It’s not easy to give up a good interview. The invitation to interview Bill Cosby was a big one. After all, who among us didn’t grow up with some influence from his extensive career?
But when writer Tom Durkin told me he had written a term paper about the legendary entertainer more than 40 years ago while in college, I knew he was the right man for the job.
“Way back when I was in college in the ’60s, I took an academic class run by the Black Students Union. My term paper compared the humor of Dick Gregory (before he got serious) with Bill Cosby. I concluded that Bill Cosby was the better comedian because while Gregory emphasized often divisive racial jokes, Cosby transcended race and made us all laugh. He reminded us we’re all human, all in this together,” Durkin wrote.
Monday, he got the opportunity to interview Cosby for the July 4 edition of Prospector.
“While I’ve interviewed celebrities before, I’ve never interviewed a legend. I was freaking nervous!” Durkin wrote of Monday’s interview. “I was told by his people that I was to call him Mr. Cosby and to call him exactly at 11 a.m. So he called me on my cell phone at 10:50 a.m. ‘Hi, this is Bill Cosby. You can call me any time now.’ I frantically dialed him back using audio-only Skype (don’t trust my cell phone) on my computer. He answered, ‘You took too long.’”
All kidding aside, Durkin knew going into the interview it would be difficult to come up with original questions for the storied entertainer. All the same, Cosby treated his questions with thoughtful respect and gentle humor, according to Durkin.
“I learned a long time ago, both as a peer counselor and a reporter, the fewer questions you ask, the better answers you get. With Mr. Cosby, if you ask him a question, you’d better be prepared for a long answer, a story more often than not. On the question regarding my term paper, he waxed so eloquently that I forgot what I asked him until he said with finality, ‘There. I answered your question.’ Yes, indeed, he had,” Durkin said
Durkin studied for days before the interview, reading reviews of Cosby’s shows and career, watching YouTube clips and listening to classic albums such as “Why Is There Air?” (Answer: “To fill up basketballs.”).
Read Durkin’s story from the interview in the July 4 edition of Prospector — both in print and online at http://theunion.com. The Center for the Arts presents An Evening with Bill Cosby July 5 at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The evening will begin at 7 p.m. with opening act Lorraine Gervais. Cosby is expected to take the stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $55 for Center members, $65 for non-members for lawn seating and can be purchased at the Center’s box office or at BriarPatch Co-op. For information, go to http:// thecenterforthearts.org/tickets/.
As for Durkin’s nerves? “All in all, the interview was all I’d hoped for. I had a great conversation with the real Bill Cosby. And in the end, he thanked me for the interview.”
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at email@example.com.