Way back in the happier, mellow days of June 1991, Bill Cosby was a beloved television and comedy icon who wore funny sweaters and made amusing faces while selling us pudding pops. Morrissey was making his own way, free from The Smiths, angry and brooding and about to embark on his first solo tour.
Somehow, both were scheduled to be guests on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. On the same night.
Noisey, a music blog from Vice, sets the scene: Cosby just finished the seventh season of The Cosby Show, about to release his 20th comedy album and fourth book, while Morrissey remained largely unknown despite the success of The Smiths and had never previously performed on network television in the US.
In the two weeks leading up to his Tonight Show appearance, Morrissey released Kill Uncle, which earned considerable attention from LA’s KROQ and sold out the 20,000-seat San Diego Sports Arena in record time. Suddenly, Morrissey’s fans were everywhere and fanatical in their support of their favorite singer.
Flash forward to the night of the show, when Morrissey’s fans were nearly hostile to both Carson and Cosby. As Dan Ozzi recounts, Carson’s monologue was among his least entertaining that night, due in part to the rambunctiousness of the audience members devoted to Morrissey. When Cosby came out, he tried to name-check Morrissey to win back the audience.
“Cosby then tried shifting to his normal routine about Father’s Day, which was that weekend, but the audience didn’t care for these Morrissey-free jokes. So Cosby continued to pepper them in, ending punchlines with: ‘You know what I’m saying? …Morrissey did!’ He used the name like a punchline, and after each rise out of the audience, he did his trademark Cosbian lip-puckered, head-shaking smile, occasionally smirking back to Carson…”
Read the whole account here.