THE AUDIENCE STIRRED a bit giddy in the gleaming Kennedy Center when quickly, the house lights went down. The music stopped. And we sat with anticipation. And sat. And sat. Till it was mildly disorienting. And there, in the lingering darkness of the room, unsure quite what was happening, we suddenly heard a singular, wisecracking voice pierce the air. It was the unmistakable delivery of Bill Cosby, proving yet again to be master of the moment.
That was six years ago. The hall brimmed with admiration and adoration, as we saluted his remarkable career. Today, so much of what transpired that evening — all those glowing anecdotes — would ring instead as creepy. But this was the Mark Twain Prize ceremony, long before Hannibal Burress’ standup remarks went viral, and before many believed, let alone knew of, Cosby’s dozens of accusers.
Next on that night, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld jointly took the stage to kick off the proceedings, and they nodded respectfully to the night’s prize recipient, the comedy legend in the balcony with his beaming wife, Camille.
Today, however, when I think of all the women who once hoped that Cosby might boost their career, and who instead say they were drugged and raped by him, my mind goes to a far more biting line by Chris Rock. If you’re black, Rock has said, you’ve “got to look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college, but who molested you.”
According to recently public transcripts, Cosby has admitted to urging women to take his pills. And this week brings New York magazine’s powerful cover spotlighting, via black-and-white photographs, 35 of the 46 Cosby accusers. The visual has an accumulating power, as though by looking at each seated woman, you realize this that registers like a triple-jury that won’t remain mute. In its silence, the display is deafening.
But how to address the Cosby case as an editorial artist? Do you try to find humor, perhaps satire, in the pain and persecution of these stories? Do you keep it strictly somber, with no cutting point?
Here is how some of the nation’s cartoonists are artfully handling the story:
1. The Union-Tribune’s Steve Breen spells it out with what Cosby has called “disco biscuits”:
2. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mike Luckovich mashes up the headlines with particular deftness:
3. Ohio’s Jeff Darcy illustrates the irony that some comics, including Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore, have also picked up on more recently:
4. The Arizona Daily Star’s David Fitzsimmons spoofs a vintage Cosby album, from an era when the comedian, in truth, was already doing a bit about the benefits of Spanish Fly:
5. Houston’s Nick Anderson zeroes in on the oddness of how Cosby, in transcripts, sometimes seems to be playing semantics:
6. And Newsday’s Matt Davies pulls back to survey the bigger picture: