Jerry Seinfeld made a documentary film about a decade ago called Comedian which explored the backstage experiences of a working stand up comic. There’s a scene where they talk with reverence and awe about seeing Bill Cosby perform at a time when the great Cos could still, in his 70s, entertain an audience for two hours without notes.
My favorite Cosby bit is one of his longest. “To Russell, my Brother whom I Slept With” – I just assume you have as much extra time as I do on Sunday mornings (the only day we open the record shop late otherwise I would have chosen the one-and-a-half minute “Lone Ranger” routine). If you’re going to spend it listening to something goofy on the internet, this routine isn’t the worst investment of your time. It’s a masterpiece of pacing and timing, and of vocal inflection and range. Only Cos could take two brothers sharing a bed and tell such a memorable story.
My brother and I shared a room but not a bed. There was a bookshelf between us. At least once the bookshelf was tipped over onto one side or another. The rest of the nights we just threw things over it in the spirit of “Battleship”. Now that I have two kids of my own sharing a room, I can say I understand the idea behind putting shelves between us, even if it all seems kind of silly in my recollection. If there’s anything about losing my brother it’s those sort of shared recollection that have become lost. There’s not a living soul in the world who remembers throwing stuffed animals and blocks over that bookcase like we did. They say losing a sibling is a unique experience because you lose not only your future but a link to your past. It’s the damned sad truth.
Our little ones – three and four – don’t get into as much mischief at bedtime as Bill and Russell did. They sneak into our room, they ask for all sorts of things to stall bedtime (“No, the blue one” or “Just one more hug please”) but I think the years of jumping on the bed and water fights are yet ahead of me. Perhaps I won’t think Cos’ story is so funny in a year or two.
(“To Russell, My Brother Whom I Slept With” by Bill Cosby, split into two parts)