Bill Cosby’s I Didn't Ask to Be Born (But I'm Glad I Was) includes the beloved entertainer’s thoughts about his childhood friends, his family, and... erectile dysfunction.
When did you begin writing?
I got into Temple University on a track scholarship. I’d been a lazy student who didn’t listen in high school, so I was put into remedial English at Temple. The professor asked us to write a composition about the first time you did something—anything. I sat down and decided to write about the first time I ever pulled one of my teeth. I was a little boy, and it was loose. It took me about five hours, and I was enjoying it—going to the mirror, looking at my face, feeling the white cotton thread and making the approach and stopping. I turned the paper in. The professor walks into the room and says, “I want all of you to hear something,” and he read it to the class. I was scared to death. He gave me an A. And this was the first time I’d ever really done anything, and cared about it! I was deliberately aiming to have the reader share the same experience, and this was before I even decided to step onto anybody’s stage to perform.
This is your third collaboration with the cartoonist George Booth. Tell us a bit about your friendship with him.
George Booth and I are both funny, and from afar without meeting admired each other’s work. So the time came when I really wanted George to do some illustrations; some of his characters are fantastic for my writing. When I called him, we spoke about our respect for each other. And that’s when I proposed marriage to him, because I love him. George is very, very wonderful. There’s a saying, “Heroes should be judged from afar.” But you don’t have to apply that to George Booth, because he will never disappoint you.
Your book includes a personal essay about one of your daughters. Did you have to get her permission to use it?
No—I’m her father. But later on she might write a book called Daddy Dearest. There are two sides to every story, and sometimes three, four, and five. The “home editor” of the galley is their mother. Then we go back to the publisher. But Mrs. Cosby gets it last. She has the final say, thank you very much. And I sit there waiting with an asbestos face.
You have a Web site (billcosby.com), and you seem quite computer-savvy. Do you still read paper books?
I read everything on the device now, but my friend the book is still ahead of the device. The picture on the cover, to open it, to hold it... and besides, I don’t know anyone yet who sits on the john with the computer.