No Laughing Matter

In the past couple of months, beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby has weathered a slew of rape allegations by a growing number of women. Many women have came forward and have accused Cosby drugging and sexually assaulting them while they were incapacitated. Some of the women involved claim that Cosby would force himself on them and grope them even without them being incapacitated.

Bill Cosby

While they may appear shocking, the allegations are nothing new. Back in 2005, thirteen of the twenty women who have since came out against Cosby filed a suit under Andrea Constand, director of operations for Temple University’s women’s basketball team and one of the women he allegedly drugged and raped. The case was settled in 2006 on undisclosed terms and was quickly forgotten about by the media and the public. The allegations would rise up every now and then thought the years. Each time they reached the public eye, the allegations would be quietly and quickly be swept under the rug. Bill Cosby’s propensity to have an interest in younger protégés even became somewhat of a well-known secret in the comedy world.

Tina Fey was one of those people that were aware of what Cosby did, and is one of the few who has called him out over it in the past. Fey’s Anti-Cosby campaign began in 2005, when she and fellow actress Amy Poehler co-hosted a segment on Saturday Night Live. In the skit, Fey reports that a California lawyer alleged that Cosby had drugged and tried to molest her thirty years ago. Poehler asks Fey if Kenan Thompson, SNL’s resident Cosby impersonator, was going to come out and impersonate Cosby. The rest of the skit goes as follows:

Tina Fey: [doing a Bill Cosby impression] No, Kenan is not coming out because of the “Fat Albert,” and the money, and the sequels!’

Amy Poehler: [also doing a Bill Cosby impression] Of course he can’t talk about the boobies, and the groping, and the pudding pops!

Tina Fey: Because it would upset Mr. Cosby, and his wife, Camiiillle!

[Kenan enters and stands behind Tina and Amy]

Kenan Thompson: Wow, thanks for that. Great job, you guys. I didn’t say any of that, because Kenan Thompson loves to work, Okay? Peace.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

While the skit was mostly just brushed off as a joke, it did hit a very crucial point as to why not very many of Cosby’s colleagues have criticized him. Kenan Thompson, like many other black actors and comedians in the industry, got his start because of Bill Cosby. Cosby’s influential position and intimidating legacy led many to simply keep their mouth shut about the allegations, fearing that if they spoke out against him, they would possibly lose their jobs.

Tina Fey had the courage to criticize Cosby not once, but twice. She did it again in 2009 on the show 30 Rock during the third season episode The Bubble. In that episode, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) asks a Bill Cosby impersonator to convince Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) to return to host the fictional show The Girlie Show.

Bill Cosby Impersonator: “I want you to come back to the TGS for the people who like the jokes and the things.”

Tracy Jordan: “Bill Cosby?! You got a lot of nerve getting on the phone with me after what you did to my Aunt Paulette!”

Bill Cosby Impersonator: “I think you’re confusing me with someone else.”

Tracy Jordan:  “1971. Cincinnati. She was the cocktail waitress with the droopy eye!”

Bill Cosby Impersonator: “I’m the guy … With the pudding … ”

Tracy Jordan: “You trying to tell me what to do, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable with your light-ass kids?! Jack, why would you make me talk with this man?!”

Despite the allegations being pretty well known (at least among comedians), they have mainly remained out of the limelight. That is, until recently. The story resurfaced, and this time with a vengeance, back in October when comedian Hannibal Buress made a joke about Cosby drugging and raping women at a show in Philadelphia. Burress said he’s been performing the joke at some previous performances, but this time was different because a member of the audience managed to get it on tape and upload it to YouTube.

In the joke, Burress talks about how he finds it ironic that Bill Cosby is regarded as such a role model despite having been accused of drugging and raping thirteen women at the time.

Thirteen? And it’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the f*cking smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom. Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches. I don’t curse on stage. Well, yeah, you’re a rapist, so, I’ll take you sayin’ lots of motherf*ckers on Bill Cosby: Himself if you weren’t a rapist. …I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. …I’ve done this bit on stage, and people don’t believe. People think I’m making it up. …That sh*t is upsetting. If you didn’t know about it, trust me. You leave here and Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ It’s not funny. That sh*t has more results than Hannibal Buress.

Perhaps another reason why the allegations against Bill Cosby were never really taken seriously is simply his mass appeal and near universal respect. After all, his sitcom The Cosby Show  propelled him to the role of America’s dad. He became a role model for the black youth, a black man who made it where no other black mad had previously gone. People find it excruciatingly difficult to accept that the comedian and father figure they grew up with, who had such a clean and righteous reputation, is indeed, a rapist. But people like Tina Fey and Hannibal Burress grew up after Cosby’s heyday. They didn’t see him as the beloved patriarch who could do no wrong, they just saw him as a business mogul.

Bill Cosby has mostly remained quite in the face of all these allegations against him. Cosby’s painful silence was epitomized during his NPR interview. The interviewer, Scott Simon, asked Cosby if he had anything to say about all the allegations made against him in the past couple of months. Cosby refused to answer and just sat in silence, shaking his head.

Cosby spoke out recently, breaking his silence. Well, sort of. In an interview with freelance reporter Stacy Brown of the New York Post, Cosby shared his views on how “the black media” should handle and report the story rather than talk about the allegations themselves. “Let me say this,” the 77-year-old told the reporter. “I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that, you have to go in with a neutral mind.”

While the allegations have yet to be proven true, Cosby’s reputation and fame has taken a massive tumble. Following the Buress’s comments on Cosby, Netflix first postponed and then canceled Cosby’s stand-up special that was meant to come out on Thanksgiving weekend. The rising number of women made TV Land follow suit by pulling all reruns of Cosby’s magnum opus The Cosby Show from their channel. NBC also scrapped the sitcom that they were developing for Cosby.

With the number of women that are coming out accusing Cosby growing, he was forced to resign from his alma mater’s (Temple University) board of trustees. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst also cut ties with Cosby. Cosby’s honorary title of Chief Petty Officer which was bestowed upon him in 2011 was revoked by the Navy, in part because “allegations of sexual abuse made against the comedian are serious and conflict with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.”

The stories against Bill Cosby have a common trend. The women are mainly young actresses or models who were trying to make it big in the industry. Bill Cosby, perhaps finding them attractive and because of their age, naïve, reached out to them as a “mentor” who would help them establish themselves. The women were enticed by the promises of roles on The Cosby Show and simply because of Cosby’s influence and legacy. He invites them to his apartment and offers them a drink, often red wine or coffee. They would drink what Cosby had given them and soon afterwards begin feeling woozy. They slowly fade into unconsciousness, with the image of Cosby mounting or fondling them the last thing they see before passing out. The following morning, they wake up groggy and disoriented, with a pain in their genital region. Cosby calls a taxi for them and kicks him out of his apartment.

Bill Cosby has yet to address the ever-growing mountain of allegations, but his lawyer Martin Singer has spoken out. Singer accused one of the women of extortion and he’s said another women’s allegations are nothing but a “fabricated lie”. It’s one thing to remain silent in the face of this barrage of accusations, but it’s a completely different thing to go and call the women who accused him liars who are only doing it for the money or the fame. That argument simply makes no sense whatsoever. The statue of limitations expired a while ago, so why would these women put themselves through the public ridicule of slut shamming for recognition or money? Why would twenty separate women lie about something of this magnitude? Some of the women, such as Janice Dickison and Beverly Johnson, have no need to use these allegations to gain more publicity or fame; they are well-known already.

Beverly Johnson

Cosby has been doing whatever he could do to ensure that these allegations never came out to the public. He would pay off women, or use his legacy to intimidate these women into staying silent for as long as they did. With the accusations flaring up more than never before, Cosby has hired a ‘battalion of private investigators‘ in order to dig up dirt on his accusers in an attempt to discredit them. Perhaps Cosby was living his life with the hopes that these allegations would never be known and that he would take them to his grave. Perhaps Cosby was confident his reputation as America’s favorite would remain untarnished. After all, you either you die as the hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

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