Bill Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand on Thursday, cementing the public downfall of a once-beloved TV icon — a downfall, which arguably began with a stand-up set by comedian Hannibal Buress in 2014.
Cosby had faced accusations of sexual assault and misconduct long before 2014, but they went largely unnoticed by the public until video of Buress calling him out at one of his shows went viral online.
“Bill Cosby has the f-ing smuggest old black man public persona that I hate,” Buress said. ” ‘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 raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches. I don’t curse on stage. But yeah, you’re a rapist.”
Once video of the joke (which you can watch above) began circulating online, woman after woman came forward to accuse the comedian of sexual assaults spanning nearly 50 years. More than 60 women have since spoken out against Cosby, including 35 accusers who appeared in a damning New York magazine cover story.
Buress later said he never intended for the joke to go viral, calling his role in Cosby’s downfall “very weird” in an interview with Howard Stern. He also revealed that he had been telling the joke on-and-off for as long as six months, but that one show was the one that happened to have been recorded.
“It was unexpected. I didn’t want to do that, ’cause if I was going to do it, I would have done it on my own,” he said. “That wasn’t my intention, to make it part of a big discussion. It was just something that I was doing at that venue right then. So then for someone to put it to the media — it’s crazy.”
It’s apparent even in Buress’s original joke that he didn’t foresee himself outing Cosby to have any effect — at least not beyond making the audience members reconsider Cosby’s status as a comedy legend in their own minds.
“I want to just at least make it weird for you to watch ‘Cosby Show’ reruns,” he said. “If you don’t know about it, trust me. When you leave here, Google ‘Bill Cosby rape.’ That shit has more results than Hannibal Buress.”