American comedian-actor and alleged rapist Bill Cosby and British alt-crooner Morrissey have very little in common. And yet, their paths crossed in a very turbulent and public way on June 14, 1991, when they were both booked as guests on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, as Dan Ozzi describes in a compelling article for Vice’s Noisey. At the time, Cosby—star of his own Emmy-winning sitcom—was arguably the most famous and beloved celebrity in the world, and the former Smiths singer was definitely kind of well-known. He wasn’t Cosby-level famous, though, at least not with mass audiences. But by that late-spring day, following the release of his third solo album, Kill Uncle, he had amassed a small but fervent army of fans, many of whom had descended upon Carson’s Burbank studio in hopes of muscling their way inside for the taping.
One of the two songs that Morrissey chose to perform for NBC’s cameras was “There’s A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends.” That proved to be somewhat prophetic, because on that day, that place in hell was right there on stage—for showbiz vets Cosby and Carson at any rate, as they struggled against the live audience of youthful Moz fans to conduct themselves admirably for the at-home viewers.
“I was talking to Morrissey, and he said that he loved my work, and he said for you guys to pay attention to what I say,” Cosby continued, putting an emphasis on the singer’s name, trying to win the crowd’s favor by speaking their language. “Morrissey said you didn’t pay attention to Mr. Carson and your patience ran very thin, and Morrissey felt that you all were disrespectful. So Morrissey wants you to apologize to Mr. Carson.”
Cosby then tried shifting to his normal routine about Father’s Day, which was that weekend, but the audience didn’t care for these Morrissey-free jokes. So Cosby continued to pepper them in, ending punchlines with: “You know what I’m saying?… Morrissey did!” He used the name like a punchline, and after each rise out of the audience, he did his trademark Cosbian lip-puckered, head-shaking smile, occasionally smirking back to Carson, as if to say: These fucking kids. The two had turned the show into one, big inside joke at the expense of their young audience.
It might have been an awful experience for those two comedians, but Morrissey seemed to be having a grand, old time, delivering one of his best televised performances.