Bill Cosby cracked the Top Ten album chart with 1966's Wonderfulness, his fourth long-player in less than two years. This was indeed a sizable feat for a comedian during the height of the mid-'60s British Invasion, but not surprising in the case of Cosby. His exposure on the talk and variety television circuit of the mid-'60s had increased thanks to his co-starring role in the NBC-TV network program I Spy. Once again, he is caught in the act of being one of his era's funniest standups, and one who never resorted to debasing his craft by filling his repertoire with cheap sex, drugs, or race-related jokes to garner a laugh. Instead, he remains faithful to his proven successful equation of easily relatable narratives -- in front of a typical nightclub audience at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. The 15-minute-long epic "Tonsils" is among the artist's most beloved raps, and takes the listener through a wide-eyed child's perspective of the entire procedure from sore throat to the battle-like "us or them" mind games that Cosby and his fellow kiddie comrades play on each other. Particularly memorable is the ice cream chant that Cosby leads his hospital cohabitants in and how by the end of the ordeal their priorities had radically changed. Equally as charming in its innocence is "The Playground" -- where he discusses the theory that the "grown-ups" of his time were trying to "bump us off" by clearing perfectly good fields and vacant lots in order to build potentially dangerous "monkey bars." To wit, he muses, "We lost 124 kids in one day." To the same whimsical effect, "Go Carts" recounts with genuine fondness a youthful ingenuity that inspired him and his pals to "borrow" all of the neighborhood baby coach wheels for use in the "Go Cart Championship of America" and the 900 cop cars that await the "winner" of the race. "Chicken Heart" is another of Cosby's more involved works, featuring some unforgettable incidents when -- against his parents' orders -- he tunes in an episode of Lights Out. The concluding "Niagara Falls" marks an interesting diversion, as the artist actually spoofs a man whom he warmly refers to as "his boss" -- old-school showbiz legend Sheldon Leonard, who was also the producer of the aforementioned I Spy. The story of Leonard's swimming in frigid Lake Niagara on his honeymoon predates the Seinfeld concept of "shrinkage"; however, the premise remains the same.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer