A Lesson the Cosby Show Taught Me


For many years The Cosby Show has been a resource for generations, providing gut busting laughs and life lessons.  As a kid I watched episodes every day after school.  I still catch reruns from time to time, and the show is still a source of entertainment and wisdom for me.  One of the greatest lessons which I learned in life was from the episode in which Vanessa got engaged.

In the episode Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable learned that their daughter Vanessa, while away at college, got engaged to a guy named Dabnis Brickey.  Vanessa arrived with Dabnis in tow, to break the news of their engagement.  The Huxtables were livid; Clair was practically foaming at the mouth.

Dabnis was not only engaged to the much younger Vanessa but he was the janitor of the university she attended; two facts which did not sit well with Vanessa’s parents.  Heathcliff, a doctor and Clair, a lawyer, thought that Vanessa was making a huge mistake.

As the episode progressed Dabnis begins to tell Dr. Huxtable that he was not just a janitor but he managed the janitorial staff at the university.  A slight smile graced Dr. Huxtable’s face.  Dabnis then revealed he makes a good salary.  Dr. Huxtable’s smile started to grow.  Dabnis confessed he was absolutely in love with Vanessa.  Dr. Huxtable started to grin a little wider.  The icing on the cake came when Dabnis says he had no intention of moving in to the Huxtable home and stated that he had his own home.  Dr. Huxtable was gleaming.  A long running-joke on The Cosby Show was the fact that Dr. Huxtable could not wait for his kids to move out of the house, but they kept coming back.  So the fact that Dabnis had his own home was absolutely impressive in Dr. Huxtable’s mind.

Dr. Huxtable admitted to Dabnis that at first he didn’t like him.  However, after learning more about Dabnis he had a new appreciation for Dabnis.  After hearing this acknowledgement, Dabnis nods and smiles.  Dr. Huxtable killed the quick bonding moment by pointing out the unresolved underlying problem that remained the elephant in the room.  Dr. Huxtable painted a picture for Dabnis by asking him to close his eyes and picture his favorite food.  Dabnis dreamed of a porterhouse steak. Dr. Huxtable has him picture the steak seared just right with onions and mushrooms.  Dabnis started to lick his lips at the thought.  He tells Dabnis to imagine a baked potato with sour cream and all the fixings.  Dabnis at this point, was practically salivating at the image as it was making him hungry.  “Can you taste it son?” Dr. Huxtable shouted.  “Yes sir!” Dabnis excitedly shouted back.  Ready to take a bite at the image that danced around Dabnis’s head Dr. Huxtable finished off the illustration by saying “I am going to take your steak and your baked potato and I am going to serve it to you.  Dabnis, eyes still closed, started rubbing his hands in anticipation.  Dr. Huxtable continued “I am going to take your steak and your potato and I am going to go outside to the garbage, take off the lid of the garbage can, turn it over, and put your steak and potatoes on it and serve it to you.”  Dabnis made a face of disgust as he opened his eyes in shock.  Dr. Huxtable asked “what is wrong you don’t want it anymore?”  Dabnis exclaimed “I do not want that.”  When Dr. Huxtable probed him as to why, Dabnis stated “because it is on a garbage can lid.”  Dr. Huxtable smiled at Dabnis and said “that is how you were presented today to Mrs. Huxtable and I, on a garbage can lid.”

I retell this story for the simple lesson it teaches.  Many of us live our lives on the top of a garbage can lid and yet scratch our heads as to why we do not get the appreciation, recognition, or respect we feel we deserve.  In order to get what we want out of this world we have to present ourselves and our ideas in the best possible light.  We need to bring out the fine China!

Bon Appétit

Jay Will


  1. Joseph says

    I also have a strong impression of this moment of the show, have mentally referred to it in applicable situations over the years. For example, right now, the summer Olympics are on tv. I can’t help but notice that, in order to instantly make the competing American athlete “relatable” to the viewer regardless of the event, a video package is put together and broadcasted just prior to the athlete competing. This video package usually shows the athlete overcoming SOME type of adversity, like a sick relative or injury setback or a parent in the military, SOMETHING. ANYTHING. You see this all the time with reality tv contestants as well. It’s like serving the athlete/contestant on a trash can lid for the American viewer.

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