Former sailor Bill Cosby made an honorary CPO by the Navy -- a great crowd to test out new jokes
After fifty years in comedy, Bill Cosby has found a whole new audience for testing out the new material: The U.S. Navy.
In a ceremony before Navy brass and enlisted folk, the stand-up legend was declared an honorary chief petty officer Thursday -- the second time in five months he'd been honored in Washington for his youthful stint as a sailor.
Does that seem like an excess of honor for a much-honored guy? Here's the thing: When Cosby was recognized in September by the U.S. Navy Memorial Lone Sailor Awards (honoring vets who achieved greatness in their post-military careers), he surprised and delighted the room by accepting the prize with a long and rousing stand-up routine about his four years in the service.
If the Navy crowd appreciated it, well, seems like he did too, enough so that he returned this week. Because, face it -- the man seemed to have saved up a lot of good jokes about mopping that'd be totally lost on civilians.
"From those years, I still go around straightening cords," Cosby sighed, to heaps of knowing laughter from the CPO-heavy audience.
Cosby, 73, never made it past the rank of hospital corpsman third-class, but in the ceremony at the Naval Heritage Center, no less than Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West attached a CPO's shoulderboards to his shirt and slipped a dress blue jacket on his back. Properly uniformed, Cos took the mic to philosophize and amuse.
He went into the service for no greater reason than "I knew I had to get off my block." See the world? "I'd been as far as Baltimore." In the Navy, he grew into a man, learned about obedience. "I was eating for free, and [had] a place to put my head. Lights on, and lights off. Urinate in that one urinal, and do it again in the same urinal. Discipline!"
At last fall's award ceremony, Cosby explained how he picked the Navy, as opposed to the Army, Air Force or Marines. It was all a matter, he said, of "how did I want to die?"
"I don't want to be in the mud," he said. "I don't want to crash. The Marines sounded hard! But I can die in nice, clean clothes, in the water."
It brought down the house back then. Back in front of a niche audience this week, Cosby spun the idea out into an extended yarn.
"I don't want to go in the Army because I'll die in a foxhole in dirt . . .and they always give you a cigarette before you die. . . I don't want to be in the Air Force because you're up in the air, and these people are shooting at you, and you blow up in the middle of the sky. . . I don't want to be in the Marine Corps because you die before you even get out of there!"
But the Navy? "You'll die in the middle of the ocean," Cosby crooned wistfully, "and it will wash out your underpants."
The room convulsed.
"It would make my mother very happy. 'Yes, Mrs. Cosby, his underpants were quite clean.'"
Read earlier: Reliable Source: Bill Cosby on why he opted for the Navy, September 16, 2010
The Reliable Source
| February 17, 2011; 8:00 PM ET
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