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Cosby, Bill

Bill Cosby

1937–

Comedian, actor, writer, television show host

Bill Cosby, one of television's funniest and most popular comedic actors, has spent his long career making people laugh. Cosby first gained prominence as a comedian in the early 1960s, when he vaulted from telling jokes in Philadelphia nightspots to the top of the nightclub circuit and then to television. Cosby became the first African American to star in a television drama when he appeared on I Spy in 1965. In the 1980s, in the role of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, he headed television's first educated, middleclass African American family in the wildly successful The Cosby Show. Though best known for his television appearances, Cosby has made more than 20 comedy albums, appeared in films, published a string of humorous books, and pitched products for Jell-O, Kodak, and a variety of other companies.

Among the first blacks to rise to prominence in the entertainment industry, Cosby's humor springs from life's absurdities. In his early years, Cosby made a conscious choice about how he would portray life on stage. He wanted to highlight what was "ordinary" in his characters. "I mean, race was still an issue. It's after the march on Washington, but we're also dealing with Panthers, militancy, we're dealing with resistance, we're dealing with it in the courts, in Congress—at least two, three, four, five senators still saying 'You may be voting now but you're not later, you may be going to school here now, but you won't later,'" Cosby explained in the Los Angeles Times. As a young comic, he told long funny stories about his childhood in Philadelphia and his experiences at Temple University. In the 1970s and 1980s, he wove humorous yarns from family events, such as a child's trip to the dentist. In the 1990s, he addressed aging and the consequences of raising wealthy children. Through his humor, Cosby highlighted the similarities and common humanity Americans share regardless of race. "I don't think you can bring the races together by joking about the differences between them," he said upon receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002. "I'd rather talk about the similarities, about what's universal in their experiences." He built his fame on portraying himself as an Everyman. "I enjoyed that, that the black man is Everyman," Cosby told the Los Angeles Times about his Bill Cosby Show character Chet Kincaid, a school gym teacher, "Just trying to get from here to the post office, lick some stamps, come on home."

Found Joy in Comedy

William Henry Cosby, Jr., was born in 1937 in the Germantown district of North Philadelphia. He grew up in the all-African American Richard Allen housing project where his mother, Anna Cosby, struggled to raise him and his younger brothers, Russell and Robert. His father, William Cosby, Sr., served as a mess steward in the U.S. Navy and was away for months at a time. As a child, Cosby loved comedy radio shows. "I always listened for the comedy," he told the Los Angeles Times: "Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Jimmy Durante, Fred Allen…. When comedy was on, I was just happy to be alive." By the fifth grade, Cosby was getting up in front of his class and making everybody laugh, including his teacher.

Cosby's high IQ led teachers to place him in a class for gifted students, but outside interests eventually derailed his school career. Between work and playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track, he found little time for schoolwork. When Cosby was told that he would have to repeat the tenth grade at Germantown High, he dropped out. "The truth is," he recalled in the Los Angeles Times, "I'd just grown very tired of myself and thought perhaps there was a career for me in the service. If you stayed in for 20 years, you knew at least you'd get a certain amount of money for the rest of your life." Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956.

Away from school, Cosby realized the importance of an education and used his four years in the Navy to prepare for the day when he would continue his schooling. Cosby learned physical therapy, traveled around the western hemisphere, and earned a high school equivalency diploma through correspondence courses. In 1961, at the age of 23, Cosby won a track and field scholarship to Temple University.

For two years, Cosby studied physical education, ran track, and played right halfback on Temple's football team. During his sophomore year, however, Cosby got his first job telling jokes while tending bar at a Philadelphia coffeehouse called the Cellar. His salary was five dollars a night. According to Cosby, this was the real beginning of his comedy career. "I understood that if people enjoy conversation with the bartender, they leave tips," he told the Los Angeles Times "So I began collecting jokes, and learning how to work them up, stretch them out."

Played "John Q. Public"

From the Cellar he moved to a Philadelphia nightclub called the Underground and finally, in the spring of 1962, to New York City's Greenwich Village, where for $60 a week and a room without plumbing he worked the Gaslight Cafe. At the Gaslight, he told long funny stories which brought everyday events to absurd but sweet conclusions. His comedy was one of understatement, wild sound effects, a rubbery face, and far-ranging characterizations. The Gaslight soon tripled Cosby's salary, and within months the William Morris Agency signed him to a management contract. He soon cut a comedy album and traveled the comedy club circuit, performing at the "hungry i" in San Francisco, Mr. Kelly's in Chicago, and the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Cosby's temporary leave from Temple soon became permanent. No longer a student, Bill Cosby was now a comedian.

At a Glance …

Born William Henry Cosby, Jr., on July 12, 1937, in Germantown, PA; son of William Henry, Sr. (a U.S. Navy mess steward) and Anna (a domestic worker) Cosby; married Camille Hanks, January 25, 1964; children: Erika, Erinn, Ennis (deceased), Ensa, Evin. Education: Attended Temple University, 1961–62; University of Massachusetts, MA, 1972, EdD, 1977.

Career: Comedian, 1963–; actor, 1965–; author, 1973–.

Memberships: United Negro College Fund; NAACP; Operation PUSH; Sickle Cell Foundation; Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation.

Awards: Eight Grammy awards for best comedy album; four Emmy awards; NAACP Image Award; Golden Globe Award; four People's Choice awards; Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee, 1994; Kennedy Center Awards Honoree, 1998; People's Choice Award for Favorite All-Time Television Star, 1999; People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series, 1997; Image Award for Outstanding Performance in a Youth or Children's Series/Special for: Little Bill, 2001; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2002; Bob Hope Humanitarian Emmy Award, 2003.

Addresses: Agent—c/o The Brokaw Company, 9255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 804, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Cosby was "a new kind of black comedian," wrote Donald Bogle, author of Blacks in American Film and Television: "In suit and tie, he looked like a well-brought-up, serious college student, a smart fellow geared to make it. Unlike Redd Foxx or Slappy White, who … had performed material directly pitched towards black audiences, Cosby was [a] crossover." Asked to explain the absence of racial material in his humor, Cosby told a Newsweek interviewer in 1963, "I'm trying to reach all the people. I want to play John Q. Public."

In 1965, television producer Sheldon Leonard saw Cosby on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Leonard was impressed and cast Cosby as Alex Scott, an undercover CIA agent in NBC's action adventure series, I Spy. The part of the witty, multilingual Scott was intended for a white actor—no African American had ever had a lead role in a dramatic series. Nevertheless, Cosby played it with ease. He won three Emmy Awards and began what would be his pattern of playing successful, educated African Americans in a medium dominated by negative images of African Americans.

I Spy left the air after three hit seasons, but Cosby returned to television in 1969 in the Bill Cosby Show as Chet Kincaid, a physical education teacher helping disadvantaged kids in a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. The show remained on the air for two years, but was not a hit. In fact, Cosby's acting career foundered a bit in the early 1970s. The Bill Cosby Show was canceled in the spring of 1971; his first film feature, Hickey and Boggs, was poorly received; and his 1972 comedy/variety television show, the New Bill Cosby Show, failed to find an audience. Yet by 2006, his early career appealed to audiences, and Bill Cosby Show episodes were released on DVD. Robert Lloyd reminisced in the Los Angeles Times about Cosby's early television shows as the basis of his popularity: "the roles he's played on the small screen seem to relate strongly to the Cosby we think we know. And The Bill Cosby Show is in some ways the purest expression of that person."

Earned Success through Animation, Films, and Education

Cosby next found success with the unlikely program Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an animated children's show which debuted in 1972 and became a fixture on Saturday morning television. Fat Albert's storylines came from Cosby's comedy albums and boyhood memories, and Cosby served as executive producer and host. After each humorous but instructive adventure of Fat Albert, Weird Harold, Mush Mouth, and the other characters, Cosby would appear on screen and draw a lesson from the show's events that aimed to help kids put their experiences in perspective. According to Vibe contributor Cathleen Campbell, "The message was the same every time: We have the power to turn alienation into a sense of community, the power to rediscover and reinvent." The critically acclaimed program remained in production until 1984, and in 2004 Fat Albert, a live-action feature film hit theaters but did not gain the same adoration enjoyed by the earlier animated series.

In the mid-1970s, Cosby teamed with actor-director Sidney Poitier for two successful movie comedies, 1974's Uptown Saturday Night, and 1975's Let's Do It Again. In Uptown Saturday Night he portrayed Wardell Franklin, a taxi driver trying to recover a stolen lottery ticket from the mob, in a performance the New Yorker praised as "very funny." Though Let's Do It Again was less successful, critics hailed Cosby as a major comedic talent. Still, the comedian struggled to find consistent success. Mother, Jugs & Speed, a 1976 film co-starring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel, flopped, as did Cos, a variety show for kids, and the 1977 film A Piece of the Action, which reunited him with Poitier.

Though his successful career as an entertainer made a college degree unnecessary, Cosby spent much of the 1970s earning advanced degrees in education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The university allowed him to substitute life experience for his uncompleted bachelor's degree and his work in prisons and on the children's television program The Electric Company for its teaching requirement. Cosby wrote a 242-page dissertation called "An Integration of the Visual Media via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning," and in May of 1977, he was awarded a doctorate of education.

Cosby determined by the mid-1970s that he would take advantage of his wide public visibility, and his acumen as a businessman and corporate spokesman prompted Forbes magazine to call the comedian: "Bill Cosby, capitalist." With newly hired lawyer Herbert Chaice, Cosby began to seek ways to gain a portion of the profits he generated. Their strategies led to Cosby's attaining interests in the Coca-Cola Company, for which he had long been a spokesman, and in other business ventures. Cosby also became a ubiquitous pitchman whose commercials for Jell-O, Kodak, Del Monte, Ford Motor Company, and other businesses made him one of the most recognizable people in America.

While Cosby remained a strong nightclub act in this period, his film and television work continued to be less than impressive. He and Richard Pryor portrayed bumbling dentists in 1979's California Suite, roles which the New Yorker complained had "racist overtones." He appeared in Disney's The Devil and Max Devlin and was featured in the in-concert film Bill Cosby—Himself. He also worked as a guest host for the Tonight Show where, according to Donald Bogle, he "came across as rather arrogant and occasionally insensitive, looking a little like a Vegas burnout case."

Transformed Television with The Cosby Show

In 1982, Cosby let it be known that he was interested in a weekly series. Production companies, recognizing his popularity, approached him with offers. Cosby chose a show pitched by former ABC executives Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, and demanded a salary and an equal split of all of the show's profits. Werner and Carsey agreed to this rare arrangement, and on September 20, 1984, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC. As Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, Cosby and his lawyer wife, played by Phylicia Rashad, dealt with the ups and downs of family life. The show's humor was warm and universal. The New York Times called it "the classiest and most entertaining new situation comedy of the season." It reached number three in its first year, was number one for the next four seasons, and remained in the top 20 until its final episode in 1992. The Cosby Show had 80 million regular viewers at the height of its popularity and its ratings pulled NBC from third to first place among the networks.

The show—which mirrored Cosby's own life with his wife, Camille, and their five children—generated a large sociological debate, since it portrayed African Americans and parents as they had never been seen on television before. The New York Times's Bill Carter wrote that "it restored the television image of the parent as loving authority figure, and it gave viewers, black and white, an unwaveringly positive look at family life, as lived in a home headed by two professional parents who happened to be black." Some attacked The Cosby Show for presenting an unrealistically idealized portrait of the African American family. The Huxtables were too well off, too smart, too "perfect," said critics. Cosby responded that his television family offered a positive alternative to harsher images available on television and elsewhere.

Asked if he thought The Cosby Show would have been as popular if it had been more aggressive on racial issues, Cosby told the Los Angeles Times: "No. Because I don't know how to do that without getting angry at racial bigotry. That's not funny to me." Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chairman of Harvard University's African American Studies Program, told the New York Times that Cosby "put race and economic issues on the back burner so we could see a black family dealing with all the things black people deal with the same as all other people. It was the first time most of us as black people have felt a sense of identity with and resemblance to the kind of values we have in common, our relationships with our parents and our siblings."

"No series in the history of television … has ever been more about education," wrote Dennis A. Williams in Emerge. The Huxtable parents consistently reminded their children of the importance of a college education, and the opening credit that listed "William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D." was a powerful reminder of where education could take a person. Both The Cosby Show and its spinoff, A Different World (set in a fictional black college), made higher education a viable option to thousands of young African Americans. During their run, applications to African American colleges went up dramatically. "You've got to figure we made a heck of an impression on people who wanted to go to college," Cosby told the Los Angeles Times.

When The Cosby Show went into syndication in 1987, Bill Cosby, as half owner of the show's profits, became a very rich man. According to Forbes, competing independent stations doubled previous records in their bidding for the program. By 1992, total syndication for the show reached $1 billion, of which Cosby received $333 million. With all of this money, Cosby and his wife, Camille, became active philanthropists. In 1988, they donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta, the biggest single contribution ever made to a black college.

During The Cosby Show's eight-year run, Cosby published four books: Fatherhood (1986), Time Flies (1987), Love and Marriage (1989), and Childhood (1991). Each of the fast-paced and hilarious books hit the bestseller list, though critical reaction was mixed. The New York Times's Karen Ray complained that Fatherhood contained "only one joke … stretched and stretched some more." But Laura Green wrote in the same paper that readers of Love and Marriage would "giggle with self-recognition." Less successful were the movies he made during this period. Critics and audiences agreed that Leonard Part VI (1987) and Ghost Dad (1990) were undisputed and undistinguished duds.

As the children in The Cosby Show grew older and went off to college or got married, some critics complained of a decline in quality. But the show remained popular as Cosby showcased African American entertainers, used the character of Theo to mirror his own son's struggle with a learning disability, and brought in women writers to focus on a female character's first period and the problems of a teen-age girl who is pressured to have sex. Williams applauded The Cosby Show for being the most ethnically diverse program on television, but "most significantly," he wrote, "Cosby combines unspoken racial pride and its color-blind premise in a conscious promotion of personal achievement that might please both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas." In the spring of 1992, The Cosby Show ended its fabulously successful run. "I don't have anything left to say," Cosby told the New York Times. "That may be why it's not a sad, sad moment. I'm satisfied."

Tried New Shows

Not one to rest on his laurels, Cosby returned to television the following fall with a syndicated version of the old Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life. You Bet Your Life was supposed to be a sure money maker, but was canceled midway through its first season due to low ratings. Cosby went back to NBC for a series of light television mystery movies in 1993, to be followed by The Cosby Mysteries series in 1994. The Cosby Mysteries failed to find a sustained audience, and was canceled.

Although Cosby has always avoided racial humor in his comedy, the highly respected star began to speak out about portrayals of African Americans in American entertainment in the 1990s. Upon his 1994 induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Cosby asked network television executives to "stop this horrible massacre of images [of African Americans] that are being put on the screen now. I'm begging you, because it isn't us." A few months earlier, Cosby told Newsweek: "Someone at the very top has to say, ‘OK, enough of this … ’ Today's writers look on TV as just a joke machine. And when it comes to African Americans, the joke's on us."

Undaunted by the failure of The Cosby Mysteries, Cosby returned to primetime television in 1996 with a new sitcom entitled Cosby. The show centers around the life of Hilton Lucas (Cosby), an airline employee who loses his job as a result of downsizing. Without a steady job, Lucas spends time around the house dispensing advice to those around him about how to cope with the challenges of daily life. Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosby's wife on The Cosby Show, co-stars as Lucas's wife Ruth. The show focuses around Ruth and Hilton's relationship, and episodes have also tackled complex social issues such as drug addiction and absentee parents. In 1996, Cosby won the People's Choice Award as America's Favorite New Television Comedy Series. The series would continue for four seasons.

Tragic Loss of Son

In early 1997, Cosby was faced with one of the most difficult periods of his life. On January 16, 1997, Cosby's only son, Ennis, was robbed and murdered on a Los Angeles highway after he stopped to fix a flat tire. Shortly after the murder, a 19-year-old Ukrainian immigrant named Mikhail Markhasev was arrested and charged with the crime. In 1998, Markhasev was convicted of Ennis's murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On the same day that Ennis was murdered, a Southern California woman named Autumn Jackson came forward and alleged that she was Cosby's illegitimate daughter. Jackson and an accomplice had threatened to expose the story to the media unless they received $40 million dollars from Cosby. The pair were arrested in New York City by the FBI and were charged with extortion. Cosby acknowledged that he had an affair with Jackson's mother, Shawn Upshaw, and had paid her $100,000 so that she would not disclose their affair. He also paid some of Jackson's educational expenses. However, Cosby strongly denied that he was Jackson's father. Jackson was found guilty of extortion and ordered to publicly apologize to Cosby. She was also sentenced to a 26-month term in prison. After serving only 14 months, Jackson's conviction was overturned by an appeals court. The court then reversed itself and restored her conviction in 1999.

Despite the tremendous grief he felt over the loss of his son, Cosby did not retreat into isolation and self-pity. Rather, he remained in the public eye and conducted himself with grace and dignity. Cosby returned to the set of Cosby and immersed himself in his work. As he told Cosby executive producer Norman Steinberg, which was reported in People, "A lot of people depend on me. I have to open my store. This is what I do." While appearing at a benefit held in October of 1997 in New York, People reported that Cosby told those assembled, "Now I don't want you to think that because of what happened to me this year, I'm going to meet you at the bus station and ask you if you found Christ. No, no." Indeed, Cosby maintained his appealing, open humor on television and on stage.

Cosby concentrated his efforts on finding ways to honor and preserve his son's memory, a son whom he referred to as "my hero." Shortly after Ennis's death, the Cosby family launched a charitable organization called the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation. The organization is focused on promoting the early detection and treatment of dyslexia, a condition that Ennis had worked to overcome in his own life. "Hello, Friend" was added to the organization's title because this was Ennis's trademark greeting. Cosby also created a series of books for children featuring a character called "Little Bill". The "Little Bill" books feature children with learning problems and are designed to help parents to teach values to their children. In 1999 Cosby adapted the "Little Bill" books into a television series for preschool children. The program, which was contracted by the Nickelodeon cable channel, was renewed into 2001. In an interview on CBS "This Morning", which was quoted on blackvoices.com, Cosby remarked that his son wanted to write stories "about children with learning differences. Of course with his murder, this cut everything short. So I dedicated all of this to him." In 1998, Cosby released an album featuring various jazz artists entitled Hello Friend: To Ennis With Love.

Took on Social Issues

In 1998, Cosby was among five performers who were saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. A ceremony was held at the Kennedy Center and was attended by President and Mrs. Clinton. In her remarks, which were quoted in Jet, Phylicia Rashad praised her friend and television co-star, "It doesn't take a lot of intelligence to put people down, but it takes Bill's intelligence, his sensibility, and his grace to embrace the whole world with care and to uplift it with laughter." Cosby's wit and wisdom would meld in the coming years as he concentrated his attentions on various topics, from education, to health, to television, to community.

Cosby published a book entitled Congratulations! Now What?: A Book For Graduates in 1999. Using his characteristic humor, Cosby offered words of wisdom and advice to new college graduates. In her review of Congratulations! Now What? on amazon.com, Brenda Pittsley noted that "graduates—and their now-broke parents—will find a reason to smile on every page." Ray Olson, in his review of the book for Booklist, remarked that "no comedian knows better how to speak the worst fatalisms and reduce an audience to tears of both laughter and sentiment. Fine, fine humor." The following year he published a series of vignettes on life, called Cosbyology. In 2003, his book of writings about improving his eating habits and health was published, titled I Am What I Ate … And I'm Frightened.

With his celebrity status firmly established, and his grace and humor finely honed, Cosby began using his talents and wide appeal to agitate for change. Cosby spoke out against the generally poor quality of television programming. "The problem with television programming today is that we are now in the age of stooping as in to bend down to make yourself lower." he remarked to Jet. "The bar is not being raised at all. There is too much focus on orifices and the size of organs and body parts. Many of the writers write like they never had a course in Western Literature. They seem to be taking their language off the street corners." Cosby consistently held himself to a higher standard. He created a body of work that offers wholesome entertainment for people of all ages. As CBS Television President Leslie Moonves told Jet, "At its best, television is a medium that entertains as well as informs. Throughout his career, Bill Cosby has accomplished this with grace, humor, and unparalleled passion for his craft."

While entertainment remained central to Cosby's career, he began committing more of his time to speak out about what his considered to be American society's failings. He started a maelstrom a 2004 NAACP event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision when he pinned the problems of the black community squarely on blacks. "We cannot blame white people," he said, saying, as quoted by USA Today. "… It's not what they're doing to us. It's what we are not doing. Fifty percent dropout. Look, we're raising our own ingrown immigrants. These people are fighting hard to be ignorant…. They're angry and they have pistols and they shoot and they do stupid things." Cosby elaborated on how blacks needed to improve their parenting, education, and general efforts to get ahead. He held local meetings to discuss his ideas with groups around the country. Not surprisingly, critics came to the fore. At least three books analyzing Cosby's speech were published. University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Eric Dyson was among the most prominent of Cosby's critics. He published Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?) in 2005. In several interviews and on his Web site Dyson countered Cosby's claim that blacks were responsible for their lot in American life. "Cosby's overemphasis on personal responsibility, not structural features, wrongly locates the source of poor black suffering—and by implication its remedy—in the lives of the poor," he wrote on his Web site. But Cosby supporter and acclaimed young adult author Nat Hentoff wrote in the Washington Times that "Dyson chooses to ignore that Mr. Cosby is trying to move black people to restore the energy, the momentum of the civil-rights movement to deal with those institutional and political breeders of inequality." Cosby continued his crusade unfazed by the controversy, attempting to provide the inspiration needed for blacks to start improving their lives and communities one town meeting at a time. Still adamant, despite the passage of time and the ongoing controversy sparked by his statements, Cosby seemed primed to carry his message for years to come.

Selected works

Books

The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert, Windmill Books, 1973.
Bill Cosby's Personal Guide to Tennis Power; or Don't Lower the Lob, Raise the Net, Random House, 1975.
Fatherhood, Doubleday, 1986.
Time Flies, Doubleday, 1987.
Love and Marriage, Doubleday, 1989.
Childhood, Putnam, 1991.
The Best Way to Play, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1997.
The Meanest Thing to Say, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1997.
Shipwreck Saturday, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1998.
Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors! (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1999.
Congratulations! Now What?: A Book For Graduates, Hyperion, 1999.
The Day I Was Rich, (Little Bill series), Scholastic Trade, 1999.
The Day I Saw My Father Cry, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 2000.
Cosbyology, Hyperion, 2001.
I Am What I Ate … And I'm Frightened, HarperCollins, 2003.

Films

Hickey & Boggs, 1972.
Uptown Saturday Night, 1974.
Journey Back to Oz, 1974.
Let's Do It Again, 1975.
Mother, Jugs & Speed, 1976.
A Piece of the Action, 1977.
California Suite, 1978.
The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981.
Bill Cosby, Himself, 1983.
Leonard Part 6, 1987.
Ghost Dad, 1990.
The Meteor Man, 1993.
Jack, 1996.
4 Little Girls, 1997.
Comedian, 2002.

Television

I Spy, 1965–68.
The Bill Cosby Show, 1969–71.
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (animated series), 1972–79.
The New Fat Albert Show (animated series), 1979–84.
You Bet Your Life, 1992–93.
The Cosby Show, 1984–92.
The Cosby Mysteries, 1994.
Cosby, 1996–2000.
Little Bill, 1999–.
Fatherhood (animated series), 2004–.

Sources

Books

Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Film and Television, Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Cohen, David, and Charles M. Collins, editors, The African Americans, Viking Studio Books, 1993.

Salley, Columbus, The Black 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present, Citadel Press, 1992.

Smith, Ronald L. Cosby: The Life of a Comedy Legend, Prometheus, 1997.

Periodicals

Booklist, May 1, 1999.

Broadcasting, February 22, 1993, p. 5.

Ebony, June 1977.

Emerge, May 1992, pp. 22-26.

Essence, March 1994, p. 84.

Forbes, September 28, 1992, p. 85.

Jet, December 28, 1998, p. 34; April 3, 2000, p. 60; December 27, 2004–January 3, 2005, p. 54.

Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1989, p. Calendar-6; April 26, 1992, p. Calendar-7; August 28, 1992, p. F1; August 22, 2006, p. E1.

Newsweek, June 17, 1963; December 6, 1993, pp. 59-61.

New Yorker, June 17, 1974, p. 89; January 8, 1979, p. 49.

New York Times, September 20, 1984, p. C30; December 18, 1987, p. C30; January 21, 1988, p. C26; November 8, 1988, p. A1; January 12, 1989, p. D21; May 14, 1989, sec. 7, p. 23; February 21, 1991, p. C13; October 27, 1991, sec. 7, p. 20; April 26, 1992, sec. 2, p. 1; August 4, 2002, sec. 2, p. 13.

Playboy, December 1985.

People, December 29, 1997, p. 54-55.

Time, July 16, 1990, p. 86; February 28, 1994, pp. 60-62.

Vibe, November 1993, p. 120.

Washington Post, July 21, 2006, p. A17.

On-line

"The Bill Cosby Revolution," Washington Times, www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20060827-100239-5271r.htm (November 8, 2006).

"Cosby Gives a 'Call Out,'" USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-05-16-cosby-main_x.htm (November 8, 2006).

"Quoting Bill Cosby: Words that Started It All," USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-05-16-cosby-excerpts_x.htm (November 8, 2006).

Michael Eric Dyson, www.michaelericdyson.com (November 8, 2006).

"President Honors Recipients of Presidential Medal of Freedom," White House: President George W. Bush, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/07/20020709-8.html (January 10, 2007).

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Bill Cosby: In Words and Pictures (an Ebony/Jet special issue).

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Cosby, Bill 1937–

Bill Cosby 1937

Comedian, actor, producer, educator, and author

At a Glance

Became a Comedian

I Spy and Beyond

The Cosby Show

Rose to the Top

Selected writings

Sources

Bill Cosby, one of televisions funniest and most popular co-medic actors, has spent his long career making people laugh. Cosby first gained prominence as a comedian in the early 1960s, when he vaulted from telling jokes in Philadelphia night-spots to the top of the nightclub circuit and then to television. Cosby became the first African American to star in a television drama when he appeared on I Spy in 1965. In the 1980s, in the role of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, he headed televisions first educated, middle-class black family in the wildly successful Cosby Show. Though best known for his television appearances, Cosby has made more than 20 comedy albums, appeared in films, published a string of humorous books, and pitched products for Jell-O, Kodak, and a variety of other companies.

Cosbys humor springs from lifes absurdities. As a young comic, he told long funny stories about his childhood in Philadelphia and his experiences at Temple University. In the 1970s and 1980s, he wove humorous yarns from family events, such as a childs trip to the dentist. In the 1990s, he addressed aging and the consequences of raising wealthy children.

William Henry Cosby, Jr., was born in 1937 in the German-town district of North Philadelphia. He grew up in the all-black Richard Allen housing project where his mother, Anna Cosby, struggled to raise him and his younger brothers, Russell and Robert. His father, William Cosby, Sr., served as a mess steward in the U.S. Navy and was away for months at a time. As a child, Cosby loved comedy radio shows. I always listened for the comedy, he told the Los Angeles Times: Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Jimmy Durante, Fred Allen. When comedy was on, I was just happy to be alive. By the fifth grade he was getting up in front of his class and making everybody laugh, including his teacher.

Cosbys high IQ led teachers to place him in a class for gifted students, but outside interests eventually derailed his school career. Between work and playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track, he found little time for schoolwork. When he was told he would have to repeat the tenth grade at Germantown High, he dropped out. The truth is, he recalled in the Los Angeles Times, Id just grown very tired of myself and thought perhaps there was a career for me in the

At a Glance

Born William Henry Cosby, Jr., July 12, 1937, in Germantown, PA; son of William Henry, Sr. (a U.S. Navy mess steward) and Anna (a domestic worker) Cosby; married Camille Hanks, January 25, 1964; children: Erika, Erinn, Ennis, Ensa, Evin. Education: Attended Temple University, 1961-62; University of Massachusetts, M.A., 1972, Ed.D., 1977.

Actor, comedian, recording artist, author. Nightclub comedian, 1963. Television actor, appearing in I Spy, 1965-68, The Bill Cosby Show, 1969-71, The Cosby Show, 1984-92, and The Cosby Mysteries, 1994; creator of childrens animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. 1972-75, and The New Fat Albert Show, 197994; host of You Bet Your Life. 1992-93, Film appearances include roles in Hickey and Boggs, 1972, Man and Bay, 1972, Uptown Saturday Night, 1974, Lets Do It Again, 1975, Mother, Juggs & Speed, 1976, A Piece of the Action, 1977, California Suite, 1978, The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981, Bill Cosby Himself, 1983, Leonard Part VI, 1967, and Ghost Dad, 1990. Commercial spokesperson for Jell-O Pudding, Kodak Film, and other products. Military service: Served in U.S. Navy, 195660.

Member: United Negro College Fund, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Operation PUSH, Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame (president). Sickle Cell Foundation.

Awards: Spingam Medal, NAACP, 1985; eight Grammy awards for best comedy album; four Emmy awards; NAACP Image Award; Golden Globe Award; four Peoples Choice awards; Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee.

Addresses: Office P.O. Box 4049, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Agent The Brokaw Co., 9255 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

service. If you stayed in for 20 years, you knew at least youd get a certain amount of money for the rest of your life. Cosby enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1956.

Away from school, Cosby realized the importance of an education and used his four years in the military to prepare for the day he would continue in school. Cosby learned physical therapy, traveled around the Western Hemisphere, and earned a high school equivalency diploma through correspondence courses. In 1961, at the age of 23, the navy veteran won a track and field scholarship to Temple University.

Became a Comedian

For two years, Cosby studied physical education, ran track, and played right halfback on Temples football team. During his sophomore year, however, Cosby got his first job telling jokes while tending bar at a Philadelphia coffeehouse called the Cellar. His salary was five dollars a night. According to Cosby, this was the real beginning of his comedy career. I understood that if people enjoy conversation with the bartender, they leave tips, he told the Los Angeles Times So I began collecting jokes, and learning how to work them up, stretch them out.

From the Cellar he moved to a Philadelphia nightclub called the Underground and finally, in the spring of 1962, to New York Citys Greenwich Village, where for $60 a week and a room without plumbing he worked the Gaslight Cafe. At the Gaslight, he told long funny stories which brought everyday events to absurd but sweet conclusions. His comedy was one of understatement, wild sound effects, a rubbery face, and far-ranging characterizations.

The Gaslight tripled Cosbys salary, and within months the William Morris Agency signed him to a management contract. He soon cut a comedy album and traveled the comedy club circuit, performing at the hungry i in San Francisco, Mr. Kellys in Chicago, and the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Cosbys temporary leave from Temple soon became permanent. No longer a student, Bill Cosby was now a comedian.

Cosby was a new kind of black comedian, wrote Donald Bogle, author of Blacks in American Film and Television: In suit and tie, he looked like a well-brought-up, serious college student, a smart fellow geared to make it. Unlike Redd Foxx or Slappy White, who had performed material directly pitched towards black audiences, Cosby was [a] crossover. Asked to explain the absence of racial material in his humor, Cosby told a Newsweek interviewer in 1963, Im trying to reach all the people. I want to play John Q. Public.

I Spy and Beyond

In 1965, television producer Sheldon Leonard saw Cosby on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Leonard was impressed and cast Cosby as Alex Scott, an undercover CIA agent in NBCs action adventure series I Spy. The part of the witty, multilingual Scott was intended for a white actorno African American had ever had a lead role in a dramatic series. Nevertheless, Cosby played it with ease. He won three Emmy Awards and began what would be his pattern of playing successful, educated blacks in a medium dominated by negative images of African Americans.

I Spy left the air after three hit seasons, but Cosby returned to television in 1969 in the Bill Cosby Show as Chet Kincaid, a physical education teacher helping disadvantaged kids in a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. The show remained on the air for two years but was not a hit. In fact, Cosbys acting career foundered a bit in the early 1970s. The Bill Cosby Show was canceled in the spring of 1971; his first film feature, Hickey and Boggs, was poorly received, and his 1972 comedy/variety television show, the New Bill Cosby Show, failed to find an audience.

Cosby next found success with the unlikely program Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an animated kids show which debuted in 1972 and became a fixture on Saturday morning television. Fat Alberts storylines came from Cosbys comedy albums and boyhood memories, and Cosby served as executive producer and host. After each humorous but instructive adventure of Fat Albert, Weird Harold, Mush Mouth, and the other characters, Cosby would appear on screen and draw a lesson from the shows events that aimed to help kids put their experiences in perspective. According to Vibe contributor Cathleen Campbell, The message was the same every time: We have the power to turn alienation into a sense of community, the power to rediscover and reinvent. The critically acclaimed program remained in production until 1984.

In the mid-1970s, Cosby teamed with actor-director Sidney Poitier for two successful movie comedies, 1974s Uptown Saturday Night and 1975s Lets Do It Again. In Uptown Saturday Night he portrayed Wardell Franklin, a taxi driver trying to recover a stolen lottery ticket from the mob, in a performance the New Yorker praised as very funny. Though Lets Do It Again was less successful, critics hailed Cosby as a major comedic talent. Still, the comedian struggled to find consistent success. Mother, Jugs & Speed, a 1976 film co-starring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel, flopped, as did Cos, a variety show for kids, and the 1977 film A Piece of the Action, which reunited him with Poitier.

Though his successful career as an entertainer made a college degree unnecessary, Cosby spent much of the 1970s earning advanced degrees in education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The university allowed him to substitute life experience for his uncompleted bachelors degree and his work in prisons and on the kids television program Electric Company for its teaching requirement. Cosby wrote a 242-page dissertation called An Integration of the Visual Media via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning, and in May of 1977, he was awarded a doctorate of education.

Cosby determined by the mid-1970s that he would take advantage of his wide public visibility, and his acumen as a businessman and corporate spokesman prompted Forbes magazine to call the comedian: Bill Cosby, capitalist. With newly hired lawyer Herbert Chaice, Cosby began to seek ways to gain a portion of the profits he generated. Their strategies led to Cosbys attaining interests in the Coca-Cola Company, for which he had long been a spokesman, and in other business ventures. Cosby also became a ubiquitous pitchman whose commercials for Jell-O, Kodak, Del Monte, Ford Motor Company, and other businesses made him one of the most recognizable people in America.

While Cosby remained a strong nightclub act in this period, his film and television work continued to be less than impressive. He and Richard Pry or portrayed bumbling dentists in 1979s California Suite, roles which the New Yorker complained had racist overtones. He appeared in Disneys The Devil and Max Devlin and was featured in the in-concert film Bill Cosby Himself. He also worked as a guest host for the Tonight Show where, according to Donald Bogle, he came across as rather arrogant and occasionally insensitive, looking a little like a Vegas burnout case.

The Cosby Show

In 1982 Cosby let it be known that he was interested in a weekly series. Production companies, recognizing his popularity, jumped with offers. Cosby chose a show pitched by former ABC executives Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, and demanded a salary and an equal split of all of the shows profits. Werner and Carsey agreed to this rare arrangement, and on September 20, 1984, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC. As Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, Cosby and his lawyer wife, played by Phylicia Rashad, dealt with the ups and downs of family life. The shows humor was warm and universal. The New York Times called it the classiest and most entertaining new situation comedy of the season. It reached number three in its first year, was number one for the next four seasons, and remained in the top twenty until its final episode in 1992. The Cosby Show had 80 million regular viewers at the height of its popularity and its ratings pulled NBC from third to first place among the networks.

The showwhich mirrored Cosbys own life with his wife, Camille, and their five childrengenerated a large sociological debate, since it portrayed African Americans and parents as they had never been seen on television before. The New York Timers Bill Carter wrote that it restored the television image of the parent as loving authority figure, and it gave viewers, black and white, an unwaveringly positive look at family life, as lived in a home headed by two professional parents who happened to be black. Some attacked The Cosby Show for presenting an unrealistically idealized portrait of the black family. The Huxtables were too well off, too smart, too perfect, said critics. To this, Cosby responded that his television family offered a positive alternative to harsher images available on television and elsewhere.

Asked if he thought The Cosby Show would have been as popular if it had been more aggressive on racial issues, Cosby told the Los Angeles Times: No. Because I dont know how to do that without getting angry at racial bigotry. Thats not funny to me. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chairman of Harvard Universitys African American Studies Program, told the New York Times that Cosby put race and economic issues on the back burner so we could see a black family dealing with all the things black people deal with the same as all other people. It was the first time most of us as black people have felt a sense of identity with and resemblance to the kind of values we have in common, our relationships with our parents and our siblings.

No series in the history of television has ever been more about education, wrote Dennis A. Williams in Emerge. The Huxtable parents consistently reminded their children of the importance of a college education, and the opening credit that listed William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. was a powerful reminder of where education could take a person. Both The Cosby Show and its spinoff, A Different World (set in a fictional black college), made higher education a viable option to thousands of young blacks. During their run, applications to African American colleges went up dramatically. Youve got to figure we made a heck of an impression on people who wanted to go to college, Cosby told the Los Angeles Times.

Rose to the Top

When The Cosby Show went into syndication in 1987, Bill Cosby, as half owner of the shows profits, became a very rich man. According to Forbes, competing independent stations doubled previous records in their bidding for the program. By 1992 total syndication for the show reached $1 billion, of which Cosby received $333 million. With all this money, Cosby and his wife, Camille, became active philanthropists. In 1988 they donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta, the biggest single contribution ever made to a black college.

During The Cosby Shows eight-year run, Cosby published four books: Fatherhood (1986), Time Flies (1987), Love and Marriage (1989), and Childhood (1991). Each of the fast-paced and hilarious books hit the best seller list, though critical reaction was mixed. The New York Timess Karen Ray complained that Fatherhood contained only one joke stretched and stretched some more. But Laura Green wrote in the same paper that readers of Love and Marriage would giggle with self-recognition. Less successful were the movies he made during this period. Critics and audiences agreed that Leonard Part VI (1987) and Ghost Dad (1990) were undisputed and undistinguished duds.

As the children in The Cosby Show grew older and went off to college or got married, some critics complained of a decline in quality. But the show remained popular as Cosby showcased black entertainers, used the character of Theo to mirror his own sons struggle with a learning disability, and brought in women writers to focus on a female characters first period and the problems of a teenage girl who is pressured to have sex.

Williams applauded The Cosby Show for being the most ethnically diverse program on television, but most significantly, he wrote, Cosby combines unspoken racial pride and its color-blind premise in a conscious promotion of personal achievement that might please both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. In the spring of 1992, The Cosby Show ended its fabulously successful run. I dont have anything left to say, Cosby told the New York Times. That may be why its not a sad, sad moment. Im satisfied.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Cosby returned to television the following fall with a syndicated version of the old Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life. You Bet Your Life was supposed to be a sure money maker but was canceled midway through its first season due to low ratings. Cosby went back to NBC for a series of light television mystery movies in 1993, to be followed by The Cosby Mysteries series in 1994.

Though Cosby has always avoided racial humor in his comedy, the highly-respected star began to speak out about portrayals of blacks in American entertainment in the 1990s. Upon his 1994 induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Cosby asked network television executives to stop this horrible massacre of images (of African Americans) that are being put on the screen now. Im begging you, because it isnt us. A few months earlier, Cosby told Newsweek: Someone at the very top has to say, OK, enough of this. Todays writers look on TV as just a joke machine. And when it comes to African Americans, the jokes on us. About this issue, the man who has made millions telling jokes is clearly not joking.

Selected writings

The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert, Windmill Books, 1973.

Bill Cosbys Personal Guide to Tennis Power; or, Dont Lower the Lob, Raise the Net, Random House, 1975.

Fatherhood, Doubleday, 1986.

Time Flies, Doubleday, 1987.

Love and Marriage, Doubleday, 1989.

Childhood, Putnam, 1991.

Sources

Books

Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Film and Television, Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Cohen, David, and Charles M. Collins, editors, The African Americans, Viking Studio Books, 1993.

Salley, Columbus, The Black 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present, Citadel Press, 1992.

Periodicals

Broadcasting, February 22, 1993, p. 5.

Ebony, June 1977.

Emerge, May 1992, pp. 22-26.

Essence, March 1994, p. 84.

Forbes, September 28, 1992, p. 85.

Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1989, p. Calendar-6; April 26, 1992, p. Calendar-7; August 28, 1992, p. F1.

Newsweek, June 17, 1963; December 6, 1993, pp. 59-61.

New Yorker, June 17, 1974, p. 89; January 8, 1979, p. 49.

New York Times, September 20, 1984, p. C30; December 18, 1987, p. C30; January 21, 1988, p. C26; November 8, 1988, p. A1; January 12, 1989, p. D21; May 14, 1989, sec. 7, p. 23; February 21, 1991, p. C13; October 27, 1991, sec. 7, p. 20; April 26, 1992, sec. 2, p. 1.

Playboy, December 1985.

Time, July 16, 1990, p. 86; February 28, 1994, pp. 60-62.

Vibe, November 1993, p. 120.

Additional information for this profile was taken from Bill Cosby: In Words and Pictures (an Ebony/Jet special issue), by Robert E. Johnson, Johnson Publishing.

Jordan Wankoff

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Cosby, Bill

Bill Cosby

Born: July 12, 1937
Germantown, Pennsylvania

African American comedian and actor

An entertainer for many decades, Bill Cosby has starred in live performances and films, recorded albums, written books, and created television shows. His long-running, hugely popular The Cosby Show was in the top of the television ratings from its debut in 1984 through 1992.

Early years

William Henry Cosby Jr. was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on July 12, 1937, to Anna and William Cosby. One of Cosby's four brothers died at age six. Cosby's father joined the navy and was away from home for months at a time. Cosby, as the oldest son, helped his mother pay the bills by doing odd jobs such as delivering groceries and shining shoes.

Bill was regarded as a comedian even as a child. He particularly enjoyed the comedy of Sid Caesar (1922). In high school he was captain of the track and football teams, and played basketball and baseball. He tried to keep up with his schoolwork, but he dropped out of high school to join the navy in the early 1950s. Cosby's mother had always stressed the importance of education to her children. She would often read books to them, including Mark Twain (18351910) novels and the Bible. Eventually Bill earned his high school diploma through correspondence school and was accepted at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on an athletic scholarship.

Stand-up comedy

While at Temple Cosby took a job as a bartender in a neighborhood café. The bar had hired a comedian who often did not show up for his act. Cosby filled in, entertaining the crowd with jokes and humorous stories. His reputation as a funny bartender spread throughout the city. Cosby soon got offers to do stand-up comedy in other clubs.

Cosby's humor always focuses on stories about his family, everyday occurrences, boyhood experiences, and commonly held beliefs. He does not do racial humor. He told Newsweek, "I'm trying to reach all the people." Cosby was soon making people laugh in large, well-known nightspots all over the country. He reached a point where his career as a comedian showed more promise than his prospects as a student, so he left Temple in 1962.

Early albums

Cosby's first album was Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow Right! (1963). He won a Grammy Award for it. His second album, I Started Out As a Child, released in 1964, received another Grammy honor as Best Comedy Album of the Year. Each of Cosby's albums earned more than $1 million in sales. His popularity continued and he won consecutive Best Comedy Album awards every year from 1964 to 1969.

Television

American comedian Allan Sherman (19241973) was one of Cosby's biggest fans, as well as his producer. When Sherman filled in for Johnny Carson (1925) as guest host of The Tonight Show in 1963, he asked Cosby to be his guest. The Tonight Show producers were skeptical about having an African American comic on the show, but Sherman insisted and Cosby was a big hit. Sheldon Leonard, producer of mid-1960s hits including The Danny Thomas Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Andy Griffith Show, saw The Tonight Show the night Cosby was on. He signed Cosby to play opposite Robert Culp on a new dramatic series. I Spy was an immediate success. It was also the first prime-time television program to star an African American. Cosby won the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1967, 1968, and 1969.

Cosby's second prime-time series, The Bill Cosby Show, began in 1969, just one year after I Spy went off the air. It was number one in its first season. However, ratings steadily dropped over the next two years, and the show was canceled in the spring of 1971.

Cartoons

Cosby produced Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as a special in 1971. The show debuted in 1972 as a regular series on Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). The Saturday afternoon cartoon featured a group of kids living and learning together in an urban (city) area much like the poor section of Philadelphia where Cosby grew up. So that his audience would learn good behavior and solid values, Cosby employed a panel of educators to act as advisers. He also appeared in each episode to discuss its message. The program won a variety of awards, and audience estimates numbered about six million.

Left prime-time television

Cosby made two more attempts at prime time with The New Bill Cosby Show and Cos in 1972 and 1976, respectively. Both were unsuccessful variety shows that included dancing, skits, and monologue (a comedic or dramatic act read by one person) sessions.

During the mid-1970s Cosby did live performances and recorded comedy albums. Most material on these albums came from Cosby's childhood experiences. Examples include plotting an escape from a bed he had been told was surrounded by thousands of poisonous snakes, having his tonsils out at age five, and having everything he ever made in shop class turn into an ashtray. Cosby also made several films, but they were generally overlooked.

Commitment to education

Cosby earned his undergraduate degree from Temple University in 1971. In 1977 he completed his Ph.D. (an advanced degree beyond a master's) in education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Cosby's commitment to education included regular appearances on The Electric Company, produced by the Children's Television Workshop, during the 1970s. He also appeared as the host of the Picturepages segment on Captain Kangaroo in the early 1980s.

More television

By 1984 Cosby had become disappointed with what he saw on television and came up with his own idea for a sitcom (a comedy series). The networks were doubtful, as his last two attempts at prime time were failures. Cosby gave the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) a segment featuring himself as Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable discussing sex with his two teenage daughters. His idea was to have the characters be a happy, middle-class family dealing with everyday problems and incidents. Cosby would play a doctor, who was married to a lawyer. The Cosby Show aired in September 1984 and was an immediate success. It finished the season as the third most watched prime-time television show and was number one for the next four seasons. The show was sold directly to local television stations in October 1988. Cosby, which debuted in the fall of 1996, was the most recent Cosby television show. It was cancelled after four seasons.

Cosby has been his own manager and producer and has written several books, including the best-selling Fatherhood, published in 1986. He also has done a number of television commercials. Cosby and his wife, Camille, have been married since 1964 and have four daughters. A son, Ennis, was tragically killed in 1997 at age twenty-seven. Cosby was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1998 he was honored with a Kennedy Center Award for lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

For More Information

Adler, Bill. The Cosby Wit. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1986.

Cosby, Bill. Cosbyology: Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy. New York: Hyperion, 2001.

Ruuth, Marianne. Bill Cosby. Los Angeles: Melrose Square Publishing, 1992.

Smith, Ronald L. Cosby: The Life of a Comedy Legend. Rev. ed. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997.

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Cosby, Bill

Bill Cosby (William Henry Cosby, Jr.) (kŏz´bē), 1937–, American actor and comedian, b. Philadelphia. He became known as a comedian and was subsequently the first African-American actor to star in a dramatic series on television (I Spy, 1965–68). He has since starred in several television series, most notably the situation comedy The Cosby Show (1984–92), the most popular program on American television during the late 1980s. Cosby has won numerous Emmy awards and written several books, including Fatherhood (1986). He was inducted (1992) into the Television Hall of Fame, and six years later he was awarded a presidential medal. His reputation was tarnished by media reports (particularly in 2014) of accusations of sexual assault from a number of women; none of the accusations resulted criminal charges.

See biography by M. Whitaker (2014).

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Cosby, Bill

Cosby, Bill (1937– ) US comedian, actor and writer. The first leading black man in a television series (I Spy, 1965–68), he established one of the most successful situation comedies in television history, The Cosby Show (1984–92, 1996– ), and appeared in several films. His best-selling books include Fatherhood (1986), Time Flies (1987) and Love and Marriage (1989).

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Cosby, Bill 1937–

Bill Cosby 1937

Comedian, actor, author

At a Glance

Confronted With Tragedy

Selected writings

Sources

Bill Cosby, one of televisions funniest and most popular co-medic actors, has spent his long career making people laugh. Cosby first gained prominence as a comedian in the early 1960s, when he vaulted from telling jokes in Philadelphia night-spots to the top of the nightclub circuit and then to television. Cosby became the first African American to star in a television drama when he appeared on I Spy in 1965. In the 1980s, in the role of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, he headed televisions first educated, middle-class African American family in the wildly successful The Cosby Show. Though best known for his television appearances, Cosby has made more than 20 comedy albums, appeared in films, published a string of humorous books, and pitched products for Jell-O, Kodak, and a variety of other companies.

Cosbys humor springs from lifes absurdities. As a young comic, he told long funny stories about his childhood in Philadelphia and his experiences at Temple University. In the 1970s and 1980s, he wove humorous yarns from family events, such as a childs trip to the dentist. In the 1990s, he addressed aging and the consequences of raising wealthy children.

William Henry Cosby, Jr., was born in 1937 in the German-town district of North Philadelphia. He grew up in the all-African American Richard Allen housing project where his mother, Anna Cosby, struggled to raise him and his younger brothers, Russell and Robert. His father, William Cosby, Sr., served as a mess steward in the U.S. Navy and was away for months at a time. As a child, Cosby loved comedy radio shows. I always listened for the comedy, he told the Los Angeles Times: Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Jimmy Durante, Fred Allen. When comedy was on, I was just happy to be alive. By the fifth grade, Cosby was getting up in front of his class and making everybody laugh, including his teacher.

Cosbys high IQ led teachers to place him in a class for gifted students, but outside interests eventually derailed his school career. Between work and playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track, he found little time for schoolwork. When Cosby was told that he would have to repeat the tenth grade at Germantown High, he dropped out. The truth is, he recalled in the Los Angeles Times, Id just grown very tired of myself and thought perhaps there was a career for me in the

At a Glance

Born William Henry Cosby, Jr., July 12, 1937, in Germantown, PA; son of William Henry, Sr. (a U.S. Navy mess steward) and Anna (a domestic worker) Cosby; married Camille Hanks, January 25, 1964; children: Erika, Erinn, Ennis (deceased), Ensa, Evin. Education: Attended Temple University, 1961-62; University of Massachusetts, MA., 1972, Ed.D., 1977. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1956-60.

Career: Actor, comedian, recording artist, author. Nightclub comedian, 1963-. Television actor, appearing in Spy, 1965-68, The Bill Cosby Show, 1969-71, The Copy Show, 1984-92, The Cosby Mysteries, 1994; and Cosby, 1996-; creator of childrens animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, 1972-79 and The New Fat Albert Show, 1979-84; host of You Bet Your Life, 1992-93. Film appearances include roles in Uptown Saturday Night, 1974; Lets Do It Again, 1975; Mother, Juggs & Speed, 1976; California Suite, 1978; The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981; Leonard Part VI, 1987; and Ghost Dad, 1990. Commercial spokesperson for Jell-O Pudding, Kodak Film, and other products; creator of the Little Bill childrens book series, 1997-.

Member: United Negro College Fund; NAACP; Operation PUSH; Sickle CellFoundation.

Awards: Eight Grammy awards for best comedy album; four Emmy awards; NAACP Image Award; Golden Globe Award; four Peoples Choice awards; Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame inductee, 1994; Kennedy Center Awards Honoree, 1998.

Addresses: Office P.O. Box 4049, Santa Monica, CA 90404, AgentThe Brokaw Co., 9255 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.

service. If you stayed in for 20 years, you knew at least youd get a certain amount of money for the rest of your life. Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956.

Away from school, Cosby realized the importance of an education and used his four years in the Navy to prepare for the day when he would continue his schooling. Cosby learned physical therapy, traveled around the western hemisphere, and earned a high school equivalency diploma through correspondence courses. In 1961, at the age of 23, Cosby won a track and field scholarship to Temple University.

For two years, Cosby studied physical education, ran track, and played right halfback on Temples football team. During his sophomore year, however, Cosby got his first job telling jokes while tending bar at a Philadelphia coffeehouse called the Cellar. His salary was five dollars a night. According to Cosby, this was the real beginning of his comedy career. I understood that if people enjoy conversation with the bartender, they leave tips, he told the Los Angeles Times So I began collecting jokes, and learning how to work them up, stretch them out.

From the Cellar he moved to a Philadelphia nightclub called the Underground and finally, in the spring of 1962, to New York Citys Greenwich Village, where for $60 a week and a room without plumbing he worked the Gaslight Cafe. At the Gaslight, he told long funny stories which brought everyday events to absurd but sweet conclusions. His comedy was one of understatement, wild sound effects, a rubbery face, and far-ranging characterizations. The Gaslight soon tripled Cosbys salary, and within months the William Morris Agency signed him to a management contract. He soon cut a comedy album and traveled the comedy club circuit, performing at the hungry i in San Francisco, Mr. Kellys in Chicago, and the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Cosbys temporary leave from Temple soon became permanent. No longer a student, Bill Cosby was now a comedian. Cosby was a new kind of black comedian, wrote Donald Bogle, author of Blacks in American Film and Television: In suit and tie, he looked like a well-brought-up, serious college student, a smart fellow geared to make it. Unlike Redd Foxx or Slappy White, who had performed material directly pitched towards black audiences, Cosby was [a] crossover. Asked to explain the absence of racial material in his humor, Cosby told a Newsweek interviewer in 1963, Im trying to reach all the people. I want to play John Q. Public.

In 1965, television producer Sheldon Leonard saw Cosby on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Leonard was impressed and cast Cosby as Alex Scott, an undercover CIA agent in NBCs action adventure series, J Spy. The part of the witty, multilingual Scott was intended for a white actorno African American had ever had a lead role in a dramatic series. Nevertheless, Cosby played it with ease. He won three Emmy Awards and began what would be his pattern of playing successful, educated African Americans in a medium dominated by negative images of African Americans.

I Spy left the air after three hit seasons, but Cosby returned to television in 1969 in the Bill Cosby Show as Chet Kincaid, a physical education teacher helping disadvantaged kids in a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood. The show remained on the air for two years, but was not a hit. In fact, Cosbys acting career foundered a bit in the early 1970s. The Bill Cosby Show was canceled in the spring of 1971; his first film feature, Hickey and Boggs, was poorly received, and his 1972 comedy/variety television show, the New Bill Cosby Show, failed to find an audience.

Cosby next found success with the unlikely program Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an animated kids show which debuted in 1972 and became a fixture on Saturday morning television. Fat Alberts storylines came from Cosbys comedy albums and boyhood memories, and Cosby served as executive producer and host. After each humorous but instructive adventure of Fat Albert, Weird Harold, Mush Mouth, and the other characters, Cosby would appear on screen and draw a lesson from the shows events that aimed to help kids put their experiences in perspective. According to Vibe contributor Cathleen Campbell, The message was the same every time: We have the power to turn alienation into a sense of community, the power to rediscover and reinvent. The critically acclaimed program remained in production until 1984.

In the mid-1970s, Cosby teamed with actor-director Sidney Poitier for two successful movie comedies, 1974s Uptown Saturday Night, and 1975s Lets Do It Again. In Uptown Saturday Night he portrayed Wardell Franklin, a taxi driver trying to recover a stolen lottery ticket from the mob, in a performance the New Yorker praised as very funny. Though Lets Do It Again was less successful, critics hailed Cosby as a major comedic talent. Still, the comedian struggled to find consistent success. Mother, Jugs & Speed, a 1976 film co-starring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel, flopped, as did Cos, a variety show for kids, and the 1977 film A Piece of the Action, which reunited him with Poitier.

Though his successful career as an entertainer made a college degree unnecessary, Cosby spent much of the 1970s earning advanced degrees in education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The university allowed him to substitute life experience for his uncompleted bachelors degree and his work in prisons and on the childrens television program The Electric Company for its teaching requirement. Cosby wrote a 242-page dissertation called An Integration of the Visual Media via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning, and in May of 1977, he was awarded a doctorate of education.

Cosby determined by the mid-1970s that he would take advantage of his wide public visibility, and his acumen as a businessman and corporate spokesman prompted Forbes magazine to call the comedian: Bill Cosby, capitalist. With newly hired lawyer Herbert Chaice, Cosby began to seek ways to gain a portion of the profits he generated. Their strategies led to Cosbys attaining interests in the Coca-Cola Company, for which he had long been a spokesman, and in other business ventures. Cosby also became a ubiquitous pitchman whose commercials for Jell-O, Kodak, Del Monte, Ford Motor Company, and other businesses made him one of the most recognizable people in America.

While Cosby remained a strong nightclub act in this period, his film and television work continued to be less than impressive. He and Richard Pryor portrayed bumbling dentists in 1979s California Suite, roles which the New Yorker complained had racist overtones. He appeared in Disneys The Devil and Max Devlin and was featured in the in-concert film Bill Cosby Himself. He also worked as a guest host for the Tonight Show where, according to Donald Bogle, he came across as rather arrogant and occasionally insensitive, looking a little like a Vegas burnout case.

In 1982, Cosby let it be known that he was interested in a weekly series. Production companies, recognizing his popularity, approached him with offers. Cosby chose a show pitched by former ABC executives Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey, and demanded a salary and an equal split of all of the shows profits. Werner and Carsey agreed to this rare arrangement, and on September 20, 1984, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC. As Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, Cosby and his lawyer wife, played by Phylicia Rashad, dealt with the ups and downs of family life. The shows humor was warm and universal. The New York Times called it the classiest and most entertaining new situation comedy of the season. It reached number three in its first year, was number one for the next four seasons, and remained in the top 20 until its final episode in 1992. The Cosby Show had 80 million regular viewers at the height of its popularity and its ratings pulled NBC from third to first place among the networks.

The showwhich mirrored Cosbys own life with his wife, Camille, and their five childrengenerated a large sociological debate, since it portrayed African Americans and parents as they had never been seen on television before. The New York Timess Bill Carter wrote that it restored the television image of the parent as loving authority figure, and it gave viewers, black and white, an unwaveringly positive look at family life, as lived in a home headed by two professional parents who happened to be black. Some attacked The Cosby Show for presenting an unrealistically idealized portrait of the African American family. The Huxtables were too well off, too smart, too perfect, said critics. Cosby responded that his television family offered a positive alternative to harsher images available on television and elsewhere.

Asked if he thought The Cosby Show would have been as popular if it had been more aggressive on racial issues, Cosby told the Los Angeles Times: No. Because I dont know how to do that without getting angry at racial bigotry. Thats not funny to me. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., chairman of Harvard Universitys African American Studies Program, told the New York Times that Cosby put race and economic issues on the back burner so we could see a black family dealing with all the things black people deal with the same as all other people. It was the first time most of us as black people have felt a sense of identity with and resemblance to the kind of values we have in common, our relationships with our parents and our siblings.

No series in the history of televisionhas ever been more about education, wrote Dennis A. Williams in Emerge. The Huxtable parents consistently reminded their children of the importance of a college education, and the opening credit that listed William H. Cosby, Jr., Ed.D. was a powerful reminder of where education could take a person. Both The Cosby Show and its spinoff, A Different World (set in a fictional black college), made higher education a viable option to thousands of young African Americans. During their run, applications to African American colleges went up dramatically. Youve got to figure we made a heck of an impression on people who wanted to go to college, Cosby told the Los Angeles Times.

When The Cosby Show went into syndication in 1987, Bill Cosby, as half owner of the shows profits, became a very rich man. According to Forbes, competing independent stations doubled previous records in their bidding for the program. By 1992 total syndication for the show reached $1 billion, of which Cosby received $333 million. With all of this money, Cosby and his wife, Camille, became active philanthropists. In 1988 they donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta, the biggest single contribution ever made to a black college.

During The Cosby Shows eight-year run, Cosby published four books: Fatherhood (1986), Time Flies (1987), Love and Marriage (1989), and Childhood (1991). Each of the fast-paced and hilarious books hit the best seller list, though critical reaction was mixed. The New York Times s Karen Ray complained that Fatherhood contained only one jokestretched and stretched some more. But Laura Green wrote in the same paper that readers of Love and Marriage would giggle with self-recognition. Less successful were the movies he made during this period. Critics and audiences agreed that Leonard Part VI (1987) and Ghost Dad (1990) were undisputed and undistinguished duds.

As the children in The Cosby Show grew older and went off to college or got married, some critics complained of a decline in quality. But the show remained popular as Cosby showcased African American entertainers, used the character of Theo to mirror his own sons struggle with a learning disability, and brought in women writers to focus on a female characters first period and the problems of a teen-age girl who is pressured to have sex. Williams applauded The Cosby Show for being the most ethnically diverse program on television, but most significantly, he wrote, Cosby combines unspoken racial pride and its color-blind premise in a conscious promotion of personal achievement that might please both Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. In the spring of 1992, The Cosby Show ended its fabulously successful run. I dont have anything left to say, Cosby told the New York Times. That may be why its not a sad, sad moment. Im satisfied.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Cosby returned to television the following fall with a syndicated version of the old Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life. You Bet Your Life was supposed to be a sure money maker, but was canceled midway through its first season due to low ratings. Cosby went back to NBC for a series of light television mystery movies in 1993, to be followed by The Cosby Mysteries series in 1994. The Cosby Mysteries failed to find a sustained audience, and was canceled. Although Cosby has always avoided racial humor in his comedy, the highly-respected star began to speak out about portrayals of African Americans in American entertainment in the 1990s. Upon his 1994 induction into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Cosby asked network television executives to stop this horrible massacre of images [of African Americans] that are being put on the screen now. Im begging you, because it isnt us. A few months earlier, Cosby told Newsweek: Someone at the very top has to say, OK, enough of this. Todays writers look on TV as just a joke machine. And when it comes to African Americans, the jokes on us.

Undaunted by the failure of The Cosby Mysteries, Cosby returned to primetime television in 1996 with a new sitcom entitled Cosby. The show centers around the life of Hilton Lucas (Cosby), an airline employee who loses his job as a result of downsizing. Without a steady job, Lucas spends time around the house dispensing advice to those around him about how to cope with the challenges of daily life. Phylicia Rashad, who played Cosbys wife on The Cosby Show, co-stars as Lucass wife Ruth. The show focuses around Ruth and Hiltons relationship, and episodes have also tackled complex social issues such as drug addiction and absentee parents. In 1996, Cosby won the Peoples Choice Award as Americas Favorite New Television Comedy Series.

Confronted With Tragedy

In early 1997, Cosby was faced with one of the most difficult periods of his life. On January 16, 1997, Cosbys only son, Ennis, was robbed and murdered on a Los Angeles highway after he stopped to fix a flat tire. Shortly after the murder, a 19-year-old Ukrainian immigrant named Mikhail Markhasev was arrested and charged with the crime. In 1998, Markhasev was convicted of Enniss murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On the same day that Ennis was murdered, a Southern California woman named Autumn Jackson came forward and alleged that she was Cosbys illegitimate daughter. Jackson and an accomplice had threatened to expose the story to the media unless they received $40 million dollars from Cosby. The pair were arrested in New York City by the FBI and were charged with extortion. Cosby acknowledged that he had an affair with Jacksons mother, Shawn Upshaw, and had paid her $100,000 so that she would not disclose their affair. He also paid some of Jacksons educational expenses. However, Cosby strongly denied that he was Jacksons father. Jackson was found guilty of extortion and ordered to publicly apologize to Cosby. She was also sentenced to a 26-month term in prison. After serving only 14 months, Jacksons conviction was overturned by an appeals court. The court then reversed itself and restored her conviction in 1999.

Despite the tremendous grief he felt over the loss of his son, Cosby did not retreat into isolation and self-pity. Rather, he remained in the public eye and conducted himself with grace and dignity. Cosby returned to the set of Cosby and immersed himself in his work. As he told Cosby executive producer Norman Steinberg, which was reported in People, A lot of people depend on me. I have to open my store. This is what I do. While appearing at a benefit held in October of 1997 in New York, People reported that Cosby told those assembled, Now I dont want you to think that because of what happened to me this year, Im going to meet you at the bus station and ask you if you found Christ. No, no.

Cosby concentrated his efforts on finding ways to honor and preserve his sons memory, a son whom he referred to as my hero. Shortly after Enniss death, the Cosby family launched a charitable organization called the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation. The organization is focused on promoting the early detection and treatment of dyslexia, a condition that Ennis had worked to overcome in his own life. Hello, Friend was added to the organizations title because this was Enniss trademark greeting. Cosby also created a series of books for children featuring a character called Little Bill. The Little Bill books feature children with learning problems and are designed to help parents to teach values to their children. In an interview on CBS This Morning, which was quoted on black voices.com , Cosby remarked that his son wanted to write stories about children with learning differences. Of course with his murder, this cut everything short. So I dedicated all of this to him. In 1998, Cosby released an album featuring various jazz artists entitled Hello Friend: To Ennis With Love. In 1998, Cosby was among five performers who were saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. A ceremony was held at the Kennedy Center and was attended by President and Mrs. Clinton. In her remarks, which were quoted in Jet, Phylicia Rashad praised her friend and television co-star, It doesnt take a lot of intelligence to put people down, but it takes Bills intelligence, his sensibility, and his grace to embrace the whole world with care and to uplift it with laughter.

Cosby published a book entitled Congratulations! Now What?: A Book For Graduates in 1999. Using his characteristic humor, Cosby offered words of wisdom and advice to new college graduates. In her review of Congratulations! Now What? on amazon.com, Brenda Pittsley noted that graduatesand their now-broke parentswill find a reason to smile on every page. Ray Olson, in his review of the book for Booklist, remarked that no comedian knows better how to speak the worst fatalisms and reduce an audience to tears of both laughter and sentiment. Fine, fine humor.

Cosby has continued to speak out against the generally poor quality of television programming. The problem with television programming today is that we are now in the age of stooping as in to bend down to make yourself lower. he remarked to Jet. The bar is not being raised at all. There is too much focus on orifices and the size of organs and body parts. Many of the writers write like they never had a course in Western Literature. They seem to be taking their language off the street corners. Cosby has consistently held himself to a higher standard. He has created a body of work that offers wholesome entertainment for people of all ages. As CBS Television President Leslie Moonves told Jet, At its best, television is a medium that entertains as well as informs. Throughout his career, Bill Cosby has accomplished this with grace, humor, and unparalleled passion for his craft.

Selected writings

The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert, Windmill Books, 1973.

Bill Cosbys Personal Guide to Tennis Power; or Dont Lower the Lob, Raise the Net, Random House, 1975.

Fatherhood, Doubleday, 1986.

Time Flies, Doubleday, 1987.

Love and Marriage, Doubleday, 1989.

Childhood, Putnam, 1991.

The Best Way to Play, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1997.

The Meanest Thing to Say, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1997.

Shipwreck Saturday, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 1998.

Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors! (Little Bill series-), Cartwheel Books, 1999.

Congratulations! Now What?: A Book For Graduates, Hyperion, 1999.

The Day I Was Rich, (Little Bill series), Scholastic Trade, 1999.

The Day I Saw My Father Cry, (Little Bill series), Cartwheel Books, 2000.

Sources

Books

Bogle, Donald, Blacks in American Film and Television, Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Cohen, David, and Charles M. Collins, editors, The African Americans, Viking Studio Books, 1993.

Salley, Columbus, The Black 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential African-Americans, Past and Present, Citadel Press, 1992,

Periodicals

Booklist, May 1, 1999.

Broadcasting, February 22, 1993, p. 5.

Ebony, June 1977.

Emerge, May 1992, pp. 22-26.

Essence, March 1994, p. 84.

Forbes, September 28, 1992, p. 85.

Jet, December 28, 1998, p. 34; April 3, 2000, p. 60.

Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1989, p. Calendar-6; April 26, 1992, p. Calendar-7; August 28, 1992, p. Fl.

Newsweek, June 17, 1963; December 6, 1993, pp.59-61.

New Yorker, June 17, 1974, p. 89; January 8, 1979, p. 49.

New York Times, September 20, 1984, p. C30; December 18, 1987, p. C30; January 21, 1988, p.C26; November 8, 1988, p. Al; January 12, 1989, p. D21; May 14, 1989, sec. 7, p. 23; February 21, 1991, p. C13; October 27, 1991, sec. 7, p. 20; April 26, 1992, sec. 2, p. 1.

Playboy, December 1985.

People, December 29, 1997, p. 54-55. Time, July 16, 1990, p. 86; February 28, 1994, pp. 60-62.

Vibe, November 1993, p. 120.

Other

Additional information for this profile was taken from Bill Cosby: In Words and Pictures (an Ebony/Jet special issue), by Robert E. Johnson, Johnson Publishing;www.blackvoices.com; and www.amazon.com

Jordan Wankoff and David G. Oblender

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Cosby, Bill

Cosby, Bill

July 12, 1937


Comedian and philanthropist William Henry "Bill" Cosby Jr. was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to William and Annie Pearle Cosby. After a stint in the Navy (19561960), Cosby studied at Temple University in Philadelphia but dropped out to pursue a career as a stand-up comic.

During the 1960s Cosby worked in network television as a comedian featured on late-night talk shows. In 1965 he became the first African-American network television star in a dramatic series when producers named him to co-star with Robert Culp in I Spy (19651968). Cosby's character, Alexander Scott, did not usually address his blackness or another character's whiteness. As with other forms of popular entertainment with black characters at the time, Cosby's character was portrayed in a manner in which being black merely meant having slightly darker skin. He won Emmy awards for the role in 1966 and 1967.

From 1969 through 1971 Cosby appeared as Chet Kincaid, a bachelor high school coach, on the situation

comedy series The Bill Cosby Show. Cosby portrayed Kincaid as a proud but not militant black man. The series was moderately successful. A few years later, Cosby and CBS joined forces in a television experiment, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (19721977), a cartoon series for children. The series set the course for television in the vital new area of ethics, values, judgment, and personal responsibility. By the end of its three-year run, Fat Albert had inspired a number of new directions in children's television.

In 1972 and 1973 Cosby starred in The New Bill Cosby Show, a comedy-variety series. Cosby's Jemmin Company, which he had recently established, produced the shows, allowing him to have more control over the productions. As he did in all his television series, Cosby made great use of other black artists who had had few opportunities to practice their craft elsewhere.

For a few months in late 1976, largely because of his success as a regular guest on the PBS educational series The Electric Company, where he demonstrated great skill at working with and entertaining youngsters, ABC hired Cosby to host a prime time hour-long variety series oriented toward children, Cos. It did not catch on with viewers, however, and was canceled after a few months.

In the fall of 1984 The Cosby Show began on NBC, featuring Cosby as Cliff Huxtable, an obstetrician living with his wife and four children in a New York City brownstone. Their fifth child, away at college most of the time, appeared sporadically in featured parts. The show put black images on the screen that many people admired. The characters on The Cosby Show represented a real African-American upper-middle-class family, rarely seen on American television. Cosby sought black artists who had not been seen on network television in years for cameo roles (Dizzy Gillespie and Judith Jamison, for example). He also included black writers among his creative staff, and by the third year, he insisted on using a black director for some of the episodes. In its first year, The Cosby Show finished third in the ratings; from the second season through the fourth season, it was the number-one-rated show in the United States.

Conscious of the need to lead the networks toward more equitable treatment of African Americans, Cosby used his position to require that more doors be opened. He had a presence in almost every area of television programming: He was a mass volume spokesman and star presenter for advertisements and public relations image campaigns that included Jell-O, Coca-Cola, Delmonte, Kodak, and E. F. Hutton. He appeared in drama, action-adventure stories, comedies, and children's programs. In 1992 he also entered into prime-time syndication with Carsey-Werner Productions with a remake of the old Groucho Marx game series, You Bet Your Life. The show lasted only one season. That same year, however, Cosby made public his bid to purchase the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC-TV), a television network worth $9 billion. Cosby was determined to call attention to the proliferation of negative images of black people and the titillation of viewers with sex and violence. All television viewers, he argued, were diminished by the spate of "drive-by images" that reinforced shallow stereotypes. In 1995 Cosby produced another unsuccessful syndicated series, The Cosby Mysteries. In 1996 he began a new hit series, Cosby, in which he played a working-class man from Queens, New York.

Throughout his career Cosby appeared at highly popular concert performances across the United States. His comedy focused on his own life as a reflection of universal human needs. He also produced more than twenty comedy/musical record albums, many of which won Grammy awards, including Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow (1963), I Started Out as a Child (1964), Why Is There Air? (1965), Wonderfulness (1966), Revenge (1967), To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With (1968), Bill Cosby (1969), Bill Cosby Talks to Children About Drugs (1971), and Children, You'll Understand (1986). Cosby has written many best-selling books, including The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert (1973), You Are Somebody Special (1978), Fatherhood (1986), Time Flies (1987), and Love and Marriage (1989). He has served on numerous boards, including those of the NAACP, Operation PUSH, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Sickle Cell Foundation.

Cosby, who in 1993 was listed in Forbes magazine as one of the four hundred richest people in the world with a net worth of more than $315 million, has been one of the most important benefactors to African-American institutions. In 1986 he and his wife gave $1.3 million to Fisk University; the following year they gave another $1.3 million to be divided equally among four black universitiesCentral State, Howard, Florida A & M, and Shaw; in 1988 they divided $1.5 million between Meharry Medical College and Bethune-Cookman College. In 1989 Bill and Camille Cosby announced that they were giving $20 million to Spelman College, the largest personal gift ever made to any of the historically black colleges and universities. In 1994 the couple donated a historic landmark building in downtown Washington, D.C., to the National Council of Negro Women to help them establish a National Center for African-American Women. Cosby himself has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the NAACP's Spingarn Medal (1985). He holds an M.A. (1972) and a doctorate (1976) in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In 1976 he also finally received a B.A. from Temple University. Cosby, who married Camille Hanks in 1964, has lived in rural Massachusetts since the early 1970s.

In 1997 Cosby's life was shattered when his son Ennis was robbed and murdered in Los Angeles. (Mikail Markhasev, a Russian immigrant, was convicted of the murder in 1998.) In the fall of 1997 Cosby was the target of an extortion plot by Autumn Jackson, an African-American woman who threatened to reveal that Cosby was her father unless he paid her. At Jackson's extortion trial, Cosby was forced to admit to an extramarital affair with Jackson's mother, but he denied he was Jackson's father. After Cosby's assertion was confirmed by DNA testing, Jackson was convicted. In 1998 he began a new television series, Kids Say the Darnedest Things.

In addition to his stand-up comedy, Cosby has produced movies, including Men of Honor (2000) and Fat Albert (2004), as well as numerous television shows. At the 2003 Emmy Awards, Cosby received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

See also Comedians; Philanthropy and Foundations; Television

Bibliography

Fuller, Linda K. The Cosby Show: Audience, Impact, and Implications. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Lane, Randall. "Bill Cosby, Capitalist." Forbes (September 28, 1992): 8586.

Smith, Ronald L. Cosby: The Life of a Comedy Legend. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1997.

Zoglin, Richard. "Cosby Inc." Time (September 28, 1987): 5660.

jannette l. dates (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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Cosby, Bill

Bill Cosby

BORN: July 12, 1937 • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

American actor, comedian

Bill Cosby is one of the best known and most respected African American comedians and actors. In the 1960s, when very few racial minorities were featured on television, he won three Emmy Awards for his pioneering role as a secret agent in the action-adventure series I Spy. In the 1970s, he created a popular animated cartoon series called Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which followed the experiences of a group of black children living in an urban neighborhood. Cosby also created and starred in a successful situation comedy, The Cosby Show. This groundbreaking program focused on the daily lives of a stable, middle-class black family, but its tremendous popularity crossed racial, ethnic, and class boundaries.

"I don't think you can bring races together by joking about the differences between them. I'd rather talk about the similarities, about what's universal in their experiences."

Humble beginnings

William Henry Cosby Jr. was born on July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of four boys born to Anna Pearl (Hite) Cosby, who worked as a housekeeper, and William Henry Cosby, who made a career in the United States Navy. Cosby's father was often away from home for long stretches of time, and his mother worked long hours. They often left Bill in charge of his younger brothers, Russell and Richard. Their other brother, James, died of rheumatic fever (a disease that causes high fever and swelling of the joints and heart) at the age of six. Even though both of Cosby's parents worked hard, the family struggled to make ends meet. They eventually had to move out of their house and into an all-black, low-income housing project in Philadelphia.

As a child, Cosby loved to listen to comedy shows on the radio. He had a good sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. In school, his good-hearted jokes and imitations made him popular among fellow students and teachers. In addition to his natural talents as a comedian, Cosby had impressive athletic skills. He served as captain of his elementary school baseball and track teams. He continued playing sports in junior high, and he also started acting in school plays.

Struggling in school

By the time he reached Philadelphia's Central High School, Cosby's grades had began to suffer. Although he was a bright young man, his many outside activities made it impossible for him to keep up with his studies. He played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track for the high school teams. In addition, Cosby worked before and after school to help support his family. During his youth, he held jobs selling produce, shining shoes, and stocking shelves at a local grocery store.

Cosby transferred to Germantown High School, but his grades did not improve. He continued to participate in sports and still struggled to complete his school work. When he was told that he would have to repeat tenth grade, Cosby dropped out of high school. He took a job as an apprentice (someone who learns a trade by helping a more experienced worker) at a shoe repair shop. But he also started working on a plan to do more with his life.

In 1956, Cosby joined the U.S. Navy. He served in the medical corps at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland for the next four years. Cosby's job involved providing physical therapy to soldiers who had suffered serious injuries. He often tried to cheer up his patients by telling jokes and stories and making them laugh. During his time in the navy, Cosby also took correspondence classes to earn his high school diploma so that he could go to college. In 1961, Cosby entered Temple University in Philadelphia on a track and field scholarship. He majored in physical education in college, and he also ran track and played for Temple's football team.

Becoming a comedian

During his sophomore year at Temple, Cosby got a job as a bartender at the Underground, a nightclub in Greenwich Village in New York City. He enjoyed working behind the bar, talking to customers, and making them laugh. The Underground employed a regular comedian, but this comedian did not always show up when he was supposed to perform. Cosby was asked to fill in on a few of those days, and the crowds loved him. As more and more people saw his act, word of this funny bartender began to spread. Soon other comedy clubs sought him out to perform for their audiences. Cosby decided to drop out of college to pursue a career in comedy.

Before long, Cosby signed a contract with the William Morris Agency to manage his career. He began performing at comedy clubs around the country, and his popularity continued to grow. In 1964, Cosby recorded his first comedy album, titled Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right! He won the first of eight career Grammy Awards for this effort. He went on to make other hit records throughout the 1960s, with titles such as I Started Out as a Child; Why Is There Air?; Wonderfulness; Revenge; and Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.

Cosby's brand of humor was not offensive or crude. It was just funny. He counted such talented comedians as Mel Brooks, Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart, and Lenny Bruce as his major influences. Unlike many other African American comics in the 1960s, Cosby did not focus on race issues. "Racial humor was about 35 percent of my act when I first started," he explained in Time. "But I realized that it was a crutch. What brought it home was when another comedian said to me, 'If you changed color tomorrow, you wouldn't have any material.' He meant it as a put-down, but I took it as a challenge." Instead, Cosby chose to tell humorous stories about his childhood and about situations he faced in everyday life. His audiences, both black and white, were able to relate to his stories. "I don't think you can bring races together by joking about the differences between them," he told Time. "I'd rather talk about the similarities, about what's universal in their experiences."

Cosby met his wife, Camille Hanks, while he was performing stand-up comedy in Washington, D.C. They were married in 1964 and eventually had five children. From this time on, many of the stories Cosby told in his comedy routines involved his family and the challenges of raising kids.

Breaking TV barriers with I Spy

In 1965, Cosby made a guest appearance on the popular late-night TV talk and variety program The Tonight Show. After watching Cosby's performance, television producer Sheldon Leonard invited him to co-star with actor Robert Culp (1930–) in a weekly television series called I Spy.

Before this time, almost all of the people who appeared on American television programs were Caucasian (white). The few minorities who did appear in TV programs tended to be presented as stereotypes (generalized, usually negative images of a group of people). This situation slowly began to change during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when African Americans fought to end segregation (the forced separation of people by race) and gain equal rights in American society. TV news programs provided extensive coverage of civil rights protests, which helped turn public opinion in favor of the cause of racial equality. As awareness of racial discrimination increased, more social critics began complaining about the absence of minority characters on television.

Cosby's role in I Spy broke new ground on American television. Even though I Spy did not deal with racial issues directly, the show promoted equality through its portrayal of the partnership between the two main characters, who just happened to be of different races. Cosby and Culp played secret agents who traveled all over the world on spying assignments. In order to hide their true identities, Culp's character pretended to be a tennis star, and Cosby's character posed as his trainer. The action-adventure show became a hit with viewers, who enjoyed its subtle humor, its globe-trotting style, and the chemistry between Cosby and Culp.

I Spy remained on the air for three years, and Cosby earned an Emmy Award (annual honors recognizing excellence in television programming) in each of these years for his performance. By the time the show was canceled in 1968, Cosby had become famous. Afterward he returned to stand-up comedy, performing before big crowds in all the top comedy clubs across the United States.

Connecting with kids

Cosby returned to television in the early 1970s, playing high-school gym teacher Chet Kincaid in The Bill Cosby Show. Kincaid shared his pride in black culture with his students, as well as with TV viewers. Cosby's newfound popularity also gave him the opportunity to become a commercial spokesperson for a number of products, including Jell-O Pudding, Kodak Film, and Coca-Cola. Marketing surveys showed that he soon emerged as one of the most trusted product endorsers on television. Cosby also made several guest appearances on the PBS educational series The Electric Company during this time. Cosby found that he enjoyed working with kids on the show, and he decided to develop his own children's television program.

Beginning in 1972, Cosby created, hosted, and supplied the voices for an animated cartoon series called Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which aired on Saturday mornings until 1979. Based on his experiences growing up in Philadelphia, the show focused on a group of black children living in an urban neighborhood. Unlike other cartoons at that time, each humorous episode included an important lesson about life. In 1979, Cosby created The New Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an educational series that was used in many schools around the country. It was also broadcast on television until 1984.

Throughout the 1970s, Cosby worked to complete his college education. He attended the University of Massachusetts, earning a master's degree in 1972 and a doctorate in education in 1977. His doctoral thesis concerned the use of the Fat Albert series as a teaching aid.

Starring in The Cosby Show

In the early 1980s, Cosby began working to create a television series about a middle-class African-American family. Tired of situation comedies featuring sassy, disrespectful children, he decided to present a stable, traditional family led by a strong father figure. The Cosby Show made its debut on NBC in 1984. Cosby starred as Dr. Cliff Huxtable, a successful physician and wise and loving father. Phylicia Rashad (1948–) played his wife Clair, a respected attorney and patient mother. Their five children ranged in age from kindergarten to college.

The Cosby Show was an immediate hit with viewers. Fans enjoyed the way that the show presented the everyday aspects of family life in a humorous way. Like I Spy, The Cosby Show did not address racial issues directly. Instead, it helped overcome negative stereotypes by presenting the home life of a successful black family with positive values. Some critics claimed that the program was unrealistic, partly because two professional, working parents could never spend so much time at home with their children. Others complained that the show did not do enough to address issues of importance to African Americans. But many viewers found it refreshing to see the positive image of a comfortable, confident, and loving black family on TV each week.

The Cosby Show ran for eight years, won numerous Emmy Awards, and reached the top spot in the annual television ratings four times. Cosby was especially proud of the fact that the show helped create a more positive image for African Americans in the minds of many viewers. Unfortunately, many later TV comedies featuring black families were not as well received. In a speech he made upon being inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, Cosby expressed disappointment with the portrayal of African American characters on television. "I'm begging you all now. Stop this horrible massacre of images that is being put on the screen," he stated, as quoted in Ebony. "It isn't us…. I don't know where they get these people from…. The Cosby Show should have shown these writers something about our people."

Enduring tragedy and scandal

Cosby continued to appear on television shows and in commercials after The Cosby Show ended in 1992. He also played roles in movies and performed in comedy clubs, drawing huge crowds at every engagement. Beginning in the late 1980s, Cosby also published several best-selling books offering his humorous take on life, including Fatherhood, Time Flies, Love and Marriage, Childhood, and Cosbyology: Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy. He also wrote the Little Bill series of children's books.

In 1997, Cosby and his family suffered a tragedy. His only son, Ennis, was shot and killed on a Los Angeles freeway after pulling over to change a flat tire. The death of his son hit Cosby extremely hard and shocked the comedian's fans across the nation. It took police over a year to solve the crime, but they finally found Ennis Cosby's murderer in 1998. The young man, a troubled teenager who had come to the United States from the Ukraine, was found guilty of murder by a Los Angeles jury and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Around the same time that he lost his son, Cosby became entangled in a scandal. A young woman named Autumn Jackson came forward to claim that Cosby was her biological father. Before going public with her claim, Jackson had approached Cosby privately and demanded $40 million to keep the matter secret. Cosby admitted that he had a brief affair with the woman's mother in 1973, but he denied that Jackson was his daughter and offered to take a paternity test to prove it. Then he filed a lawsuit against Jackson for extortion (using force or intimidation to try to get money or property from another person). Jackson and two other people were found guilty of extortion and sentenced to spend time in prison.

In the 2000s, Cosby began speaking out about what he viewed as serious problems in the black community. In a number of widely publicized speeches and interviews, he encouraged African Americans—especially parents—to place a higher priority on education and moral values. He also stressed the need for black children to have greater respect for themselves and other people. Cosby claimed that African Americans in the twenty-first century were throwing away the accomplishments that earlier generations had worked so hard for during the civil rights movement. "These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," he stated, as quoted by America's Intelligence Wire. "I can't even talk the way they talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' … and I blamed the kid until I head the mother talk." Cosby hoped that his message, while tough to hear, would raise awareness and lead to self-improvement in the black community. But Cosby's criticism angered some people, who felt that he was unfairly blaming African Americans for the effects of discrimination.

Cosby has used some of his wealth to support various causes aimed at improving the lives of African Americans. In 1988, for instance, he and his wife donated $20 million to Spelman College, a historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, it was the largest donation ever made to a black institution. In 1994, the Cosbys donated $1.8 million to help set up the National Center for African American Women in Washington, D.C.

For More Information

BOOKS

Adler, Bill. The Cosby Wit: His Life and Humor. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1986. Smith, Ronald L. Cosby. New York: St. Martin's, 1986.

PERIODICALS

"Bill Cosby Exhorts Parents to Set Goals for Their Children." America's Intelligence Wire, October 20, 2005.

Goodgame, Dan. "'I Do Believe in Control': Cosby Is a Man Who Gets Laughs and Results—By Doing Things His Way." Time, September 28, 1987.

Klein, Todd. "Bill Cosby: Prime Time's Favorite Father." Saturday Evening Post, April 1986.

Randolph, Laura. "Life after The Cosby Show: Activist-Actor Celebrates 30 Years of Wedded Bliss, Continues to Fight against Black Stereotypes on TV." Ebony, May 1994.

WEB SITES

Merrit, Bishetta D. "Bill Cosby." Museum of Broadcast Communications. http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/C/htmlC/cosbybill/cosbybill.htm (accessed on June 5, 2006).

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Cosby, Bill

COSBY, Bill

COSBY, Bill. American, b. 1937. Genres: Children's non-fiction, Human relations/Parenting, Humor/Satire. Career: Began career as stand-up comic, 1962; television and film actor. Publications: You Are Somebody Special, ed. by Charlie W. Shedd (for children), 1978; Fatherhood, 1986; Time Flies, 1988; Love and Marriage, 1989; Childhood, 1991; The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert; Bill Cosby's Personal Guide for Power Tennis; Congratulations! Now What?, 1999. Address: c/o The Brokaw Company, 9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 804, Los Angeles, CA 90069, U.S.A.

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Cosby, Bill 1937–

Cosby, Bill 1937–

(William H. Cosby, William H. Cosby, Jr.)

PERSONAL

Full name, William Henry Cosby, Jr.; born July 12, 1937, in Philadelphia, PA; son of William Henry (a cook) and Anna (a maid) Cosby; married Camille Olivia Hanks (a producer), January 25, 1964; children: Erika Ranee, Erinn Chalene, Ennis William (deceased), Ensa Camille, Evin Harrah. Education: Temple University, B.A.; University of Massachusetts at Amherst, M.A., 1972, Ed.D., 1977.

Addresses: Agent—Norman Brokaw, William Morris Agency, 1 William Morris Pl., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Career: Comedian, actor, producer, director, composer, and writer. Made stage debut as a comedian at the Underground, in a room called the Cellar, Philadelphia, PA; also appeared as a comedian at the Gaslight, New York City; headline comedian at other major clubs and hotels; Tournament of Roses Parade, grand marshal, 2003; A Call Out with Cosby (national speaking tour), speaker, 2006. Spokesperson for Jell-O Pudding, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, and Texas Instruments Corp.; appeared in many television commercials for City of Philadelphia, School to Work, Del Monte, Kodak film, and other products. Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, president, 1968; Ebony Showcase Theatre, member of board of directors; Carnegie Commission for the Future of Public Broadcasting, member; contributor to the television public service announcement campaign "The More You Know," NBC. Sickle Cell Foundation, member of board of directors and national chair; National Council on Crime and Delinquency, member of board of directors; Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation, cofounder, 1997; Direction Sports, member of advisory board. Mary Holmes College, member of board of directors; Temple University, member of board of trustees; Howard University, member of communications council; also member of United Negro College Fund and Operation PUSH. Previously worked as a bartender. Military: U.S. Naval Reserve, active duty in Medical Corps, 1956–60.

Member: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (life member).

Awards, Honors: Grammy award, best comedy album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1964, for Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right!; Grammy Award, best comedy album, 1965, for I Started Out as a Child; Emmy Awards, outstanding continued performance by an actor in a leading role in a dramatic series, 1965, 1966, 1967, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best male television star, 1967, all for I Spy; Grammy Award, best comedy album, 1966, for Why Is There Air?; Grammy Award, outstanding comedy performance, c. 1966, for Wonderfulness; Golden Apple Award, most cooperative actor, Hollywood Women's Press Association, 1966; named most promising new male star by Fame magazine, 1966; Grammy Award, best comedy album, 1967, for Revenge; Grammy Award, best comedy album, 1969, for To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With; Man of the Year Award, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Harvard University, 1969; Emmy Award, 1969, for The Bill Cosby Special; Emmy Award nominations, outstanding continued performance by a leading actor in a comedy series, outstanding new series (with Marvin Miller), and outstanding comedy series (with Miller), all 1970, for The Bill Cosby Show; Grammy Award, best comedy recording, 1969, for Bill Cosby; Grammy Award, best recording for children, 1972, for Bill Cosby Talks to Kids about Drugs; Grammy Award, best recording for children, 1973, for The Electric Company; Golden Globe Award nomination, best actor in a television musical or comedy program, 1973, for The New Bill Cosby Show; Seal of Excellence, Children's Theatre Association, 1973; Ohio State University Award, 1975, and Gold Award, outstanding children's program, International Film and Television Festival, 1981, both for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids; Image Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1976; Golden Apple Award, male star of the year, 1985; Golden Globe Awards, best actor in a television comedy or musical series, 1985, 1986, Q Awards, best actor in a quality comedy series, Viewers for Quality Television, 1985, 1986, Golden Globe Award nomination, best actor in a television comedy or musical series, 1987, and BMI Television Music Awards (with others), Broadcast Music Inc., 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992, and Image Award, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, 1993, all for The Cosby Show; People's Choice Awards, favorite male performer in a new television program, 1986, favorite male television performer, annually, 1986–92, and favorite all-around male entertainer, annually, 1986–91; Aftonbladet TV Prize, best male foreign television personality, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990; BMI Television Music Awards (with others), 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992, all for A Different World; inducted into Television Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1992; Founder's Award, International Emmy Awards, 1992; People's Choice Award, favorite male performer in a new television series, 1997; BMI Television Music Awards (with Benny Golson), 1997, 1998, and TV Guide Award nominations, favorite actor in a comedy, 1999, 2000, all for Cosby; lifetime achievement award, Kennedy Center Honors, 1998; People's Choice Award, favorite all-time television star, 1999; Image Award nomination, outstanding performance in a youth or children's series or special, 2001, Daytime Emmy Award nomination (with others), outstanding special class animated program, 2002, and Daytime Emmy Award (with others), outstanding children's animated program, 2004, all for Little Bill; Career Achievement Award, Television Critics Association, 2002; honorary degrees, University of Southern California, 1998, Fashion Institute of Technology, 2000, and Brown University; Steven J. Ross/Time Warner Award, School of Cinema and Television, University of Southern California, 2000; Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 2003; honorary D.Mus., Berklee College of Music, 2004; several gold record certifications, Recording Industry Association of America; also received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.

CREDITS

Television Appearances; Series:

Alexander Scott, I Spy, NBC, 1965–68.

Chet Kincaid, The Bill Cosby Show, NBC, 1969–71.

Milkman, Ken Kane, the ice cream man, and Hank, recurring roles, The Electric Company, PBS, 1971–73.

Host, The New Bill Cosby Show, CBS, 1972–73.

Host and voices of Fat Albert, Bill, Mushmouth, Mudfoot, Brown Hornet, and other characters, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (animated; also known as The Adventures of Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids and The New Fat Albert Show), CBS, 1972–82.

Feeling Good, 1974.

Host, Cos, ABC, 1976.

Host, "Picture Pages" segment, Captain Kangaroo's "Wake Up," CBS, 1981–82.

Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, The Cosby Show, NBC, 1984–92.

Host, PicturePages (also known as Bill Cosby's "Picture-Pages"), beginning 1984.

Host, You Bet Your Life, 1992–93.

Guy Hanks, The Cosby Mysteries, 1994.

Hilton Lucas, Cosby, CBS, 1996–2000.

Host, Kids Say the Darndest Things, CBS, 1998–2000.

Formerly appeared as host of viewer participation segment, Captain Kangaroo.

Television Appearances; Movies:

The Wizard of Oz, Journey Back to Oz, 1971.

Blue, To All My Friends on Shore, 1971.

Aaron Strickland, Top Secret, 1978.

Alexander Scott, I Spy Returns, 1994.

Narrator, We Are Not Vanishing, Showtime, 2002.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Guest, It's What's Happening, Baby!, CBS, 1965.

Narrator, Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed, 1968.

The Bill Cosby Special, 1968.

Voices of Fat Albert, Mushmouth, Bill, and Mudfoot, Hey, Hey, Hey: It's Fat Albert (animated), 1969.

The Best on Record, 1970.

Host, Dick Van Dyke Meets Bill Cosby, CBS, 1970.

Cohost, A World of Love, CBS, 1970.

Host, The Bill Cosby Special or?, NBC, 1971.

Diana, NBC, 1971.

Goin' Back to Indiana, 1971.

Host, The World of Magic, NBC, 1975.

Host, Cos: The Bill Cosby Comedy Special, CBS, 1975.

Lola, ABC, 1976.

Voices of Fat Albert, Mushmouth, Bill, and Mudfoot Brown, Fat Albert's Halloween Special (animated), CBS, 1977.

Host and voices of Fat Albert, Mushmouth, Bill, and Mudfoot Brown, The Fat Albert Christmas Special (animated), CBS, 1977.

Member of male team, Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes, CBS, 1977, 1979.

Himself and Aesop, Aesop's Fables (animated), 1978.

Playboy's 25th Anniversary Celebration, ABC, 1979.

Doug Henning's World of Magic, NBC, 1980.

Where Have All the Children Gone, 1980.

Bill Cosby Himself (also known as Bill Cosby: Himself), HBO, 1982.

Steve Martin's "The Winds of Whoopie," NBC, 1983.

Host, Hollywood's Private Home Movies, ABC, 1983.

Himself (in archive footage), The Great Standups (also known as The Great Standups: Sixty Years of Laughter), 1984.

Host, Motown Returns to the Apollo, NBC, 1985.

Elayne Boosler: Party of One, 1985.

The Patti LaBelle Show, NBC, 1985.

The NBC All-Star Hour, NBC, 1985.

Harry Belafonte: Don't Stop the Carnival, HBO, 1985.

An All-Star Celebration Honoring Martin Luther King Jr., NBC, 1986.

Today at Night, Volume II, NBC, 1986.

Miles Ahead: The Music of Miles Davis, PBS, 1986.

George Burns' 90th Birthday Special, CBS, 1986.

Funny, ABC, 1986.

Superstars & Their Moms, ABC, 1987.

Host, Creole Giselle, NBC, 1987.

Host, Celebrating a Jazz Master: Thelonius Sphere Monk, PBS, 1987.

Everybody's Doing It, NBC, 1988.

Host, Bill Cosby Salutes Alvin Ailey, NBC, 1989.

Host, Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, NBC, 1989.

Happy Birthday, Bugs! 50 Looney Years, CBS, 1990.

Comic Relief IV, HBO, 1990.

A Laugh, a Tear, syndicated, 1990.

The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1990.

Earth Day Special (also known as Time Warner Presents the Earth Day Special), ABC, 1990.

Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration, ABC, 1990.

The Television Academy Hall of Fame, Fox, 1990.

MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon, syndicated, 1990.

(In archive footage) Smokey Robinson: The Quiet Legend, Showtime, 1990.

Here He Is … the One, the Only … Groucho, HBO, 1991.

Math, Who Needs It?, PBS, 1991.

Ray Charles: 50 Years in Music, Uh-Huh!, Fox, 1991.

Voice of God, Sinbad and Friends: All the Way Live … Almost!, ABC, 1991.

Children's Miracle Network Telethon, syndicated, 1991.

Class Clowns, ABC, 1992.

The American Film Institute Salute to Sidney Poitier, NBC, 1992.

Himself and Cliff Huxtable, The Last Laugh: Memories of the Cosby Show, NBC, 1992.

"Miles Davis: A Tribute," Great Performances, PBS, 1993.

Host, Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame, NBC, 1993.

Host, The Defense Rests: A Tribute to Raymond Burr, NBC, 1993.

Host, NBC Super Special All-Star Comedy, NBC, 1993.

More of the Best of the Hollywood Palace, ABC, 1993.

An American Reunion: The 52nd Presidential Inaugural Gala, CBS, 1993.

(In archive footage) Mo' Funny: Black Comedy in America, HBO, 1993.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) The Unknown Marx Brothers, 1993.

In a New Light '94, ABC, 1994.

Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame (also known as Met Life Presents the Apollo Theatre Hall of Fame), NBC, 1994.

Narrator, The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney, Disney Channel, 1994.

What Makes You Laugh?, 1995.

Video profile presenter, The Opening Ceremonies of the 1995 Special Olympics World Games, NBC, 1995.

Buster Keaton: Genius in Slapshoes, Arts and Entertainment, 1995.

Celebrate the Dream: 50 Years of Ebony Magazine, ABC, 1996.

(In archive footage) Classic Stand-up Comedy of Television, NBC, 1996.

Host, A Celebration of America's Music, 1996.

Night of About 14 CBS Stars, Comedy Central, 1996.

Host, Kids Say the Darndest Things, CBS, two specials, 1997.

Christmas in Rockefeller Center, syndicated, 1997.

Himself, "Jack Paar 'As I Was Saying …,'" American Masters, PBS, 1997.

The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1998.

Intimate Portrait: Phylicia Rashad, Lifetime, 1998.

Intimate Portrait: Debbie Allen, Lifetime, 1998.

Host, A Celebration of America's Music (also known as Nissan Presents: The 2nd Annual Celebration of America's Music), ABC, 1998.

True Stories from "Touched by an Angel," CBS, 1998.

The American Red Cross Celebrates Real Life Miracles, CBS, 1998.

The American Red Cross Holiday Music Spectacular, Fox, 1999.

Harlem Globetrotters, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story, PBS, 2000.

(In archive footage) Playboy: The Party Continues, 2000.

The BET 20th Anniversary Celebration, Black Entertainment Television, 2000.

Presenter, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year 2000, CBS, 2000.

Tito Puente: The King of Latin Music, PBS, 2001.

Starz! 10th Anniversary, Starz!, 2001.

Hopalong Cassidy: Public Hero #1, 2001.

The Cosby Kids: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2001.

Voice, Sylvia's Path, 2002.

Inside TV Land: African Americans in Television, TV Land, 2002.

Playboy: Inside the Playboy Mansion (also known as Inside the Playboy Mansion), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Host, NBC 75th Anniversary Special (also known as NBC 75th Anniversary Celebration), NBC, 2002.

Himself and Cliff Huxtable, The Cosby Show: A Look Back, NBC, 2002.

(In archive footage) Jack Paar: Smart Television, PBS, 2003.

Hey Hey Hey: Behind the Scenes of "Fat Albert," Nickelodeon, 2004.

(Uncredited) Himself (in archive footage), Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling, 2004.

An Evening of Stars: Tribute to Quincy Jones, Black Entertainment Television, 2005.

The Harlem Globetrotters: The Team that Changed the World, PBS, 2005.

(In archive footage) The Comedians' Comedian, Channel 4, 2005.

The Electric Company's Greatest Hits & Bits, PBS, 2006.

Television Appearances; Pilots:

Dr. Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, The Cosby Show, NBC, 1984.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, A Different World, NBC, 1987.

Guy Hanks, The Cosby Mysteries (also known as Guy Hanks I), 1994.

Hilton Lucas, Cosby, CBS, 1996.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Comedian, Toast of the Town (also known as The Ed Sullivan Show), 1964.

Comedian, The Hollywood Palace, 1965.

The Dean Martin Show (also known as The Dean Martin Comedy Hour), 1966.

"Murder at N.B.C.," Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (also known as The Chrysler Theatre and Universal Star Time), 1966.

The Flip Wilson Show, 1970, 1971.

The Wacky World of Jonathan Winters, 1974.

People, CBS, 1978.

Narrator, "Arthur's Eyes," Reading Rainbow, 1983.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, "Rudy and the Snow Queen," A Different World, NBC, 1987.

Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, "If Chosen, I May Not Run," A Different World, NBC, 1987.

Host, "Great Moments from Nova," Nova, PBS, 1993.

"Laughter," Understanding, 1994.

Phil, "Inherit the Wind," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1997.

"Tony Orlando," Behind the Music (also known as VH1's Behind the Music), VH1, 1998.

(Uncredited) Hilton, "Be Nice," Everybody Loves Raymond (also known as Raymond), CBS, 1999.

"Sammy Davis, Jr.: Mr. Entertainment," Biography, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

Phil, "Family Business," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1999.

(Uncredited) Hilton Lucas, "Drive, They Said," Becker, CBS, 1999.

Hilton Lucas, "Where's Poppa," The King of Queens, CBS, 1999.

"Barry Bonds," ESPN SportsCentury, ESPN, 2001.

ABC News Nightline (also known as Nightline), ABC, 2005.

Also appeared in episodes of Children's Theatre, NBC; and The Wil Shriner Show.

Television Guest Appearances; Episodic:

The Jack Paar Program, 1963.

That Was the Week that Was, 1964.

The Andy Williams Show, 1964.

The Mike Douglas Show, between 1964 and 1968.

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (also known as The Best of Carson), NBC, multiple appearances, including work as guest host, between 1965 and 1992.

Dateline: Hollywood, 1967.

Playboy After Dark, multiple episodes, 1969–70.

Dinah's Place, 1972.

The Merv Griffin Show, 1976, 1977.

Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1983.

Guest host, It's Showtime at the Apollo (also known as Showtime at the Apollo), 1987.

The Arsenio Hall Show, syndicated, 1989, 1990.

The Oprah Winfrey Show (also known as Oprah), syndicated, 1989, 2001.

Late Show with David Letterman (also known as The Late Show and Late Show Backstage), CBS, between 1995 and 2004.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, between 1996 and 2001.

"Bill Cosby," Ruby Wax Meets … (also known as The Ruby Wax Show), Fox, 1997.

The Roseanne Show, 1998.

Showbiz Today, 2000.

"L'ete de la jet set," Zone interdite, 2000.

Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2003.

Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2004.

Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2004.

Coming Attractions, E! Entertainment Television, 2004.

Paula Zahn Now, Cable News Network, 2004.

The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, 2004, 2005.

Dr. Phil, syndicated, 2005.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

The Twelfth Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1986.

The 13th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1987.

The 4th Annual Black Gold Awards, CBS, 1987.

The 14th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1988.

The Essence Awards, CBS, 1992, 1993, 1994.

The 20th International Emmy Awards, PBS, 1992.

The Great Ones: The National Sports Awards, NBC, 1993.

Presenter, The 25th Anniversary Essence Awards, Fox, 1995.

Presenter, The 1995 ESPY Awards, ESPN, 1995.

10th Annual Soul Train Music Awards, The WB, 1996.

The 23rd Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1997.

The 1997 ESPY Awards, Fox, 1997.

The 10th Essence Awards, Fox, 1997.

Presenter, The 40th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 1998.

Presenter, Essence Awards, Fox, 1998.

Presenter, The 1999 Essence Awards, Fox, 1999.

Host, The 2000 Essence Awards, Fox, 2000.

The 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Fox, 2003.

Presenter, The 35th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards, Bravo, 2004.

Presenter, The 30th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 2004.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

(In archive footage) Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time, Comedy Central, 2004.

(In archive footage) TV Land Moguls, TV Land, 2004.

Television Work; Series:

Creator and executive producer, The Bill Cosby Show, NBC, 1969.

Creator and (as William H. Cosby, Jr.) executive producer, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (animated; also known as The Adventures of Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids and The New Fat Albert Show), CBS, 1972–82.

Creator (as Cosby, Jr.) and producer, The Cosby Show, NBC, 1984–92.

Creator and executive producer, A Different World, 1987–93.

Executive producer, Here and Now, 1992–93.

Executive producer, The Cosby Mysteries, 1994.

(As William H. Cosby) Executive producer, Cosby, CBS, 1996–2000.

Executive producer, Odd Man Out, ABC, 1998–99.

Creator and executive producer, Little Bill (animated), Nickelodeon, 1999.

(As William H. Cosby) Creator and executive producer, Fatherhood, Nickelodeon, 2004.

Television Executive Producer; Movies:

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) To All My Friends on Shore, 1971.

I Spy Returns, 1994.

Television Executive Producer: Pilots:

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) The Cosby Mysteries (also known as Guy Hanks I), 1994.

Television Producer; Specials:

Hey, Hey, Hey: It's Fat Albert! (animated), 1969.

Executive producer, The Bill Cosby Special or?, NBC, 1971.

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) Fat Albert's Halloween Special, CBS, 1977.

(As Cosby, Jr.) The Fat Albert Christmas Special, CBS, 1977.

(As Cosby, Jr.) Executive producer (and director), Bill Cosby Himself (also known as Bill Cosby: Himself), HBO, 1982.

Executive producer, The Cosby Show: A Look Back, NBC, 2002.

Television Director; Episodic:

The Bill Cosby Show, NBC, between 1969 and 1971.

Film Appearances:

(Uncredited) Patron at nightclub, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, 1969.

Bill Cosby on Prejudice (documentary), 1971.

Caleb Rivers, Man and Boy (also known as Ride a Dark Horse), Levitt-Pickman, 1972.

Al Hickey, Hickey & Boggs, United Artists, 1972.

Wardell Franklin, Uptown Saturday Night, Warner Bros., 1974.

Billy Foster, Let's Do It Again, Warner Bros., 1975.

Mother, Mother, Jugs & Speed, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976.

Dave Anderson, A Piece of the Action, Warner Bros., 1977.

Dr. Willis Panama, California Suite (also known as Neil Simon's "California Suite"), Columbia, 1978.

Barney Satin, The Devil and Max Devlin, Buena Vista, 1981.

In Remembrance of Martin (documentary), 1986.

Leonard Parker, Leonard Part 6, Sony Pictures Releasing, 1987.

Elliot Hooper, Ghost Dad, Universal, 1990.

(Uncredited) Malcolm X (also known as X), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1992.

Marvin, The Meteor Man, 1993.

Lawrence Woodruff, Jack, Buena Vista, 1996.

Himself as educator, 4 Little Girls, Green Valley Films, 1997.

Himself (in archive footage), 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can't Be Wrong, 1997.

(In archive footage) Ennis' Gift, 2000.

Comedian (documentary), Miramax, 2002.

Lightning in a Bottle (documentary), Sony Pictures Classics, 2004.

(Uncredited) Himself, Fat Albert, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2004.

Voice, 500 Years Later (documentary), Halaquah Media, 2005.

Himself, The Pact (documentary), Spark Media, 2006.

Film Work:

(Uncredited) Coproducer, The Door, 1968.

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) Executive producer, Man and Boy (also known as Ride a Dark Horse), Levitt-Pickman, 1972.

Producer, Leonard Part 6, Sony Pictures Releasing, 1987.

Executive producer, Men of Honor, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) Executive producer, Fat Albert, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2004.

Stage Appearances:

An Evening with Bill Cosby, Radio City Music Hall, New York, 1986.

Also appeared in benefit performances.

Radio Appearances:

Appeared on The Bill Cosby Radio Program.

RECORDINGS

Albums:

Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right!, Warner Bros., 1963.

I Started Out as a Child, Warner Bros., 1964.

Why Is There Air?, Warner Bros., 1965.

Wonderfulness, Warner Bros., 1966.

Revenge, Warner Bros., 1967.

Hooray for the Salvation Army Band, Warner Bros., 1968, released 1990.

To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, Warner Bros., 1968.

200 MPH, Warner Bros., 1968.

Fat Albert, MCA, 1971.

For Adults Only, MCA, 1971.

When I Was a Kid, MCA, 1971.

Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby, MCA, 1972.

Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days, Rat Own, Rat Own, Rat Own, 1976.

My Father Confused Me … What Must I Do? What Must I Do?, Capitol/EMI, 1977.

Disco Bill, 1977.

Bill's Best Friend, 1978.

Reunion, 1982.

Bill Cosby … Himself, Motown/Polygram, 1983.

Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand, Geffen/Warner Bros., 1987.

Where You Lay Your Head, 1990.

My Appreciation, 1991.

Oh, Baby, Geffen/MCA, 1991.

Hello Friend: To Ennis with Love, 1998.

Also recorded At His Best, Columbia; Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs; 8:15, 12:15; Hungry; It's True, It's True; and Silverthroat.

Video Appearances:

(And producer) Bill Cosby: 49, 1987.

Himself (in archive footage), Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues, 1988.

Bill Cosby: Mr. Sapolsky, with Love, 1996.

(Uncredited) Playmate Pajama Party, Uni Distribution, 1999.

The Story Behind Baadasssss! The Birth of Black Cinema, Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2004.

(In archive footage) TV in Black: The First Fifty Years, Koch Vision, 2004.

(In archive footage) Cavett Remembers the Comic Legends, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, 2006.

Voice, I Was a Network Star (video game), Carsey-Werner Distribution/Urban Works Entertainment, 2006.

WRITINGS

Television Series:

Fatherhood (also based on Cosby's 1986 book), Nickelodeon, 2003–2004.

Television Specials:

The Bill Cosby Special, 1968.

The Bill Cosby Special or?, NBC, 1971.

Script and song "It Was a Good Idea at the Time," Bill Cosby Himself (also known as Bill Cosby: Himself), HBO, 1982.

The Cosby Show: A Look Back, NBC, 2002.

Television Theme Songs; Series:

"Hicky Burr," The Bill Cosby Show, NBC, 1969–71.

"Kiss Me" and "Mark's Hat," The Cosby Show, NBC, 1984–92.

A Different World, NBC, 1987–93.

"Blues for Jaws," You Bet Your Life, 1992.

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.; and musical score) The Cosby Mysteries, 1994–95.

(As Cosby, Jr.) Cosby, CBS, 1996–2000.

(And score) "Cube Checkers," Little Bill (animated), 1999.

Title theme song, Fatherhood (animated), Nickelodeon, 2003–2004.

Television Scores; Other:

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) To All My Friends on Shore (movie), 1971.

(As Cosby, Jr.) The Cosby Mysteries (pilot; also known as Guy Hanks I), 1994.

Screenplays:

(As William H. Cosby, Jr.) Fat Albert, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2004.

Videos:

Bill Cosby: 49, 1987.

Bill Cosby: Mr. Sapolsky, with Love, 1996.

Nonfiction Books:

The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert, Windmill Books, 1973.

Bill Cosby's Personal Guide to Power Tennis; or, Don't Lower the Lob, Raise the Net, Random House, 1975.

Fatherhood, Doubleday, 1986.

Time Flies, Doubleday, 1987.

Love and Marriage, Doubleday, 1989.

Childhood, Putnam, 1991.

Kids Say the Darndest Things, Bantam, 1998.

Congratulations! Now What? A Book for Graduates, Hyperion, 1999.

It's All Relative, Hyperion, 2000.

Cosbyology: Essays and Other Observations from the Doctor of Comedy, illustrated by George Booth, Hyperion, 2001.

I Am What I Ate … and I'm Frightened and Other Digressions from the Doctor of Comedy, HarperCollins, 2003.

Friends of a Feather: One of Life's Little Fables, illustrated by Erika Cosby, HarperCollins, 2003.

Other books include Fat Albert's Survival Kid and Changes: Becoming the Best You Can Be. Contributor to books, including You Are Somebody Special (juvenile), edited by Charlie Shedd, McGraw-Hill, 1978, 2nd edition, 1982.

"Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers" Fiction Series:

The Best Way to Play, Cartwheel Books, 1997.

The Meanest Thing to Say, Cartwheel Books, 1997.

Treasure Hunt, Cartwheel Books, 1997.

The Best Way to Play, Cartwheel Books, 1997.

Shipwreck Saturday, Cartwheel Books, 1998.

One Dark and Scary Night, Cartwheel Books, 1998.

Super-Fine Valentine, Cartwheel Books, 1998.

Money Troubles, 1998.

The Big Fib, Cartwheel Books, 1999.

Hooray for the Dandelion Warriors!, Cartwheel Books, 1999.

The Worst Day of My Life, 1999.

The Day I Was Rich, Scholastic Trade, 1999.

The Day I Saw My Father Cry, Cartwheel Books, 2000.

ADAPTATIONS

The television movie To All My Friends on Shore, broadcast in 1971, was based on a story by Cosby. The film Leonard Part 6, released in 1987, was also based on a story by Cosby. The animated television series Little Bill was based on Cosby's "Little Bill" series of children's books.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Adams, Barbara Johnston, The Picture Life of Bill Cosby, Franklin Watts, 1986.

Conord, Bruce W., Bill Cosby, Chelsea Juniors, 1993.

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 26, Gale, 2000.

Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998.

Johnson, Robert E., Bill Cosby: In Words and Pictures, Johnson Publishing, 1987.

Notable Black American Men, Gale, 1998.

Ruth, Marianne, Bill Cosby, Melrose Square, 1992.

Schuman, Michael A., Bill Cosby: Actor and Comedian, Enslow Publishers, 1995.

Smith, R. L., Cosby, St. Martin's Press, 1986.

Woods, H., Bill Cosby: Making America Laugh and Learn, Dillon, 1983.

Periodicals:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 17, 2004; November 18, 2004.

AARP, January, 2004, pp. 64-67, 75.

Newsweek, November 3, 2003, p. 62.

Parade, October 19, 2002, p. 22.

People Weekly, June 26, 2000, p. 69.

Reader's Digest, May, 2003, pp. 74-81, 206.

Washington Times, September 9, 2004.

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