Bill Cosby on Making a Good ‘Muslim Cosby Show’

The actor, comedian and author called up The Root to set us straight about why the idea could actually work.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Jackie Robinson Foundation

Bill Cosby was listening when Katie Couric suggested last year that a “Muslim Cosby Show” could help combat Islamophobia in America, and he agreed. After all, didn’t the series prove to a lot of people that (surprise!) black people had families, careers, senses of humor and ugly sweaters, just like the rest of America? 

In response to The Root‘s response that the idea was oversimplified, that perhaps finding a cure for hatred toward Muslims was a little outside his area of expertise and that The Daily Show’s spoof of the limitations of the idea was hilariously on point, Cosby picked up the phone and called us from backstage at a comedy show where he was about to perform.

Sounding exactly like Cliff Huxtable giving a fatherly lecture that was at once rambling and wise, passionate and lighthearted, in-your-face honest and insightful, he let us know exactly where he was coming from. Casually. Warmly. While audibly eating dinner. (We could only imagine it was one of those sandwiches or cakes Cliff used to sneak from the kitchen, against Clair’s healthy-eating orders.)

The bottom line: No, the show wouldn’t be a perfect solution. But yes, it would be a good idea. Like The Cosby Show, it would have to start off by tiptoeing around people’s prejudices by keeping things comfortable and familiar. No caricatures, no George Lopez-style, in-your-face, everything-is-about-our-differences jokes. (How about like Tyler Perry’s stuff? Oh, scratch that — Cosby has basically no idea who the guy is and won’t comment on him.)

By leveraging the universal appeal of family, he says, the program would force people who have unfounded bitterness toward Islam to stop and ask themselves, “Have I been a hater?” And, all criticism and snark aside, we must admit, that’s a start.

He also had words for pundits — black and white — who have criticized President Barack Obama. Read on:

“I want to talk to you about the Jon Stewart thing because I was … just honored by the Museum of the Moving Image, and it had to do with television on NBC, and they ran a segment from I Spy — are you hip to that? The next day, a black man who had seen it said to me that as he was exiting the museum, a white fellow told him that he was born and raised in Alabama and that that show I Spy had turned his father from a bigot into a white man who allowed his son to have black friends and bring them into the home and have dinner with them, and he could go to their home. Now, that’s only one story, but that is a story.

“When I get into taxicabs and/or limousines — and you know the taxicab situation in Washington, D.C.; that’s little Africa — every time I take the cab and I go to the hotel — the Madison, the Jefferson — the guy will look in the rearview mirror with recognition. And then I say, ‘How is the family?’

“That’s when [the cab drivers] will break out pictures of the children. These are people from different countries in Africa, all of ’em males — I’ve not met the females yet. But they talk about the family, they talk about what the children are doing, what they themselves are doing. They work 16 hours a day, and they all echo the same thing: You know why I like that [Cosby] show? Because it’s about family.