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Bill Cosby: man, comedian, legend

SUN 8/22

So, um, Bill Cosby. Yeah. What the hell was that all about? How did the sweater wearing super-dad go from selling Jell-O to ranting about the state of Black America? Why did he have to shoot his mouth off and get everybody riled up? He's supposed to be a comforting figure, the reassuring television father who solves problems with gentle humor and common sense, not a rabble rouser.

Actually, that description applies to Cliff Huxtable, the fictional character Cosby created for TV. The real Bill Cosby is a human being, far more complex than a scripted entity. He's entitled to his opinions, he has the right to voice them, and if they get people of all races talking about what's going on in America, then good for him. Nobody said a professional comedian has to be funny or "on" all the time. Think about it: Robin Williams is "on" all the time -- is that really a good thing?

Cosby as an entertainer, though, is almost always right on. His concert film Himself is a classic of the art form, a discursive journey through the travails and triumphs of being both a son and a father. "I don't think you can bring the races together by joking about the differences between them," Cosby noted early in his career. "I'd rather talk about the similarities, about what's universal in their experiences." His recent comments aside, Cosby's act has always hewed to this idea, with great results. This is the Bill Cosby who performs at 8 p.m. on the outdoor stage at Harrah's Casino (777 Casino Center Drive, Earth City; 314-241-1888; $30 to $50). Dare we dream that after his show, private citizen Bill Cosby bumps into Twista, who performs on Friday, August 20, at the Missouri Black Expo (see page 26), and they engage in a serious discussion about the role of the African-American entertainer? They oughta sell tickets for that conversation, on the off-chance it happens. -- Paul Friswold

Wascally Wabbit

SAT 8/21

It was bad enough when cartoons served only to sell action figures and video games, but these days you have to buy and master the video or card games to even understand what's going on in Yu-Gi-Oh! or Pokémon. Thankfully, at 1:30 p.m. the Webster University Film Series (at the Moore Auditorium, 470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487 or offers the Classic Toon Cavalcade, a return to the glorious, zany days of cartoons for cartoons' sake. The 70-minute "mondo matinee" special -- including classic trailers and short subjects -- features the work of animation luminaries Tex Avery, Walter Lantz and Chuck Jones and beloved characters Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Woody Woodpecker. Admission is $5. -- Ian Froeb

Storming the Kastle

All right, you've got your degree and never want to see the inside of a lecture hall ever again. So why should you care that the Kastle (3207 Washington Avenue), neighbor to that enclave of blond, beautiful ex-Catholic schoolgirls known as Saint Louis University, has a college night every Thursday? Why do you care that there's no cover until midnight and that there are student- loan-friendly drink specials for hottie coeds, er, the academically inclined? Well, the answer is obvious. You'll want to go and hear Z107.7-FM spin the bounciest and shiniest in dance pop, right? The bad news is that your inner Humbert will have to pay the cover to get his, ahem, groove on. Call 314-534-1571 to find out just how much you'll need to lay out. -- Niles Baranowski

The Pleasant Dead

SAT 8/21

You know how you're always promising your ladyfriend a nice weekend in wine country? Now's the time to deliver on the promise. The Mount Pleasant Winery (5634 High Street, Augusta, Missouri; 636-482-9463) celebrates the Dead Days of Summer with a free patio performance by Jake's Leg. Imagine yourself in the late afternoon sun, glass of wine in hand, your fetching lady sitting across the table, living the Missouri equivalent of la dolce vita with a live soundtrack of faithful Grateful Dead covers between 2 and 6 p.m. It's cheaper than a trip to Italy (no charge for the concert, just the wine and snacks), your VW Westphalia can probably make the drive in under two hours, and you're practically encouraged to drink during the show. Not a bad end to the summer. -- Paul Friswold

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