Bill Cosby brings one-man show to Fresno's Saroyan Theatre

The Fresno BeeFebruary 26, 2014 

Bill Cosby will perform Saturday at Saroyan Theatre.

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

You can't interrupt Bill Cosby.

Even if it were possible to get a word in during your hourlong phone interview with the 76-year-old comedian, it's just bad form.

It's an interview that feels more like a private performance and at the end your face hurts from smiling, which tells you what to expect when his one-man show stops at the Saroyan Theatre on Saturday.

Face-hurting, side-splitting, tears-rolling-down-the-cheeks laughter; that's pretty much the standard review from those who have seen his show.

"What you're getting now is a master at the top of his game," says Cosby, when you finally ask about his approach to comedy. "This is not pro football. I don't have to sing. So, I'm not Frank Sinatra at 76, not being able to hit the notes," he says.

"I am a master of storytelling."

It is one of two things that influence his performances. His grandfather was a master storyteller and listening to him, Cosby learned to segue stories together, drifting seamlessly from seemingly unrelated topics.

"This man knew how to elongate a short story," Cosby says.

Cosby made a career of a style of comedy that relies on that long sell. Early on, he was told he wouldn't make it as a comedian if he couldn't grab the audience within the first 20 seconds of a bit. Then he saw Lenny Bruce's "The Palladium."

"He spent 30 seconds setting the thing up," Cosby says.

He realized that whole get-them-quick concept was out the window. So, while other comedians are tied to punch lines, Cosby's goal is the story.

That means that every show can be wildly different. He may have an idea of what he wants to give the audience, but he allows himself the freedom to be in the moment, moving from idea to idea as they come — even if that means forgetting where's he's at in the middle of it all.

It happens from time to time, Cosby says.

Sometime it's on purpose. It keeps the audience on their toes.

Of course, his routine, perhaps his whole career, comes with one giant caveat. It's the second thing that influences him.

Is it funny?

It's the question he asks as he's moving through his shows. It's something he can't quite explain. He just has an innate sense for it.

He remembers the first time he saw the circus — it was the Ringling Bros. — and a hundred clowns piled out of this tiny car. He didn't laugh.

"I was waiting for the funny," he says.

He contrasts that with the famous San Diego Chicken mascot.

"To see a guy dressed like that, and then to strut around like he's from off the corner. He's got attitude," Cosby says. "If they would have had the San Diego Chicken, I think I would have laughed."

SHOW INFO

Bill Cosby, 7 p.m. Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St., Fresno. Tickets are $75. Details: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

 

This reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6479, jtehee@fresnobee.com or @joshuatehee on Instagram and Twitter.

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