Bill Cosby introduced a newly elected Mayor L. Douglas Wilder at his inauguration at Greater Richmond Convention Center four years ago, full of pomp and finger-wagging. “Don't be surprised if he fires the whole city,” Cosby warned Richmonders on Jan. 2, 2005.
Cosby returned last week to lecture at Virginia Commonwealth University's Siegel Center, and this time Wilder, whose days as mayor are dwindling along with his popularity, introduced Cosby. The school may be one of the few places in town where the mayor's name still draws cheers.
“There is nobody like Bill Cosby,” Wilder said, hugging him onstage.
Wilder, 77, and Cosby, 71, have some things in common. Both men are in the twilight of their careers, yet still enjoy the attention of media and the public. Both are successful black men, whose talents and abilities seem to appeal equally across racial barriers.
Cosby, who's become known for his criticism of youth culture in recent years, continued his crusade against irresponsible young people and sprinkled a few jokes between his sharp rhetoric.
“I'm not here,” he said when a mobile phone rang in the audience.
The author of the book “Fatherhood” ridiculed the mind-set of young people, who he described as easily influenced by peers and who took their parents for granted. Youth fashion was also a target for the comedian: “You want to wear your pants all down your crack? You're in college!” he yelped. “Value yourself!”
Cosby, who gave the first lecture in the L. Douglas Wilder Lectureship Series, can be crotchety, confused and embarrassing, but he's still the beloved patriarch. Even after a frank discussion about teenage sex -- “I just want to come. You want to come inside me?” -- complete with sound effects, as small children listened beside their parents.
“Protect the children of the children, before they have children,” he implored. “So they don't get depressed.”
Like his friend Wilder, Cosby doesn't think much of his potential successors. The mayor, who declined to endorse a candidate for his position in the recent election, once replied, “Where are they?” when asked about the next generation of politicians. Cosby isn't impressed with some of today's black comedians.
“Black comics? Kiss my foot,” he said, after calling comedian and writer Paul Mooney an “idiot.” He also blasted CNN, which broadcasts a political talk show hosted by a black comedian, for giving them a forum.
At the end of the evening, the gentler Cosby answered a couple of student questions. After a lengthy story about his poor upbringing and his rise to fortune and fame, the comedian confirmed, yes, he really does love Jell-O Pudding Pops.