Monday, December 28, 2015

Mark of Cosby

The other day, the little Goofs were excited to see their grandparents who, as a matter of course, would shower them with gifts and affection. I was going to say: 
These are my parents, they aren't nice. These are old people trying to get into heaven.
But I didn't say it, because it is a Bill Cosby line. This happens a lot, he said a lot of very funny things.

What can we do with this vast corpus of brilliant material. He was very funny, his humor touched on the fundamentals of family and childhood. He was a story-teller par excellence. But now, given his massive, heinous crimes, it all leaves a bad taste.

In my research study politicians, people who make tough calls and do unpleasant things. I am pretty understanding and forgiving, it was Max Weber in his essay on "Black Hands" who observed that people who wish to remain pure should not go into politics.

But, there are moral absolutes. When someone I admire because they did great things and appeared to remain decent turns out to have flaws that are beyond the pale... Well this isn't about a god having clay feet, which I can understand and accept, it turns their work into a steaming pile of crap.

In a previous life I took a stab at being a stand-up comedian. I wasn't bad - not brilliant - but not bad. I'll write about it sometime.

But I speak with some authority when I say, the greatest crime among comedians is stealing material. Comedians aren't just performers they are a unique one-person show mining whatever wounds are in their heart to an audience for laughs. They are more akin to novelists, but without the comfortable remove. Stealing someone's material is deep, bad stuff - it's appropriating their life, it isn't stealing, it's kidnapping - or murdering their children. 

I can't reference Bill Cosby material because, as a former member of the fraternity, I must say where the joke came from if it isn't my own. And I don't want to say his name.

So here is my proposal. Bill Cosby's material is now public domain. Tell his jokes and don't cite him. Performers should make careers off of his material and not mention him (except maybe to donate the proceeds to his victims.)

This is an imperfect response. There is no perfect justice. What he did cannot be undone. Assuming actual criminal punishment is not possible, Cosby will end his days alone and despised with only his cold millions for company. It should make the end of Citizen Kane look like a warm family scene by comparison.

When Cain became the first murderer he wasn't killed, but instead was branded with a mark and forced to wander the earth, accepted nowhere. I say we brand him as well, the Mark of Cosby.