Bill Cosby is, by any standards, one of the most influential stars in America today.
Whether it be through concert appearances or recordings, television or films, commercials or education, Bill Cosby has the ability to touch people's lives.
His humor often centers on the basic cornerstones of our existence, seeking to provide an insight into our roles as parents, children, family members, and men and women.
Without resorting to gimmickry or lowbrow humor, Bill Cosby's comedy has a point of reference and respect for the trappings and traditions of the great American humorists such as Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx.
The 1984-92 run of “The Cosby Show” and his books “Fatherhood” and “Time Flies” established new benchmarks on how success is measured. His status at the top of the TVQ survey year after year continues to confirm his appeal as one of the most popular personalities in America.
Coming from a Philadelphia ghetto, Bill Cosby represents the voice of the vast, ordinary world out there. Everyone seems to easily identify with his characters and the situations they find themselves in. He's the street level loser who gives the twist of the ridiculous to everyday faults, foibles and successes and makes them a recognizable slice of life.
Bill Cosby points out the humor in our lives, and in doing so, he touches our hearts. Because of this, his appeal is not restricted to any specific group. His Chaplinesque qualities. combined with an earthy innocence, have endeared him to people from all walks of life.
It is the fusion of these qualities that has resulted in television's biggest and most influential hit of the modem era, “The Cosby Show.”
The show was credited by many for single-handedly resurrecting the sitcom genre. Cosby's return to television after eight years was prompted by what he perceived as a lack of relevance and an abundance of superficiality in TV comedy programming.
Life Magazine wrote: "Cosby's success may have changed the game as welt as the scores. Before his show hit the air, many viewers had rejected primetime television as an electronic guignol of crime, slime, glitz and glands.” What Cosby offered instead was a gentle, whimsical, warm-hearted sitcom about family life that found humor in the little things that happen in every home and everlasting value in the love and trust that exist between parents and children.
“Nobody actually says this family represents the whole human family, but the delicious ordinariness of its pleasures and tribulations has given millions a fresh, laughter- splashed perspective on their own domestic lives."
His success on television, which had been a catalyst in promoting NBC to first place, has been thatched in other areas. In 1986, he broke Radio City's 53-year-old attendance record for his concert appearance. In 1987, wife Camille Cosby
produced a home video cassette called “Bill Cosby 49,” which was distributed by Kodak and sold in the hundreds of thousands.
A comedy album on Geffen Records, “Those of You With or Without Children, You’ll Understand,” sold close to a million copies, an almost unheard of phenomenon today for a comedy recording. His most recent album production includes the release of a Polygram Jazz album, “My Appreciation,” and a comedy album for Geffen Records, “Oh, Baby.”
With over thirty years in comedy, Bill Cosby is for many young comedians the man who wrote the textbook. What Cosby teaches is to approach the monologue as a screenwriter looks at real life, bringing to each story the sitcom and body of a complete work.
The Cosby student will also learn that one does not have to use offensive language or risqué topics to obtain laughs. According to Cosby, "Anyone should be able to say on stage what they want. But those who have knowledge, do understand that certain things on stage can be abused and misused. And if such topics are used just for laughter, the humor will not stand the test of time."
Cosby is, without a doubt, the best-selling comedian of all time on records. He has had 21 albums (3 of them musical) on the national pop charts as well as 6 singles. Three albums were in the Top 10 (“Revenge” went to #2 in Billboard) and three others hit the Top 20.
During the mid-sixties, Cosby had as many as six albums on the charts at one time. Eight of the albums have been certified Gold Records by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He won Grammy Awards for "Best Comedy Album" five times. His sales are unprecedented for any comedian and are unlikely to be challenged.
Cosby made the transition from stand-up comic to actor in the NBC-TV series “I Spy” and the original “The Bill Cosby Show.”
He made his motion picture debut in a powerful and dramatic role in the film “Man and Boy,” which was set in the post-Civil War era. He teamed with his “I Spy” partner, Robert Culp, for “Hickey and Boggs.”
Cosby has co-starred with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte in “Uptown Saturday Night” and in the sequel “Let's Do It Again.” Cosby also starred in an animated film “Aesop’s Fables.” Cosby and Sidney Pourer rejoined to costar in their third film together “A Piece of the Action.” He then teamed with Richard Pryor in a starring role in “California Suite.” More recently, Cosby appeared in “Jack” with Robin Williams.
It was during Cosby's nightclub circuit period that Carl Reiner caught his act in Pittsburgh and introduced Cosby to producer Sheldon Leonard, who signed him to star in the “I Spy” series. The series, about two spies disguised as tennis bums, was an instant smash hit on TV.
Cosby's role as co-star broke the racial barrier of television. Before the series ended, he had won three Emmy Awards. It was a historic moment in casting when a black man was placed along side a white man as his equal, and it created
international interest in the show and in Bill Cosby. After “I Spy,”“The Bill Cosby Show” followed on NBC in 1971. In September. 1976, Cosby hosted another variety show called “Cos,” this time on ABC.
In addition, Cosby has filmed numerous television specials, starred in NBC TV's Children's Theater and PBS-TV's The Electric Company (the latter created by the Sesame Street Children's Television Workshop) and has written, directed and
produced two educational TV shows (“Concern,” dealing with his concern for school children and “Prejudice,” an irreverent spoof of prejudice).
His production company also turned out two animated specials featuring his lovable gallery of childhood pals. In the early 80’s, Cosby hosted “Picture Pages” on Captain Kangaroo's “Wake Up” program on CBS. Today, the instruction Cosby leads, which is designed to develop readiness skills in pre-school children, is available on home video by Disney. The series was awarded the Gold Award at the 1981 International Film & TV Festival in New York as "Outstanding Children's Program."
Someone up there touched Bill Cosby with the gift of comedy when he was born in Philadelphia on July 12, 1937. The son of William and Anna Cosby, he has two younger brothers, Bob and Russ.
It didn't take Cosby long to begin making up gags and practicing routines on his mom and dad. Although most children have crib-side routines, Cosby's comedic cereal serials were endless. His appreciative audience of one, his mom, always
encouraged his inventive performances of everyday household happenings.
Cosby attended Wister Elementary School along with his pals Fat Albert, Old Weird Harold, Dumb Donald, Rudy, Nolan and weasel - all later immortalized by Cosby`s Comedy Bill routines. When school was out, they could all be found
romping through the "projects" (four massive suburban tenement buildings with a cement playground in the center) or under the Ninth St. Bridge. It was there Cosby acquired his athletic skills and his lifetime love of sports.
Cosby's sixth grade teacher must have sensed his genius when she wrote on his report card, "William is a boy's boy, an all-around fellow, and he should grow up to do great things."
About his high school sports career, Cosby humorously claims, "I was on the ninth grade football team, which was made up of me and ten other guys from the remedial gym class. All we had to do was look at the parallel bars, and they gave us
a 'D'. I never got into the game, and I had to give my jersey to the guy who'd had his ripped."
He often neglected his studies for athletics, and after repeating the tenth grade, he left school to join the Navy. He finished high school via a correspondence course while still in the service. When he was discharged, he enrolled at Temple University as the result of an athletic scholarship. His goal was to become a physical
education teacher. He probably could have made it as a professional football player, but the world is richer in laughter because he decided on show business.
To support himself during his college days, Cosby tended bar at night, where he found a ready-made audience for his brand of homegrown humor. The enthusiasm of his customers convinced him that he might have a chance as a comedian.
His first stage appearance was at a nightspot called The Underground in a small room named The Cellar. It didn't have a stage, so Cosby did his act on amble with a chair propped on it. He not only had to climb over the bar to get to the "stage," but he couldn't stand up because of his height. He was probably the world's first "sit-down" comedian.
The beatniks were "in" at that time in New York's Greenwich Village, and word of Cosby's comedy spread from Philly. A club called "The Gaslight" booked him for sixty dollars a week, and he was on his way.
His routines rowed audiences with laughter at the top clubs around the country. Many of his expressions became part of the jargon of this generation, like his fatuous drawn-out "riiiiiiiiight." He established a rare rapport with all audiences. He talked about his youth in Philadelphia where two guys on the block shaved
one broken-down auto, crashed parties, cowered from trouble, and constantly scrimped around to raise the 19 cents they needed for gas for their car and the 14 dollars they needed for oil.
About his performances Cosby says, "I feel that in-person contact with people is the most important thing in comedy. While I'm up on stage. I can actually put myself into the audience and adjust my pace and tuning to them. I can get into their heads through their ears and through their eyes. Only through this total communication can I really achieve what I'm trying to do."
As busy as he is with his many ventures, Cosby has been a crusader throughout his career for a better world and for better understanding between people. Besides his involvement with a host of charity organizations, Cosby is also an active trustee of his alma mater, Temple University of Philadelphia.
As philanthropists, Bill and Camille Cosby have made substantial gifts in support of education (most notably to predominantly Black colleges) and to various social service and civil tights organizations.
In addition, Cosby earned his Masters Degree in 1972 and his Doctorate in education (Ed. D) in 1977 from the University of Massachusetts. His doctorate thesis was titled "The Integration of Visual Media Via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids Into the Elementary Schools Culminating as a Teacher Aid to Achieve Increased Learning."
In the publishing world, Bill Cosby has shattered records with each of his books. “Fatherhood,” published by Doubleday/Dolphin in May of 1986, became the fastest selling hardcover book of all time. His next Doubleday/Dolphin title, “Time Flies,” had the largest single first printing in publishing history --1.75 million copies. Like its predecessor, it too remained at the top of the New York Times list. Bantam Books published the paperback version in the fall of 1988.
“Love and Mariage” was published by Doubleday/Dolphin in April of 1989, and covered everything from childhood romances and adolescent crushes to first love, dating and courtship, the ebb and flow of relationships and the rewards of
One of his latest books, “Childhood” (published by Purtnam in 1991), deals with the predicaments of growing up and coming of age, combining stories of his legendary childhood with comic insights about children of today.
Exercising his deep concern with projecting positive images of African-Americans, Cosby together with partners, Tom Werner and Mercy Carsey, produced “A Different World” on NBC for seven seasons.
In his partnership, they also put on the air “Here and Now” (starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner) for NBC and the revival of the classic Groucho Marx show, “You Bet Your life,” for first-run syndication.
During 1994, Cosby also starred in “The Cosby Mysteries,” a series on NBC, and the CBS television movie “I Spy Returns,” co-starring his original partner Robert Culp.
Baltimore Sun (blog)
He be Bill Cosby. U?
Baltimore Sun (blog)
Comedian Bill Cosby had a lot of fun with the University of Baltimore' s initials Tuesday, playing around with them and coming up with all sorts of philosophical variations, including "You be who?" and a few select others. No, this wasn't a stand-up ...
Bill Cosby Becomes 1st Black Emmy Award Winner On This Day In 1966
It's hard to believe that comedian, actor, and author Bill Cosby never won an Emmy for his groundbreaking NBC sitcom “The Cosby Show,” but he's collected plenty of hardware in his long and illustrious career. During his run on NBC's “I Spy” show, Cosby ...
Bill Cosby, Vindicated . . . By the Obamas?
Power Line (blog)
Cast your mind back about ten years or so to a series of speeches that got Bill Cosby in a lot of trouble, especially his 2004 speech to the NAACP Awards dinner. The Cos took aim at dysfunctions in the black community . . . and he was slammed for ...
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