It was a jazzy moment right out of the opening of “The Cosby Show.”
Marking his final appearance on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl after three decades as the emcee of the Playboy Jazz Festival – itself 34 years in the running – legendary standup comedian and television star Bill Cosby mixed a little music-making and silly schtick in a moment reminiscent of the fun-loving, jazz-filled opening credits of his 80s-era sitcom.
"It's my last time here, and I'm gonna give you something you've never heard before,” Cosby told the packed-to-the-cheap-seats audience as he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on stage during the final hours of the Festival. “Take it back to the bridge!” he cried, doing a trademark shuffle dance before grabbing a trombone and preparing to play – but “accidentally” breaking the trombone in two before he could squeeze out a note.
The moment was part of Cosby’s comic swansong as the master of ceremonies for Playboy founder and publisher Hugh Hefner’s weekend music celebration – close friends for decades, “Cos” was “Hef’s” host of choice until the 74-year-old icon announced that this would be his final stint just days before the festival kicked off.
“It's the aging factor,” Cosby later told the Los Angeles Times backstage during the festival. “As I began to look at the newer groups, the newer individuals on the level of selling 7,000, maybe 8,000 tickets, I realized there's a need here for a different feel…I think that the business changes, and we need a different emcee with a newer voice, maybe someone younger, maybe someone bilingual, maybe trilingual because this is Los Angeles.”
Hefner seemed to be only slightly – and skeptically – prepared to say goodbye to his friend, who wore a t-shirt proclaiming “30 ½ Years” to mark his time with the festival and spent a portion of the opening day playing drums with his band the Cos’ of Good Music, which annually assembles jazz up-and-comers on stage.
“Cosby and I go back a lot of years,” Hefner told reporters. “I will understand if he decides to pack it in. Maybe it's adieu.”
This year Playboy’s lineup featured a diverse array of musicians, including acclaimed jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, blues standard-bearer Keb’ Mo’, Sheila E and her father Pete Escovedo, saxophonist Boney James, all-star septet The Cookers, Latin funk-fusion band Ozomatli, bass virtuoso Christian McBride and soulful pop star Robin Thicke.