Comcast’s spokesman confronts God

David Cohen meets his maker

" ‘This is not the woe-is-me terrible market concentration’ that opponents say it is, Cohen said. He told the senators that he considered the current period a ‘golden age of video services’ and that Comcast's proposed $45.2 billion deal for Time Warner Cable would lead to innovation and consumer benefits. ‘Congress should allow this dynamic marketplace to continue to grow’, Cohen said.”

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 16, reporting testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee by Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen.

'I did my good works at a broad level — sort of like You.'

Scene: The pearly gates, sometime in the future. A new arrival stands at the entrance, awaiting his admission interview.

GOD: Who comes before me, and what have you done to deserve entrance to Heaven?

DAVID COHEN: Great God Jehovah Almighty, my name is David L. Cohen, a humble Philadelphian. Back in the 1990s, as the mayor’s chief of staff, I played a major role in rescuing my seemingly doomed city from its financial crisis. The New York Times called it “one of the most stunning turnabouts in recent urban history.” The Economist called it “a miracle.” I stayed in that job for six years, even though I could have earned much more money in the private sector. And that’s just the tip of my good-works iceberg. With all due respect, your Awesomeness, my case ought to be a no-brainer for you. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just take my place . . . .

GOD: Just a minute. Your achievements in City Hall are indeed impressive. But you left that job in 1997. What have you done since then?

COHEN: I hardly know where to begin. I served voluntarily as chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. I gave selflessly of my time and fund-raising talents to the Jewish Federation, the United Way, the Urban League, and the American Red Cross. I funneled millions of dollars in foundation grants to charities that serve African Americans, Latinos, and Asians. There wasn’t a nonprofit organization in this community that didn't ask me to be on its board. To spare you valuable time and trouble, I’ve prepared this 76-page personal résumé, including character references from high government officials in both political parties. So if you’ll just give the OK . . . .

Giving back

GOD: You said all this work was voluntary? How did you support yourself after you left City Hall?

COHEN: Oh, odd jobs here and there. I managed to get by. My real passion was for my community. There’s a lot of need out there. I felt a personal and societal need to give back as much as possible.

GOD: Been working at soup kitchens and washing the sores of lepers, have you?

COHEN: No, no— that wouldn't have been the most efficient use of my time. I performed my good works at a much broader level. Down on Earth, I had 3,503 names in my BlackBerry. At any one time, up to 20 people were waiting for an appointment with me. I was sort of like You, come to think of it.

GOD: Well, where’d you get that fancy suit? You look like some kind of corporate executive or lobbyist.

COHEN: I dressed this way on Earth as a token of respect for the power brokers I had to schmooze to get things done. Believe me, I can’t wait to chuck this monkey suit and power tie for a simple robe and sandals in Your Eternal Kingdom! So if you could just sign this form . . . .

GOD: How did you wind up dispensing grants from — what did you say the name of that foundation was?

COHEN: I didn’t. But I was proud to be involved with the Comcast Foundation, despite all the criticism it received. People wanted to take this incredible commitment to communities and these organizations and make it a bad thing — that we at Comcast were buying political support in exchange for the transactions. That was simply not true. And I believe it was offensive to the organizations we supported.

Heaven’s bottom line

GOD: Comcast? You worked at Comcast?

COHEN: Uh, yes, but just for a few years. I’d forgotten all about that job, actually. It might not even be on my résumé . . . .

GOD: Why didn’t you say so? I’ve been trying to reach you people for weeks. Our reception is terrible up here! My picture keeps breaking up.

COHEN: That wasn’t my department. To contact customer service, you have to dial . . . .

GOD: Tell me about it. They put me on hold for half an hour, and when I finally got a live human, he spoke in such a thick accent that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

COHEN: Let me point out that Comcast gets over 300 million service calls a year — a million a day. So even if we did a great job on 99 percent of them, we’d still have 3 million customers who are angry.

GOD: One of whom is Yours Truly.

COHEN: In any case, Comcast is actually phasing out its cable TV operation in order to concentrate on the Internet.

GOD: Just a minute. (Shouts offstage.) Hey, Gabriel, there’s a guy here from Comcast who wants to get into Heaven! (Raucous laughter offstage. God turns back to Cohen.) Look, David, in many respects you’ve produced an admirable track record. But then, so did Robert E. Lee. So did Joe Paterno and Martin Heidegger. So did Benedict Arnold. Up here we have to weigh your community service work against other factors. At the end of the day, you made many millions as the front man for a company whose primary activity is gobbling up other companies and stifling competition. That’s our bottom line.

COHEN: That's what You think, You dense deity. Look, I’ve tried to approach You respectfully, but You just don’t seem to get it. If You watched the news instead of listening to choirs and harps all day, You’d know that Heaven is now a Comcast subsidiary. The deal just cleared the Justice Department last week. You’re not in charge here any more, except as a figurehead. I’m really sorry, but You were impeding our long-range game plan. We had to acquire You to allow our dynamic marketplace to continue to grow.

GOD: Oh my God.

COHEN: Exactly. So if You’ll just sign this abdication form . . . .

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