As the 34th annual Playboy Jazz Festival wrapped up in Los Angeles on Sunday, Bill Cosby danced across the stage to play his final solo beneath the iconic bunny. “It’s my last time here,” he announced to the applauding crowd, which filled the Hollywood Bowl to the last bleacher. “And I’m gonna give you something you’ve never heard before. Take it back to the bridge!” Cosby grabbed a trombone from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who followed his order with upbeat, New Orleans-style jazz. Cosby, 74, who has hosted the event 31 times, announced earlier in the week he was ending his reign as the festival’s master of ceremonies. Backstage, as pop-soul singer Robin Thicke performed, he reflected on the decision. “It’s the aging factor,” he said. “As I began to look at the newer groups, the newer individuals on the level of selling 7,000, maybe 8,000 tickets, I realized there’s a need here for a different feel.”
The festival, Cosby said, has been a special part of his career. He loves jazz, having a good time and making people laugh. Hugh Hefner, who watched Saturday’s concert and whom Cosby calls “a very close friend,” gave him the rare opportunity to combine all three. Over the decades, Cosby said the festival has produced some of his favorite memories. “My mother-in-law and wife don’t drink, do tobacco or smoke cannabis,” he said, straight-faced, recalling one show. “And they don’t really know the smell of cannabis. So, as the Santa Ana winds blew the cannabis down from the criminals smoking, my mother-in-law and wife — as I’m told by my daughter — were hit by the cannabis and didn’t know it. And people laughed very hard when, during a very quiet moment in the box, my mother-in-law said, ‘I want a cookie.’” Since then, Cosby said, he has packed a box of chocolate chip cookies for her before each festival.