News Column

'America's dad' coming to Dayton on Father's Day

June 7, 2014

By Amelia Robinson, Dayton Daily News, Ohio

June 07--One of the nation's most beloved dads never really asked for the honor.

"I still say I am not America's dad," Bill Cosby told us last week in a phone interview. "The media puts something out and they like it, and it is tough for you to get rid of it."

The comedian and actor will no doubt be cast in that role when he comes to Dayton on Sunday, June 15 -- Father's Day.

Cosby will perform at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. show at the Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St. Tickets start at $39.25.

The activist and bestselling author of books including "Fatherhood" said his reputation as one of the country's favorite papas comes from the Huxtables -- the TV family he and his team of writers created for NBC's "The Cosby Show," which aired for eight seasons beginning in 1984.

Much of the wisdom people attribute to Cliff and Clair Huxtable comes from Harvard School of Medicine Psychologist Alvin F. Poussaint, a consultant on the show, Cosby said.

Scripts were given to Poussaint, who provided comments and alternatives. Cosby said he adhered to much of the good doctor's advice.

"Many of the comedy writers hated it because it took away their little punchline and what they thought was funny, but I just threw their stuff in the trash can when they would come back and want it to be done. I wanted to do what the psychologist is saying is healthful and helpful," Cosby said. "I care about children, and I care about families. And I think that if you are going to be a parent, you really and truly would like some kind of picture that would work."

Cosby says that he is routinely stopped by people who grew up watching his show and catch it now in reruns.

"They will say 'I watch your show now in the reruns and I still laugh for a different reason. I am a parent and so I see it now from the side of Cliff and Clair. And then they will say 'my children love the show also and they are laughing at it because they are laughing from the side of the children'," Cosby said. "Then I would tells somebody 'I like the show when I see it in reruns because I enjoy what I was sort of futuristically writing about the grandparents' part.'"

We chatted with Cosby about topics ranging from parenthood to Central State University. Here are some of the highlights:

On what fans can expect during his show next week...

"My job for at least an hour and a half is to cause these people to laugh and smile and have a feeling amongst themselves that they would like to know how I was able to connect to them. Was I in their house? How did I sneak in their house? Who sent material to me? The idea is the feeling in the storytelling...

I really don't work differently from the usual comedians who are talking about raising children and being parents. It works with the behaviors of the children and the reactions of the parent to the children. I do feel that the way I work is in performance. I play different characters. When I talk about having a brother, I will play that brother. There is a theme that I may work on and the theme is that I don't understand what comedians mean when they say they were poor and they didn't know it."

On today's technology and how it impacts parenting...

"Parenting is essentially the same no matter what. It is you and your mate and the children. Your job is to raise them. Your job is to keep them out of harm's way. Your job is to deal with their behaviors as they go through the hormonal changes and to explain to them education, et cetera, et cetera..

"When it comes to parenting, if it is today, then you deal with the different social media, the different tools that they have. You deal with your prices of a pair of shoes. You deal with your church and the way you can walk in and think nothing of it when your kid has on an Adidas sweatshirt as opposed to a jacket and tie."

On being misquoted ...

"I have seen things attributed to me that I never said," Cosby said. "( In the 'I'm 76 and tired' email,) he says my name is 'Bill Cosby' then he says my age -- which is wrong -- and then he says 'I am tired.' And then he makes a list of all the things I am supposed to be tired of. And people pass it around. Then I go up on my website and say I never said that and then I get my lawyer to find the people and say, 'look, stop and desist, and don't do that' and they pop up again."

On being a grandparent to an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old...

"I've met people who are my age in their 70s and they think that the grandchildren happen to be a gift from God. And my goodness, I look at my grandchildren and I don't see (it). Maybe the wrapping was different or something. Then I have to laugh and remember the person we raised happens to be the parent of these kids and then I get a better understanding of why ... To be a grandparent, you have to be careful as to what you are saying. Even though you are the father of one of the mates, you are in kind of a touchy area of what you say to somebody's (else's) child."

On CSU and other historical black colleges...

"In my neighborhood as a teenager in high school, Central State had a strong image and recruitment in Philadelphia, Pa. The fellow I played football with at Central High School in Philadelphia went to Central State...

My interest in Central State was similar to my interest in Lincoln University just outside of Philadelphia and also to Cheyney University, which is a HBCU. I put in a lot of time and money. Mrs. Cosby and I did want to uplift the school and did some fundraising...

What I know about HBCUs is that the professors and the faculty, in my opinion, are still great civil rights activists because they really and truly make sure that if you want it. That if you want that education, they will give it to you and you will be more than prepared to move on to your career, your job and your graduate school."


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