Ever since women started to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against Bill Cosby, many have been asking how it was possible that for so long so many in the media stayed silent. However, one Emmy-award winning show didn't. 30 Rock mentioned Cosby's alleged history of sexual abuse, all the way back in 2009. Except no one really noticed it.
Over at Crushable, Jenni Maier found the episode in question and has a pretty compelling argument for what may have been the origin for putting the remarks in the show.
The episode, "The Bubble," is actually one of the more well known ones. It features Jon Hamm as the man who is so good looking, no one criticizes for anything at all even though he's basically terrible at everything. One of the side plots of the episode involve contract negotiations between Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy and Tracy Morgan's character Tracy Jordan. As part of this, Donaghy hires a Bill Cosby impersonator to help hire Jordan back after he quits TGS. So far, the only place that Maier (and I) could find to view the clip is at Interwebia's Tumblr.
Here's the exchange, transcribed by Maier, which features the comments about Cosby's alleged history as a serial rapist:
Jack Donaghy: I've arranged for one of Tracy's childhood idols to reach out to him.
Tracy Jordan: Hello?
Jack Donaghy: Tracy, this is Jack, I have someone here who wants to speak with you.
Rick: Tracy, this is Bill Cosby…
Liz Lemon: [whispering] Really? This is your strategy?
Jack Donaghy: [whispering and smiling] I heard him do this at a party!
Rick: …I want you to come back to the TGS for the people who like the jokes and the things.
Tracy Jordan: Bill Cosby, you got a lotta nerve gettin' on the phone wit' me after what you did to my Aunt Paulette!
Rick: I think you're confusing me with someone else.
Tracy Jordan: 1971. Cincinnati. She was a cocktail waitress with the droopy eye!
Rick: I'm the guy… with the pudding…
Maier said when she saw the episode in 2009, she assumed it was just a joke about how crazy the Jordan character is (it totally fits in with the kind of out-of-left-field, nutty things he would say on the show). But now, in light of the allegations of at least 20 women, she writes "this reference seems to be much more than a throwaway joke." She makes an interesting case for why this joke was in the show (emphasis mine). Keep in mind this show was produced and written by Tina Fey (who is credited as the sole writer for this specific episode), too:
While there's always the possibility that it's a crazy coincidence, that seems incredibly unlikely. Of all the comedy legends, they chose this one to accuse of sexually assaulting a woman back in the '70s. Okay.
What seems more likely than a coincidence is that the 30 Rock writers felt frustrated that this man continually got away with his alleged sexual assaults because he was a famous TV dad. So they found a way to call him out within their show without any repercussions from the media. Because you have to keep in mind that until Hannibal Buress (a former 30 Rock writer, but not for this particular episode) spoke out against Cosby in October, it wasn't part of the mainstream conversation. And it definitely wasn't an accusation that you could just toss around without receiving major backlash.
That might be a little far-fetched for some, but it could very well be the case that this group of writers and comedians (led by Fey) in the industry knew his past and were horrified by it. The joke is absolutely subtle enough to fly over some heads but, for those who knew his alleged history then (and for those who have learned about it recently) the joke lands like a BOMB. That was very much the 30 Rock style, too. They pulled off subtle jokes with big punches if you knew the full story behind them all the time.
So what do you think? Is this a theory to toss in the chemtrails pile? Or was this joke a deliberate attempt to call out an alleged rapist?
(We'd love to hear from the writers who wrote this particular exchange and are interested in giving insight into what went down in the writing room for this particular bit. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity guaranteed if so desired.)
Image via Getty.