The Cosby Show debuted on NBC thirty years ago last fall, but people aren’t likely to remember him for his role as the playful Cliff Huxtable. Rather, his legacy has been forever overtaken by accusations of sexual assault spanning more than 30 years. Starting in 2004 and reaching critical mass in 2014 thanks to a stand-up bit Hannibal Buress performed in Cosby’s hometown of Philadelphia, 30 women have so far accused the comedian of abuse.
But before these accusations, Cosby was considered one of the funniest men of all time, America’s dad, and he was an inspiration to many comedians. Howard Stern has since spoken to Cosby’s (former) biggest fans – comedians themselves – about the controversy. Here’s what they’ve had to say:
“It’s a weird thing. Somebody filmed my show in Philly. I’ve been doing that bit off and on for six months, talking about the Cosby situation, but it’s just information that’s out there. That wasn’t my intention to make it part of a big discussion, it was just something that I was doing at that venue right then. So then for somebody to put it to the media, it’s crazy.”
“I think a lot of people knew he was a really bad guy, people didn’t think it was this. They just thought, this is a bad dude [but] they didn’t think he was a violent, criminal bad dude. There’s all sorts of racial reasons, I mean he represents such great triumph that people don’t want to tear him down. I think it’s important to tear him down because there are better people to look up to. If you don’t stand up for the women, and if you don’t say, ‘I believe you and this should ever happen again,’ women will not speak up and say they’ve been attacked. So when you don’t give him a hard time, you’re disrespecting all the victims.”
“It’s very f*cked up. I didn’t [want to believe it] for a long time. And there is some weird formula there to ask yourself about, like how many women does it take? I loved him when I was a kid. I loved him. I saw him in Montreal a few years ago do a concert, and I was blown away. It was maybe the best live stand-up I’ve ever seen. It’s a really weird thing because now it’s like what do you say about it now? His comedy is what it was still. He was still the influence that he was, but it’s erased now. It’s hard to [enjoy his comedy now]. I don’t know how to feel about all of it. It’s a really complicated thing.”
“Look, I think when 23 women come forward, there’s something there.”
Speaking of the prank he pulled on Bill Cosby in the ‘80s, convincing him that he had won a non-existent lifetime achievement award from Harvard, O’Brien said, “I think his pranks since then have been better. I think he’s topped me. I love this sentence, serial rape aside …”
“I don’t know what happened, man. Look, I can’t go one way or the other. I can’t defend [him], I can only defend the guy’s one of the greatest comedians to ever ever live.”