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I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was)
By Bill Cosby
Center Street Copyright © 2011 Bill Cosby
All right reserved.
ME AND MARCIA: YOU BET YOUR LIFE
Ladies and gentlemen, what you are about to read is a perfect example of the perfect guest on a talk show. At the time of this interview, I believed strongly that I had found the format for the rest of my career. The ratings would prove me wrong, I’m sorry to say.
However, after thousands of hours of interviews of human beings who have something unusual in their lives—don’t we all—this young lady, with her southern accent and completely natural delivery, represents the most perfect guest and the most enjoyable. Not narcissistic. Not arrogant. Just the most fantastic guest.
And so I am proud to present to you my most perfect moment as a television talk show host. (I leave out the game show part because I think that’s what caused the cancellation.) Bill Cosby: Marcia Brody. Marcia Brody: Hello. Bill Cosby: How are you? Marcia Brody: I’m fine. Bill Cosby: Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. Marcia Brody: That’s right. Bill Cosby: Born? Marcia Brody: No, I’m originally from North, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: That’s what I thought. Yeah, I don’t know too many people from Cheltenham that talk like that. Marcia Brody: Well, I lived over twenty-five years down south. Bill Cosby: What was the name of the place? Marcia Brody: North. Bill Cosby: Nowith? Marcia Brody: No. N-o-r-t-h. North. It’s in South Carolina. In South Carolina, it’s a little town called Due West. And North— Bill Cosby: Wait, wait, slow down. In what—North Carolina? Marcia Brody: No, South Carolina. In South Carolina, there’s a little town called Due West. And North is ninety miles southeast of Due West. That’s right. North is south of the capital, Columbia. You understand? Bill Cosby: I was doing fine until you came out here. Then you started talking and I got lost. And I’m not in a car and I didn’t care to go anywhere. Now you have me someplace I have no idea where I am. I’m in the town North south of Due West. Marcia Brody: No, no. Bill Cosby: Well, where am I? Marcia Brody: It’s North, comma, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: In North South Carolina. Marcia Brody: North, comma, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: Comma is the name? Marcia Brody: No, no! You put a comma in between North and South Carolina. Bill Cosby: I’m in the state of South Carolina… Marcia Brody: Right, right. Bill Cosby: But I’m in a city called North? Marcia Brody: It’s not a city; it’s a town. Bill Cosby: A town. Okay, let me ask you this. Where is the railroad? Marcia Brody: Oh, the railroad is right in the middle of the town. Bill Cosby: That’s right. Now, stop there. Now, where are the black people? Marcia Brody: I don’t know. I mean they’re all around, I guess. I don’t know. Bill Cosby: They’re not all around. They’re either on this side of the track or that side of the track. Are we Due North or southwest? Marcia Brody: You’re in North. Bill Cosby: I’m in North. Marcia Brody: Right, South Carolina. Bill Cosby: Here we go again. Marcia Brody: Anyway… Bill Cosby: No, there’s no anyway. I’m sitting in my car and I’m lost. I want to find my people. And you’re trying to give me directions. Now, okay, let’s put it this way. Where is the river? Marcia Brody: Which river? Bill Cosby: Is there an East River? Marcia Brody: I don’t know. Bill Cosby: Is there a West River? Marcia Brody: I don’t even know where the river is. Bill Cosby: Now I know how you wound up in Cheltenham. Marcia Brody: Anyway, I come from a family of seven children and five of us are living and we’re all grandparents. So we all like to know what’s happening with everybody else. So I put out a family paper three times a year. Bill Cosby: Do you have a sports column? Marcia Brody: No, but you’ll be the headlines on my next paper. Oh, my goodness! Yeah! Bill Cosby: Why don’t you just send them the video? Marcia Brody: What video? What kind of video? Bill Cosby: The video of this show. You make a video of it. Marcia Brody: I don’t have a video of it. Bill Cosby: No. You’re correct. We don’t have one yet. Marcia Brody: Yeah. What? Are you making one? Bill Cosby: Yeah. I’m going to make a video for you. And then you can— Marcia Brody: Oh. Well, I have three sisters in South Carolina and I have a brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: You got a pen? Marcia Brody: Three sisters in South Carolina. A brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: What part of South Carolina? Marcia Brody: One’s in Charleston. One’s in Beaufort. One’s in Bishopville. Then I have a brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: What part? Marcia Brody: Oxford. You want to send it… you want to send it to all my nieces and nephews? Bill Cosby: No, no, it’s too many of them. I’m not sending to the grandchildren either. See, I’ll just make it up for the ones in Charleston, Beaufort, and Bishop. Marcia Brody: Bishopville. Bill Cosby: Okay. Marcia Brody: And don’t forget my brother in Mississippi. Bill Cosby: No, Oxford, I got that. Marcia Brody: Okay, then how about my son in New Jersey? He lives near Trenton. Bill Cosby: How did you get somebody in New Jersey? Marcia Brody: Oh, he’s the one that made me the grandmother. Bill Cosby: Ah! How do you like that? Marcia Brody: Oh, it’s nice. Really is nice. Bill Cosby: They drop the baby off? Marcia Brody: Where?
And so there you have it. The perfect onetime conversation. And I say “onetime conversation” because I don’t know what other subjects she could discuss if we brought her back. And, in fact, nobody said—maybe because the show didn’t last that long—we’ve got to have her back on the show. Then she would come back and it would be a nightmare because she would not be as wonderful as before. What she did the first time created an unbeatable mark, whether you’re high-jumping or doing the limbo.
But I do believe it is great that we did this one thing together.
Those of you who are from, like, zero up to about forty-five years old, I’m going to tell you a story that happened in the fifties. It’s about a girl named Bernadette Johnson. But I want you to know I’m not bragging.
When old people start to talk about “their time,” there is a tendency for young people to doze. And young people always say:
That was before my time.
But I just want young people to know we’re not bragging about what we had to do in those days. You’re not bragging when you talk about having to walk five miles in eight-foot snowdrifts. There’s nobody on the face of the earth born who woke up knowing that he or she had to walk five miles in eight feet of snow, with no shoes, who said:
Oh goody! I’ll have something to tell young people.
No, you don’t do that. You say the same thing anybody else would say:
And your parents say:
Because I had you.
Now, when I was a kid, there was no law protecting us from old people. Let me put it to you this way. There was no saying:
Well, he’s having a bad day.
There was no psychologist, no psychiatrist, that anybody paid attention to, because crazy people didn’t want to be crazy. See, crazy people get mad if you say they’re crazy. They didn’t want you to know they were crazy, so they were always trying to hide the fact that they were crazy. But everybody knew they were crazy.
Now, when I reminisce about the forties, I repeat, I am not bragging. I’m just relating my experience growing up and looking back on it today. It would be the same if Charles Lindbergh sat here to talk about his flight across the Atlantic in a single-engine plane. He’s not bragging; he’s telling the truth. He would’ve loved to have had a twin-engine jet, with instruments, and radar, and all of that, so he could’ve gone to sleep.
When I was thirteen, there was a girl, many girls, actually, and they always seemed to be armed with some kind of question I wasn’t ready for. One girl, she was just gorgeous. So I went up to her. Now, in those days you would go up to a girl and ask:
Would you like to go out with me?
You didn’t need to do much more than that. Just walk up and say:
Would you like to go out with me?
We were thirteen so she would just say yes or no. Even if she said yes, you weren’t going to do much, because girls were taught to make the male behave. If you tried anything, they’d say:
It was like Olympic boxing.
And our job was to try to sneak up on her, so that she didn’t really think we were touching or anything. But she would still say:
And you would stop.
So I went up to this one girl and said, “Would you like to go out with me?”
And she said, “Why do you want to go out with me?”
I said the only thing I was armed with:
“Because I love you.”
And I did. I did love her. I really did. That’s why I told her I loved her.
She asked me, “What is love?”
Now, this is a thirteen-year-old girl, asking me “What is love?” I’m not prepared. I just thought I would use the highest form of a feeling for her and she would “go out with me.” What’s wrong with her? Asking me “What is love?”
“It means that I love you,” I finally said.
“But what is love?”
“I just love you.”
And I was getting mad at her. I don’t love her anymore. Never mind. You ask all these questions, man.
When I turned fourteen, there was another girl. She was beautiful. One of the really great-looking ones, and like all the great-looking girls, she had an ugly friend. So you had to talk to the ugly friend first and get permission to talk to the great-looking one. Eventually I got past the ugly friend and was able to talk to the great-looking one, and the first thing I said to her was “I would like to go out with you.”
She said—very nicely, I remember—she said, “I would like for this to be platonic.”
Excerpted from I Didn't Ask to Be Born by Bill Cosby Copyright © 2011 by Bill Cosby. Excerpted by permission.
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