Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air interviewing David Letterman in 1981 about the comedy scene:
The best person in a nightclub situation now is Bill Cosby. It’s just unbelievable what this man is capable of doing. [He] doesn’t really tell jokes per se, but he comes on stage and sits down in a chair — and this is interesting because the purpose of your appearance there is that you’re supposed to dominate this group and to dominate and control from a seated position is interesting. And he does it. He’s unbelievable. I would guess he would be the best in a nightclub situation.
I saw Bill Cosby last week perform in San Francisco. It’s the same basic act: just a guy sitting down, telling stories. And it’s still fantastic 32 years later.
Letterman went on to note:
Then there are the newer guys. Steve Martin is just a phenomenon. Then I have my own peers who I think are great. There’s Jay Leno, who I think is probably the … best at observational material.