Truly, laughter is the best medicine and the Center for the Arts, in collaboration with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, has achieved another coup, bringing Bill Cosby to the fairgrounds July 5.
Although Cosby is no spring chicken (he is turning 76 on the 15th of this month), you would never know it. He has lost none of the sharp-eyed observations of life’s ordinary moments that the rest of us hardly notice and that he brings to hilarious life.
Casually sauntering out from behind a curtain and across a plain stage furnished only with a chair, small table and water, he muttered with a half grin, “I have a feeling I know why they call this cannabis valley!”
From this irreverent beginning, he segued into a moving remembrance of the “power of what happened to Nelson Mandela in South Africa.”
Acknowledging that Mandela lies close to death, Cosby referred to the man as “one of the greatest” and admonished the audience to take time to reflect on someone special to them as well as the times we live in.
After two minutes of silence accompanied by a recording of Marian Anderson’s rendition of “Ave Maria” and just when the audience began to wonder where the comedy was, off Cosby went.
His story of how he tricked Mandela into believing that Tarzan, Jane and Boy were friends he was looking for, complete with hippos, crocodiles and hunters searching for ivory, moved Mandela to say: “You pulled my arm so good that time!”
As always, Cosby’s riffs on children (he has five of his own, four girls and a boy who was tragically murdered as a young man) made for wonderful, meandering moments of smiles punctuated by seconds of bent-over, can’t-breathe hilarity. Cosby took the audience through every stage of life — pregnancy, labor, toddlerhood, teenage years, adult children and grandparenting.
“I can’t understand,” he asked. “If Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge, how come their race of children is still so stupid?”
Cosby, who has been married to wife Camille for 49 years, had plenty of material on marriage and explained how, really, everything, despite appearances, belongs to his wife — the house, the kids — everything.
When he asked one of his kids to go upstairs to his bedroom and get his slippers and six hours came and went and no slippers, he realized the child didn’t know Dad had a bedroom — he thought it was all Mom’s.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day both came in for their share of spoofs, especially the “World’s Greatest Dad” mug annual gift.
Cosby, who won his first Grammy in 1965 for comedy albums, is particularly dedicated to education.
He and his wife have given $20 million to Spelman College, and Cosby has been awarded the Marian Anderson Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his extensive philanthropic work, especially on behalf of children.
But his tongue is tart. On children coming back home after college: “Who let ’em back? Leave ’em out there.”
To a young man on his wedding day: “Replace the father of the bride with the groom’s mother. Now you can see your whole life — the woman who brought you into the world and the woman who will take you out!”
Part of a series called “Laughter is the Best Medicine” staged by the Center for the Arts and sponsored by Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Cosby is the third comedian after Paul Reiser and Dana Carvey to appear.
Studies show the stress of daily life often leads to disease, and laughter helps strengthen the immune system.
Those lucky enough to be present were also treated to the masterful musicality of Lorraine Gervais’ Band renditions of blues, jazz and Motown that opened the show.
A gloriously cool evening after the brutal heat wave that hit Nevada County for close to a week almost stole the show. Beautiful weather, laughter, delicious treats and libations, plus the pleasure of hilarity shared with friends — what more could you ask for?
Each one of the 2,000-plus audience members gathered under the trees left with a grin on their faces and a lift in their hearts.
Lynn Wenzel lives in Grass Valley.