Conversationally, Bill Cosby the man is similar to Bill Cosby the performer. He's a natural storyteller, letting information spill into tangents, sometimes seeming to meander and yet always managing to circle the narrative wagons around his point.
He said early professional inspiration came from Bob Newhart, Mel Brooks' and Carl Reiner's 2,000-Year-Old Man sketch, and Dick Gregory. He said he also owes a lot to an anonymous stranger encountered at a Chinese restaurant.
"There was this table there, with about nine people eating," he said. "And there's this laughter coming from the table. Women are holding napkins up and it's because of this guy that has been talking for two minutes or so. He's not a professional, but everyone is regaling. That's when I said, 'That's it. That's the style I want. That's the connection. I want to be the friend at the table.'"