Editor's Note: This review was published November 30, 2013.
It Ain't Over
Bill Cosby entertains masterfully in new comedy special
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
It’s difficult to even review or criticize a new stand-up special from the master, Bill Cosby, but in “Far From Finished,” released this past week for purchase in both audio and video formats, what one notices most, if thinking critically about what Cosby does, is his pace and his pauses.
The CD version of Cosby’s special, made first for Comedy Central, is certainly enjoyable, but the video version gives the audience Cosby’s facial expressions along with his stories and jokes. It’s not that the performance is lacking without these, but they undeniably add a dimension to what he’s saying.
Most of the material in “Far From Finished” is about Cosby’s long lifetime of experience with marriage, raising children, and now, domestic life as a senior citizen. Within this, Cosby will flash a certain, distinct clueless smile to punctuate something he’s said -- pretending he doesn’t know what his wife means, wants or is asking him about.
At age 76, Cosby still tours the US frequently (see review, 4/6/09), and while his physicality as a performer has slowed, with him doing most of these performances seated, he does still inject physical accents into the pieces at times. A notable one happens in the piece “Chocolate Chip Cookies,” which gains a lot from being viewed rather than just heard. In it, Cosby likens the dialogue with his wife about whether he was sneaking a treat at a bakery, to a swordfight. Repeating each thing he said and each thing his wife said, he squirms and almost rises from the chair, miming cutting motions and parries with swords. With this added to the performance, the audience gets another dimension, seeing how successful or unsuccessful each attempted evasion and each probing question was.
That’s just one set piece. There are longer portions of this special where Cosby patiently and deliberately explains the difference between a wife and a girlfriend. In these, his slower, almost drawling pace, builds the tension, making it all that stronger when the break of laughter comes. His skills as a performer, seen so vividly in the classic “Himself” special decades ago, are still there – he’s just channeling them differently with age.
In “Far From Finished,” Bill Cosby gives audiences a reminder of why he is so revered, even sitting down, for his stand-up comedy work.
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