BENTON HARBOR -- His "Cosby Show'' ground to a halt 20 years ago, although it's still seen in syndication, but Bill Cosby still knows how to enthrall an audience.
Anyone who attended Cosby's appearance Wednesday night at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center would attest to that. They likely wouldn't dispute either Cosby's premise that, when it comes to marriage, wives have the upper hand.
"Wives own us, and they know it. They can do anything they want,'' Cosby told the usual crowd of some 2,500 members of the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan.
The Emmy- and Grammy-winning comedian, actor, producer and best-selling author's stand-up routine was delivered in an easy chair, with Cosby wearing a T-shirt inscribed simply with "Hello Friend.'' After expressing his faith in God -- "Shouldn't atheists give themselves some wiggle room? ... Suppose God shows up,'' he said -- he embarked on his argument that wives have ruled the roost ever since Eve convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
When God asked Adam why he had "eateth the fruiteth,'' Cosby said, Adam had a ready answer.
"He said, 'Because the woman said to eateth the fruiteth,'' he deadpanned.
"Think about it. That's every marriage. That's why when you go to the store, they buy 100 pillows to cover the sofa so you can't fit in it.''
Expanding his premise, Cosby said Adam and Eve were so ashamed they had disobeyed God that they covered their naked bodies with leaves. His take on it is that guilt lingers even today.
"That's why she doesn't want to see leaves on the ground. She knows it's her fault!'' he said to roars of laughter. "And it's why, after 48 years of marriage, I don't eat any fruit my wife has fixed.''
Also after those 48 years, he has one drawer left -- his wife has the rest -- plus one "small'' room. His wife is in charge even there.
"She came in and said, 'Isn't it hot in here to you?' So she changed the thermostat and left the room. I started to get cold,'' he said. "I did this routine (earlier) and a woman shouted out, 'Why didn't you get a sweater?'''
Cosby agreed husbands score points every once in a while but even those rare occasions come with a catch.
"I was upstairs. She was in the bed. She said to me, 'Did you lock up?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'Did you REALLY lock up?' I said, "Yes.' Then she got up and went down to check!'' he recalled.
"She acted like I was in kindergarten class. She said, 'You did! I'm so proud of you.'''
Staff writer Lou Mumford: