Comic Cosby delights Goucher graduates

Stand-up: Comedian Bill Cosby, a commencement ceremonies favorite, dispensed practical advice within a humorous monologue.

May 19, 2001|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

As he opened his talk yesterday to Goucher's new graduates, Bill Cosby warned them that he was going to use language they might not be accustomed to hearing from a commencement speaker.

"I'm going to use a curse word," he said. "At least, it used to be a curse word."

Cosby then proceeded to tell of a trio arriving at the pearly gates of heaven, a physicist, a mathematician and an elderly couple. Before they would be allowed in, they had to come up with a question that God couldn't answer. God had no problem answering the math and physics questions, but the elderly couple passed the test and were ushered in.

The mathematician and physicist wondered what question the couple had asked that had stumped even God, Cosby said. "They wanted to know when their children were going to get their s--- together.

"Well, you have it today," he said. "Your parents know. This is when you get it together."

With that, the comedian and actor was off on a rambling monologue, almost a stand-up routine for 311 graduates, their families and friends.

Cosby does this at a handful of colleges every commencement season. He was at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore in 1998 and the University of Maryland, College Park in 1992. This year, he added a Goucher honorary degree to his long list of such honors.

"Your parents got what they wanted out of it," he said. "They could say at cocktail parties, `Yes, my child goes to Goucher,' and people were impressed. That doesn't work west of Chicago. `Goocher? Is that a vet school?'"

As he stood up to begin his talk, Cosby stripped off his academic gown and revealed a Goucher sweat shirt. That went with his Goucher baseball hat, with a tassel on top.

His every move was greeted with laughs and cheers.

Cosby warned them that reality is right around the corner. "Here are people who scored 800, 700, even 500 on their math SAT and they still don't know how to balance a credit card," he said. "You knew that card wasn't really yours when they gave it to you, didn't you? ... You played a good game.

"So what is out there? Well, you get a car just as gas gets to $9 a gallon," he said. "That's right, $9. I saw them putting the sign up."

Cosby attacked some of the traditional commencement bromides, even as he dispensed some of his own.

"Make a change in the world? Forget it," he said. "Change what?"

Pay back loans, he says

Instead, he suggested starting with the little things, such as paying back college loans on time because that would free up money for someone else to go to school and that person might change the world.

"Go for it?" he asked. "You don't know what to go for."

Eventually, Cosby said, the graduates would find their course in life.

He then related how he had heard the call of comedy that overwhelmed a chance to play professional football and took him to the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village instead of the stadiums of New York.

"Something's going to happen to you," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, make sure that it's for real."

He said the graduates should take a look at a childhood photograph stored in their parents' homes, one taken when they were 9 or 10.

"Remember, you are in charge of that person, that kid," he said. "You've got to do right."

Others honored

In addition to Cosby, Goucher gave honorary degrees to Betty Bernstein Taymor, a 1942 graduate, who was commended for opening doors for women in politics in Massachusetts; and Joan Austen-Leigh, founder of the Jane Austen Society of North America dedicated to the study of the works of her great-great aunt.

The biggest cheers during the diploma ceremony were for Christina A. Shorten, an honors graduate in psychology.

The Frederick resident is legally blind and spent her four years at Goucher with her guide dog, Brandi. The president of Goucher's honors psychology society, she will attend graduate school at Loyola College.

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