How Bill Cosby Came Up With The Best Scene From The Cosby Show

From The Hollywood Reporter:

The final scene of the makeshift pilot called for Cliff Huxtable [ Bill Cosby] to go up to Theo’s Malcom-Jamal Warner messy room to talk to him about his dismal report card. It was based almost word for word on the tense, nightlong argument Cosby had with Ennis about his son’s desire to be “regular people.” The only embellishment was a visual conceit added for TV: He would hand Theo $300 in Monopoly money and then snatch the bills away to show how quickly the money would go once Theo paid taxes, bought food and clothes and took a girlfriend out on a date.

To make sure they had enough footage, the producers filmed two live performances. In the afternoon, the audience was filled with young people who didn’t have day jobs or were playing hooky from school. They laughed during Cliff’s Monopoly speech but responded even more strongly to Theo’s impassioned response.

“You’re a doctor and Mom’s a lawyer and you’re successful and everything and that’s great,” he said. “But maybe I was born to be a regular person and have a regular life. If I were a doctor, I wouldn’t love you less, because you’re my dad. And so, instead of acting disappointed because I’m not like you, maybe you can just accept who I am and love me anyway, because I’m your son.”

Cosby thought, “Maybe I’m in trouble here; they’re sympathizing with the boy rather than the father.”

“Theo!” Cosby snapped. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life! It’s no wonder you get Ds in everything. Now you are afraid to try because you’re afraid your brain is going to explode and it will ooze out of your ears. Now I’m telling you, you are going to try as hard as you can and you’re going to do it because I said so, and I’m your father.” Then he added another line from his comedy act, the one he had always attributed to Bill Cosby Sr. “I brought you in this world,” he said, “and I will take you out!”

Cosby’s outburst got enough laughs to make the scene work, but he still came away feeling that it hadn’t played the way he expected.

That evening, more adults were in the audience. As soon as Cosby let loose with “That’s the dumbest thing,” the crowd went wild. Director Jay Sandrich thought someone was playing tricks on him. “Who turned on the applause sign?” he asked. Carsey felt a sense of vindication. It suggested that she and Werner had been right about what was missing on TV. Those whooping adults were tired of seeing parents get bossed around by kids.