Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Revenge"

Today is Bill Cosby's birthday.

That seems, at first blush, like a rather obscure fact for me to know — but then, I am a veritable warehouse of obscure facts. Few of these, however, are dates, and even fewer are birthdays of people I've never met. So it's strange that I recall Bill Cosby's birthday so vividly.

The reason? "Revenge."

"Revenge" was the title of a Cosby stand-up routine that appeared on one of his hit comedy albums of the 1960s — an album entitled, not coincidentally, Revenge. Like most of Cosby's bits, "Revenge" wasn't a joke or even a series of jokes. It was a story drawn from his life experience — in this case, his childhood in Philadelphia.

I'll summarize the narrative briefly. One snowy winter's day, the young Cosby had been struck in the head with an icy snowball hurled by the neighborhood bully, one Junior Barnes. Adding insult to injury, Junior Barnes had laughed at Bill for his stunned reaction to the assault.

Bill wanted revenge.

On his way home, Bill made a snowball — "so round and so perfect" — and tucked it away in his family's freezer, to await the day when it could be used as the instrument of vengeance against Junior Barnes.

Over the succeeding months, Bill curried the friendship of Junior Barnes. He laughed at Junior's jokes. He shared his prized possessions with Junior. Bill even let Junior drink from his orange soda bottle without even wiping it off. With cunning calculation, Bill lulled Junior Barnes into complacency.

Bill wanted revenge.

It was July 12th. Bill Cosby's birthday. It was 104 degrees in the shade. Not a snowball in sight. As Junior Barnes waited on the Cosbys' front stoop, Bill entered the house, ostensibly to get a treat to share with his pal. Bill went to the kitchen. He opened the freezer...

"...and my mother had thrown the snowball away."

So he went back outside and spat on Junior Barnes instead.

All right, it's much funnier when Cosby tells it. But that's why I remember that July 12th is Bill Cosby's birthday. Have a happy 68th, Bill, wherever you are.

5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

I will never watch the Cosby Show the same way again.

11:16 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Cosby has become so firmly identified with that sitcom that many people younger than I don't realize that at one time, he was the most popular -- and funniest -- standup comic on the planet. His classic albums from the '60s -- Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow: Right!, I Started Out as a Child, Why Is There Air?, Wonderfulness, Revenge, and the wonderful To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With -- are all as hilarious (and relevant) today as they were 40 years ago.

11:49 AM  
Blogger frinklin offered these pearls of wisdom...

My personal favorite moment in "Revenge" is the ludicrous word Cosby comes up for to describe Junior Barnes: You GUNKIE!

I have, since I was 13 years old and first heard that, wondered exactly a "gunkie" was.

10:35 PM  
Anonymous Lauren offered these pearls of wisdom...

You don't know me, but I found your blog thanks to Google. See, I'm 22 years old and I know Bill Cosby as a stand-up comedian. Actually, whenever I watch the Cosby Show I always catch the references to his stand-up work!

I was listening to Revenge tonight with a friend and was laughing about Bill calling Junior Barnes a "Gunkie" and I got curious as to how you actually spell "Gunkie" and so I typed it into Google and got your July 12th, 2005 post on Bill Cosby's Revenge!

Completely random of course, but it makes me incredibly happy to know that there are other avid Cosby stand-up fans. My family took many a road trip listening to his words of wisdom and wit! My brother and I can recite them all.

My personal favorite is "To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With."

Thanks for helping me spell "Gunkie!"

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Martin offered these pearls of wisdom...

Hi - Martin from Germany here. Looking for Cosby material, I stumbled across this thread, reminding me of some unfinished business of my own... When still in school, I listened to and greatly enjoyed a German stand-up comedian (sort of), J├╝rgen von der Lippe, do a routine called "Rache". Now, about a year later, in 1988, I met my first serious girl-friend, an exchange student from Indiana, and she enlightened me in more than one way... one being the introduction to Bill Cosby's art of stand-up comedy in shape of a copy of "Revenge". I listened with great interest to the story about his nemesis Junior Barnes... realizing all of a sudden not only that the title of the German guy's routine, when translated, means the same as Cosby's - revenge -, but that the German dude had simply translated Cosby's material, only changing the bully's name to the teutonic "Udo Lohmeier", and then palmed it all off as his own. That act of piracy (though well executed) has irked me to this day, and I'm happy to have finally got it off my chest! :-) Being much older and wiser now (not), I consider the "theft" more as a tribute to Cosby's greatness, and, after all, it raised my interest in the master's art. Cheers, Martin

1:23 PM  

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