
“Good,” he said.
“What is the key to taking these everyday slices of life that none of us think are funny at the time, and making them hilarious. How do you find the humor in sort of mundane, everyday things?”
His answer was music to my ears:
“Let me first of all tell you, how important you are to me this morning. I do a ton of interviews and people generally … I don’t know … the way you put the question led me into a direction that I am enjoying.”
Instantly, my fingers warmed up, my heart stopped racing and I enjoyed his answer, which lasted nearly 30 minutes and had me completely enthralled, riveted to his carefully chosen words.
My bubble was burst a couple questions later:
“You’ve spent your career making us laugh. What makes you laugh,” I asked.
“That’s not a good question. Never has been one,” he said.
I died a little. “Oh.”
“No, no! Wait! Stop,” he exclaimed as I tried to choke out an apology and move on.
“It’s not a good question, and it’s never been one for me because it’s a question that seems to be asking me of specifics and my answer is: all kinds of things. It just depends. I can give you examples of things I’ve laughed at.”
He continued, giving me the perfect answer, recounting the comedians who made him laugh in bygone days, by just reacting or shooting a certain look.
Just like he does today.
He is so smart and so articulate and so used to answering questions that when he needed to stop for another moment, our conversation went like this:
“… I maintain that it helps me to think. Hold for one second.” (pause) “What were my last two words?”
“We were talking about,” I replied.
“No, but what were the last two words there?” he asked.
“Helps me to think,” I replied, quickly realizing that was more than two words. “To think.”
He picked up right where he left off, without missing a beat.
“Deeper, I believe.”
Watch for Hoopla and HooplaNow.com next Thursday, Nov. 15, as he and I delve deeper into what has driven this man to be a venerated figure in American pop culture and American awareness, period.
Then grab a ticket to his Nov. 16 show at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids. He promised to keep the audience — and me — in stitches.
“And I’ll hurt you again — every 30 years,” he said, recalling my very first question nearly an hour before. That made my heart sing.
Then I bought a ticket.