Update: The Bill Cosby show scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28, at American Music Theatre has been rescheduled for Feb. 18, 2012. Call 800-648-4102 to confirm your tickets for the new date.
Never bring up Penn State during a phone interview with Bill Cosby.
He'll threaten to hang up the phone.
The former Temple Owls football player is more forgiving if he's in a storytelling mood.
Just let the 74-year-old comedian get in a Joe Paterno jab, and then, stick to the weather.
Cosby was enjoying the sunny summer morning at home. The previous night, he flew in from a gig in Wichita, Kan., and was greeted by rain showers, which cooled the July temperatures enough for fitful sleeping.
He asked about the weather in York, where he performed at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in 2004. He presented his stand-up in 2007 at Lancaster's American Music Theatre, where he'll perform again Aug. 28.
"I love Lancaster," he said. "It's one of those cities where there's a pronunciation problem."
The people of Lancaster, Calif., stretch the "a" sounds, he said, which is not acceptable in Lancaster, Pa. He fears mispronunciations in front of natives at AMT.
"They're like the French," he said. "If you don't say it right, you're finished."
Cosby has fond memories of the cooler full of Amish scrapple and flavored sausage he was given at his last AMT gig.
I'm going to save this for when I come back from somewhere, and I'll be dreaming about it, Cosby thought at the time.
But, thanks to his visiting daughters and grandchildren, it disappeared from his basement refrigerator.
"I think The Wizard was giving it away," he said glumly.
The Wizard is his wife of four decades, Camille. She wakes him up for interviews. She pulls his office door closed when he needs quiet. She finds things he misplaces. She picks out his clothes.
"According to The Wizard, (the) husband's a woman's child," he joked. "This is The Wizard's house. She owns everything here."
When the couple goes out, people ask Camille if her husband is always funny. They get a look back, Cosby said, "because it's not like that is your marriage all the time."
Family dynamics became central to Cosby's most famous work including "The Cosby Show," which hit the air in 1984 and became one of the most successful sitcoms in television history.
But before the fame, Cosby was just a young Philadelphian who wrote comedy sketches. He hadn't developed his style yet, so he simply made observations and provided logical explanations.
Why did the British wear red coats during the Revolutionary War?
They lost the coin toss.
Is it OK for Clark Kent to take off his clothes in a phone booth?
No, according to a policeman who is knocking on the door.
"I talked to myself," Cosby said of his early stand-up days. "I think part of the reason why I didn't allow the nervousness was (from) being an athlete. I used that experience in front of the crowd."
He served in the U.S. Navy before attending Temple University to earn his teaching certificate. After football games, he performed at area clubs for $16 a gig.
He gave every cent to his mother, who worked as a cleaning woman to put him through school.
After a performance during his sophomore year, a man approached Cosby and offered him an opening spot for Peter, Paul and Mary.
It was 1962. The band had already sold out the venue's 2,500 seats. Cosby was offered $250.
"I never had this much money in my life," he said.
Cosby got pressure from his football coach, since he was supposed to be preparing with the team for the next game.
But he took the chance. He put on a sport coat and tie, hopped on the subway and arrived about three hours early for sound check, even though he didn't know anything about the fancy equipment.
Then, the promoter walked in and said there was a misunderstanding. Peter, Paul and Mary never had openers.
But the trio wanted to apologize in person. They agreed to let Cosby perform after their set for anyone who wanted to stick around.
That way, you'll perform in front of your hometown, Mary Travers told him.
Most of the fans did stick around, and Cosby got his paycheck. But he always wondered about the so-called misunderstanding.
About 30 years later, the event promoter saw Cosby and re-introduced himself.
"He had seen me in the nightclub," Cosby said. "He said he knew then that I would be a star."
For a moment Cosby was lost in the memory, and pretty impressed with his ability to recall it in detail.
"I think the brain cells have rested," he said. "They are kind of crisp ... and we learned how to pronounce Lancaster."
But did he have a plan for the sausage this time around?
"I told The Wizard I'm putting a lock on it," he said before he hung up the phone for real.
- Erin McCracken, FlipSide staff
If you go
WHAT: Bill Cosby
WHEN: 3 and 7 p.m. Aug. 28
WHERE: American Music Theatre, 2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster
DETAILS: 397-7700; www.amtshows.com