Though I was not born during the heyday of The Cosby Show, I was able to reap the benefits of the hilarious sitcom on Nick @ Nite as reruns. I noticed that not only was this a peculiar and enjoyable form of comedy, it often educated on several facets of African American culture.
When the floodgates opened as Bill Cosby was accused of these heinous rapes and violations, I felt a piece of my childhood shudder and quake. Here was a man who I had always seen as a harmless coot who, and I fully admit this, was a bit strange. Yet, I might ask you, what artist isn't a touch on the mad side?
I understand, before you all come out and rip me a nice posterior, that rape is a vicious, demoralizing, and disgusting crime.
Yet, in that same vein, isn't Frank Sinatra reprehensible for his direct ties to organized crime? Or was Mozart worthy of excommunication from the artistic community because of his numerous affairs and sexual deviations? I bring these two examples up because they show two artists who, in their personal life, were scumbags, but we still revere and adore their brilliant gifts.
Now, I ask you, why can't we do the same for Bill Cosby?
Just because he's a devious rapist and perhaps even a pedophile, does that change the fact that his comedy was singular and hilarious? Does it change the fact that his TV show paved the way for minorities to not be marginalized in primetime? Does it change the fact that he is a master of his craft and a lauded humanitarian?
Watching this clip of Cosby talking with the Albert Einstein of comedy, Groucho Marx, shows just how rip-roaringly funny these two men were:
The fact is that the man is FUNNY. Yes, he committed several devious and disgusting acts. Yes, he deserves to be in jail. Yes, he needs to atone for his past.
Yet, we don't need to discount the joy he's brought to our lives just because of his mistakes. It is still possible to laugh at this man and enjoy the genius of his comedic abilities, while disowning him as a person.
I wrote an article a few months ago entitled "Separating Art from The Artist" and I'd like to think that this present musing is an extension of my theories put forth in that piece. We can still love artists who, at their core, are destructive, vindictive, and evil human pieces of turgid slime.
You only need look at the lives of the famous artists and see the perfect distillation of this idea. In an article from The Guardian, Jonathan Jones shares the top ten most criminal visual artists. "Caravaggio was constantly in trouble for everything from hitting waiters to slandering rivals", Picasso "received stolen goods in the early 20th century when a criminal friend of a friend stole some ancient Iberian statues from the Louvre," and modern artist Banksy's "art is by definition a defiance of the law [and] has made a brilliant career of painting and stenciling in places you are not supposed to...his success is his ability to evade capture – a trial would presumably blow his famed anonymity."
These men, who have created some of the masterpieces of the art world, are flawed, real, flesh and blood, disgusting human beings. Yet, should we burn down the Louvre, just because these men must atone for their crimes by the destruction of their art?
We can all, hopefully, agree that Bill Cosby is a letch and deserves to be strung up from his testes in a cold dark room, I think that much is clear. But, we simply cannot allow our culture to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath-water. We have to learn to set our liberal sense of justice to cool just enough to be able to see the art apart from the person who created it.
I promise you that I'll be able to enjoy the comedy of Bill Cosby, no matter what the outcome of this whole mess is. Just like I listen to the music of drug-addicted Keith Richards, read the books of violent alcoholic Ernest Hemingway, and watch the movies of child-abuser Bing Crosby, I will smile and laugh when I hear Cosby land a joke like only he can.
I think it is officially time to shed this childish need for total abandonment of an artist that we feel is a reprehensible human being.
Because then, my friends, you'd have to stop reading my blog as well! (I'll let you fill in the blanks...)
And, I'll leave you not with the image of Bill Cosby, the molester, but the image of him clowning around with Madeline Kahn so expertly that I almost wet my pants the first time I witnessed it:
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In this episode, Jack (The Vegan)and Steven (The Objectivist) delve into the dark recesses of humanity, defining and identifying Ayn Rand's definition of what makes a person "evil" and the concept of schadenfreude. Also: Little Edie Beale sings a song! Jack admits to being evil in his past! And a white supremacist gets punched in the face!
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