Plenty of words have been spent trying to reconcile Bill Cosby the wholesome entertainer and Bill Cosby the alleged sexual predator.
In a Friday night appearance on “The Late Show,” Jerry Seinfeld and host Stephen Colbert added their personal input to the discussion, and their initial takes seemed to surprise one another. While Seinfeld said at first that he can still listen to Cosby’s past standup albums without issue, Colbert explained how the scores of allegations against the comedian have soured the experience for him.
The pair began by talking about coming up in the world of comedy, a theme of Seinfeld’s new Netflix special “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” Cosby was a huge influence on Seinfeld, who said the comedian has “greatest body of work in comedy.”
Colbert joined in to share memories of listening to Cosby, too, going so far as to say he thought the embattled comedian “saved my life” after a childhood tragedy ― the late-night host would listen to his albums “every night.”
But these days, he won’t do it.
“I can’t listen to him now,” Colbert said. “I can’t separate it.”
“You can’t separate it?” Seinfeld repeated, continuing, “I know it’s tragic, but comedy, you know, there’s a lot of tragedy in comedy.” He then offered Jerry Lewis as another example of a comedian whose reputation suffered amid recent criticism. Reports that Lewis had excluded six of his children from his will surfaced earlier this year.
Asked how he felt about that, Colbert replied, “Kind of hilarious.” But he didn’t see the parallel.
“That’s like, he denied them money. That’s not the same thing as slipping them a roofie,” the host said. Seinfeld, though, seemed unmoved. “We need the comedy,” he replied.
Even after a commercial break, the two weren’t done discussing the topic. Seinfeld said he “realized it would bother me” to listen to Cosby’s work in the present day after chatting with the host off-camera.
But then he waffled after seriously posing the question: “Should the comedic work stand on its own separate of the criminality?”
Finally, Colbert won Seinfeld to his side after pointing out, “Part of him was the charming fatherly figure, too, and all of that is gone.”
Cosby is currently awaiting retrial over sexual assault charges brought by Andrea Constand, a former employee of the comedian’s alma mater. While dozens of women have come forward with similar allegations of sexual misconduct against Cosby, most of the alleged incidents took place too long ago for prosecution. Constand’s case goes to court again Nov. 6.
Watch the whole “Late Show” exchange in the clips above.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to include a second clip from Jerry Seinfeld’s appearance, in which he changes his stance on Bill Cosby.