In the whirlwind of outrage around Bill Cosby, many people have asked why, given how long ago the first rape allegations against him became public, no one called him out sooner. But 30 Rock appears to have done just that—it just took most of us five years to get the joke.
In its third season, in an episode called “The Bubble,” Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) hatches a plan to bring back one of TGS’s big stars, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan). He asks a Bill Cosby impersonator to convince Jordan to come back, since Cosby is “one of Tracy’s childhood idols.” Jenni Maier at Crushable noted on Tuesday that what transpires from there seems to evoke the rape allegations against Cosby, which by then had been public knowledge for several years:
“I want you to come back to the TGS for the people who like the jokes and the things,” the impersonator says.
“Bill Cosby?! You got a lot of nerve getting on the phone with me after what you did to my Aunt Paulette!” Jordan exclaims.
“I think you’re confusing me with someone else.”
“1971. Cincinnati. She was the cocktail waitress with the droopy eye!”
“I’m the guy … With the pudding … ”
“You trying to tell me what to do, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable with your light-ass kids?! Jack, why would you make me talk with this man?!”
Maier says she initially thought this was just a joke about Jordan’s general wackiness—the character frequently tells stories about his family and his childhood that seem hard to believe. (The scene also vaguely recalls a famous bit in which Eddie Murphy pilloried Cosby for telling the younger comedian not to use profanity.) Maier points out that Hannibal Buress, whose onstage reference to the allegations helped spark the recent media furor, was himself a writer for 30 Rock—though he appears to have joined the staff in 2010, and Tina Fey is the credited writer for this episode.
With more of us are paying attention to the allegations, Jordan’s anger and sense of betrayal feel much like the inner conflict many people are experiencing. Now that we’re in on the joke, we can all wince together.