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Why Hannibal Buress won't let people forget that 13 women have accused Bill Cosby of rape

Hannibal Buress performing in New York City on February 7, 2014.
Hannibal Buress performing in New York City on February 7, 2014.
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Hannibal Buress — a comedian best known for his standup, as well as roles in The Eric Andre ShowBroad City, and Neighbors — has started incorporating a bit about the 13 rape allegations against Bill Cosby into his current standup tour, the Comedy Comisado Tour. Philadelphia Magazine has video and a transcript of the version he performed in that city last Thursday:

It’s even worse because Bill Cosby has the fuckin’ smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, "Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the '80s! I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom!" Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. "I don't curse on stage!" But yeah you're a rapist, so… I'd take you saying lots of "motherfuckers" on Bill Cosby himself if you weren't a rapist.

I don't know what I'm doing by telling you. I guess I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch Cosby Show reruns. Dude's image is, for the most part, a public teflon image. I've done this bit on stage and people don't believe me, people think I'm making it up. I'm like, "Bill Cosby has a lot of rape allegations," and they go, "No, you do!" No! They call me Captain Kick-em-out. That shit is upsetting. If you didn't know about it, trust me, if you leave here and google "Bill Cosby rape," that shit has more results than "Hannibal Buress."

Buress also did the bit when I saw him at the Lincoln Theater in DC last Friday and told Howard Stern today that he's been doing it for months: "It's a weird thing, somebody filmed my show in Philly. I've been doing that bit off and on for six months. … It's just a lot of stuff. I just read some stuff and researched. Anybody can get that information."

If you're unfamiliar with the accusations Buress is referring to, check out Tom Scocca's rundown of them at Gawker from this past February. One woman, Tamara Green, revealed an alleged assault from the 1970s in a Today Show interview in 2005, after another woman filed a lawsuit in 2004 alleging a very similar assault. As a part of that lawsuit, the plaintiff's lawyers brought forth eleven more women who claimed Cosby assaulted them, for a total of thirteen.

The suit was eventually settled with the plaintiff agreeing not to discuss the matter in the future. Two of the women called as witnesses came forward and gave interviews to Philadelphia Magazine and People detailing their accusations (one before the settlement, the other after). All four women (Green, the two other witnesses, and the lawsuit plaintiff) alleged that Cosby drugged them, using a laced drink or pills, before assaulting them.

Buress also makes reference to Cosby's reputation as a scold of younger black men, a reputation formed by "the Poundcake Speech," which Cosby delivered at a May 2004 NAACP event in DC commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Here's how Ta-Nehisi Coates described the speech in his profile of Cosby for The Atlantic in 2008:

Cosby disparaged activists who charge the criminal-justice system with racism. "These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake," Cosby said. "Then we all run out and are outraged: ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else. And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it, you’re going to embarrass your mother.’"

Then he attacked African American naming traditions, and the style of dress among young blacks: "Ladies and gentlemen, listen to these people. They are showing you what’s wrong … What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans. They don’t know a damned thing about Africa— with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed, and all that crap, and all of them are in jail." About then, people began to walk out of the auditorium and cluster in the lobby. There was still cheering, but some guests milled around and wondered what had happened. Some thought old age had gotten the best of Cosby. The mood was one of shock.

If you're unfamiliar with Buress's standup, his set on Jimmy Fallon earlier this year is a good place to start: