Bill Cosby
Treasure Island Theatre
Friday, March 1, 2013

By Josh Bell

At 75 years old, Bill Cosby comes across sort of like a crotchety grandfather, but while he may have sometimes acted befuddled and hesitant, there was never a moment during his 90-minute show at Treasure Island in Las Vegas when he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. He took the stage wearing a flannel shirt (not a sweater, alas) and loose-fitting cargo pants, on a set that looked like it was lifted from his living room (a rug, a chair with a sweatshirt draped over it, an end table with bottled water and a box of tissues, even a trash can).

comedy review

Cosby is more of a sit-down comic than a stand-up comic these days, but the fact that he delivered nearly his entire performance seated in that chair didn’t make it any less engaging. Instead, it felt like an evening with a particularly cantankerous family member, one who’d never let you get a word in edgewise and would never consider the possibility that someone else’s opinion was valid. Cosby did engage with the audience – he even seemed overly sensitive at times, stopping at the sound of someone dropping a bottle and when a child started making noise. But in both cases he used the disruption as a chance for a comedic tangent; in response to the fussy child, he detoured into some of his most well-known subject matter, talking about the indignities of the childbirth process.

That digression came in the middle of a very long segment about the Bible’s Book of Genesis, which went on for more than half an hour and featured long stretches without anything resembling a joke. Cosby is as much a storyteller as he is a joke-teller, so he had no trouble holding the audience’s attention even when he wasn’t specifically being funny, though his belabored analogy between Adam and Eve’s relationship and modern marriage did eventually run a little thin.

Most of Cosby’s extensive material about marriage was pretty musty, relying on well-worn gender stereotypes that were outdated when his eponymous sitcom was a hit on NBC. As he reminded the audience numerous times, he’s been married for 49 years, so maybe it’s unfair to expect him to expand his views on the matter, but time hasn’t exactly been kind to Cosby’s perspective.

His chunks about men’s obligations to buy fancy engagement rings and the way wives take over the home and run their husbands’ lives did contain funny lines along the way. (“Forty-nine years and I have one drawer left. I don’t know where it is.”) But he also sounded out of touch and even a little worn out, asserting that “Your wife is not your friend,” and painting nearly every aspect of marriage as adversarial. The audience laughed and applauded, and one or two people even shouted, “We love you!,” so it’s obvious that Cosby’s observations still strike a chord. Like the stubborn, opinionated family member, he’s loved and appreciated, even if his point of view seems increasingly less relevant.

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