NEW YORK — At 74, Bill Cosby says he doesn't want to dawdle.
"When you hit the 70 mark, some of your friends have been destroyed or are dead," the comedian and activist says by phone. "You keep going, but you do have a feeling that as you're walking forward, someone's turning the lights out behind you."
One of America's most beloved and groundbreaking joke-tellers, Cosby has leveraged his fame — he is the first black actor to win a lead actor Emmy and beloved for his groundbreaking series "The Cosby Show" — to give back.
"We really don't want waste time," he says of his septuagenarian peers. "I just don't want to leave without thanking those who are doing good. It doesn't have to be a big thing."
Cosby has found one of those things in an Oct. 13 benefit for the organization Art Smart at New York City's 1,500-seat Town Hall. The comedian will be joined by Chita Rivera and Mark Nadler for a one-night-only performance of "Laugh, Sing, Dance."
"I'll do part of my show that I've been doing around the country," says Rivera, 78, who is an old friend of Cosby's. She'll be singing songs from musicals she's most famous for, including "Kiss of the Spider Woman," ''Chicago," ''West Side Story" and "Bye Bye Birdie."
Art Start, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, has been providing visual and performing arts programs for New York City's most at-risk youth, offering an outlet for children who are homeless, leaving jail or coping with parents in crisis.
"Many of these children are homeless. Many are feeling strongly unempowered, not having a choice about anything," Cosby says. "Through touching, feeling, hearing, seeing, these kids may be able to disappear from the gloom in their heart."
Nadler, a singer and pianist who is a member of Art Start's board of directors, brought the two acclaimed performers together for the event. Ticket prices range from $35 to $150.
Tony Award-winning Rivera was most recently on Broadway in "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life" and was recently seen in the Signature Theatre's production of "The Visit." She doing a reading for a new musical and is slated to continue her concerts.
For Cosby, helping kids is a mission and getting to work with Rivera is just icing on the cake. "She has one of the greatest laughs. Period. Especially at our age," he says. "She just laughs so hard so it's my pleasure.
Art Start: http://www.art-start.org