Thursday, May 4, 2006

An Evening Among Friends II - Cosby

Our local paper covered the performance very well. Read about it in the Richmond Register.


I decided to copy the story and picture here so I'd have it, even if the Richmond Register link broke:

Cosby proves himself a master of comedy
Bill Robinson
Register Feature Writer

Bill Cosby is such a master of comedy, he merely has to squint or look out of the corner of one eye to make people laugh.

Cosby may not have invented the situation comedy, but he has certainly perfected the art of finding humor in almost any situation.The best-selling author, who was star of televisions long-running, top-rated Bill Cosby Show, brought his wry sense of humor to Richmond on Sunday for St. Mark Catholic Church's second annual "Evening with Friends".

Proceeds from Cosby's church-sponsored appearances will benefit St. Mark's building fund as well as Madison County Habitat for Humanity and the Enis Cosby Foundation.

After performing before a packed house at Eastern Kentucky Universitys 1,850-seat Brock Auditorium in the afternoon, Cosby gave a second, more intimate performance to another packed house of more than 500 Sunday evening in the St. Mark sanctuary. Extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd.

Prior to his performance, Cosby met a number of patrons who had paid extra to met the world-famous entertainer and be photographed with him.

Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington and Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher with his wife Glenna were among the many out-of-town guests who heard Cosby at the church.

Fletcher said he had spoken on the phone with Cosby last year to invite him to the Kentucky Derby. "I had an uncle named Ernie Fletcher who is now deceased," Fletcher said Cosby told him. "It's interesting to learn that hes come back as a white man and is now governor of Kentucky," Cosby said.

Before Cosby spoke, Richmond Mayor Connie Lawson recalled meeting Cosby about 35 years ago in Las Vegas. "My husband and I had gone to Las Vegas to see Elvis Presley perform," she said. "In the hotel elevator we met Bill Cosby dressed to play tennis. He told us he had to hurry to his room and change. Elvis had canceled his show and he would have to go on early."

The Rev. Robert Blythe, pastor of the First Baptist Church on Francis Street, who also serves as Richmond's mayor pro tem, said he had gleaned lots of sermon topics from lessons that Cosby in his TV role of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable had taught his children.

Taking his cue from his performance location, Cosby, who was dressed in a St. Mark Lions sweatsuit, worked religious humor into his show.

Growing up in a Protestant family, Cosby said he regarded Catholics as quiet people. "They could communicate with God using hand gestures," he said. "They didn't have to shout the way we Protestants did."

Cosby said both his grandmothers were Methodists, while both his grandfathers were Baptists. One grandfather was a Baptist preacher.

As a child, Cosby said he was awakened at 5 a.m. every Sunday by his father to be present as his grandfather led the family in prayer.

The prayers sessions often lasted for extended periods. "I'd be praying that he would get done quickly, so we could eat the fried chicken, biscuit and gravy breakfast that was waiting for us," Cosby said.

Much of his grandfather's Sunday morning prayers were unintelligible, Cosby recalled. After he joined the U.S. Navy as a 19-year-old, Cosby attended a Catholic worship service with a buddy. "A lot of the service was in Latin, and I couldn't understand it," Cosby said. "It reminded me of my grandfather's prayers."

During one visit home from the Navy, Cosby worked up the courage to tell his grandfather that he did not understand a lot of what he was saying as he prayed. "I wasnt talking to you," his grandfather informed him.

In much of Cosby's routine, he lamented his role as the hapless husband, always in trouble with the "little woman".

Whoever came up with the term "little woman"? he asked. Going over to Bob Geiger who was sitting near the stage with his wife, Cosby asked how long he had been married. "Forty-two years," Geiger replied. "How long before you found out you weren't the boss?" Cosby asked. "About two minutes," said Geiger, as the audience roared with laughter.

"I idolized Bill Cosby as a kid," said Kevin Rahimzadeh after the performance. "To see him in person is a dream come true."

Pat Reister said, "I thought he'd eventually run out of laughs, but he just kept them coming."

Bishop Gainer thanked Cosby for his generosity in coming to Richmond. He also congratulated Father James Sichko of St. Mark on the success achieved in two successive "Evenings with Friends".

Not many people, and "certainly not many clergy could pull this off," he said. "This is one church event where we passed the collection plate ahead of time," the bishop joked.

Father Sichkos mother, Thereze Sichko of Orange, Texas, came to Richmond for "An Evening with Friends". While his decision to enter the priesthood came as a surprise to her, his success and staging fund-raising events did not, Mrs. Sichko said.

"I've got 20 scrapbooks at home from all of his church as school activities as a boy," she said. As a high school student, her son organized disaster drills, among many other activities, she recalled.

As a college student at the New England Conservatory of Music, her son raised $25,000 and secured many in-kind donations to bring the conservatory choir to Texas for a performance in his hometown.

Before Cosby came on stage, Father Sichko and Bishop Gainer presented the parishs annual awards. The honorees included: Julia Hinkle, who joined St. Mark in 1938; Dr. and Mrs. James Bennett, who hosted last years "Evening with Friends", Deacon Richard Jackson and his wife Madeline, who have been married for more than 60 years; and church volunteer leaders Emma Esker and Ellen Kessler.

Gil and Carla Smith won an autographed caricature of Cosby that was raffled off as part of the fund-raising event.

St. Mark plans a third annual "Evening with Friends" for next year. A special guest has been secured, but will not be revealed until later, Father Sichko said. "Today is about Bill Cosby and An Evening with Friends."

Bill Robinson can be reached at or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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