"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." Bill Cosby
One of the world's most renowned entertainers and comedians, Bill Cosby was hurled towards prominence while starring as Doctor Heathcliff Huxtable on NBC's runaway success "The Cosby Show" (1984-1992). The first black performer to win an Emmy for the spoof series "I Spy" (1965, alongside Robert Culp), Cosby has starred in such series as "The Bill Cosby Show" (1969), "The Electric Company" (1971-1972), "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" (1972, voice), "The New Bill Cosby Show (1972), "Cos" (1976), "The Cosby Mysteries" (1994) and "Cosby" (1996).
One of the highest-paid entertainers in the United States during the 1980s, whose character on "The Cosby Show" (1984) became TV Guide's No. 1 "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time" (June 20, 2004 issue), Cosby was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1992. The People's Choice's Favorite All-Time Television Star (1999) also played roles in the big screen's Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), Mother, Juggs and Speed (1976), A Piece of the Action (1977), California Suite (1978), Ghost Dad (1990) and Jack (1996).
A Grammy winning musician, Cosby debuted with the comedy album, "Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow, Right!" and had a top-40 hit comedy song "Little Old Man" (1969). He dominated the 1960s Grammy Comedy category with his smash hit recordings "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) and "Bill Cosby" (1969). The longtime spokesperson for Jell-O products, Cosby was also a best-selling writer and has published the books "The Wit and Wisdom Of Fat Albert" (1973), "Fatherhood" (1986) and "Love and Marriage" (1989).
More recent, a Canadian woman accused the successful entertainer of drugging and sexually assaulting her at his Pennsylvania home. Cosby also faced accusations from 12 other women, who all claim he drugged and molested them. The comedian recently said that the string of sexual harassment allegations pointed to him indicated the steady decline in moral values in contemporary society.
Omega Psi Phi Brother
Childhood and Family:
"Because of my father, I thought my name was Jesus Christ. My brother Russell thought that his name was Damn It." Bill Cosby
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, William Henry Cosby Jr. was born on July 12, 1937, to William H. Cosby (welder; US Navy) and Anna Cosby (domestic; died 1991). The oldest of four children, Cosby has three younger brothers: Russell Cosby, Robert Cosby and James Cosby (born 1941; died 1947 of rheumatic fever). He grew up in a housing project in north Philadelphia, living in poverty and without his father figure.
Cosby attended Wister Elementary School. After repeating the tenth grade, he dropped out of high school to join the Navy. Cosby completed high school via correspondence courses while serving in the US Navy Medical Corps in 1956-1960. Then, he received a football scholarship for Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and earned a Bachelor in Arts Degree. He continued to study at the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a Masters Degree in Education in 1972 and a Doctorate in Education in 1977. Cosby's 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." Recently, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) for his commitment to advancing higher education and for his longtime love and promotion of jazz.
On January 25, 1964, Cosby tied the knot with producer Camille Olivia Cosby. They have four daughters: Evin Harrah (born in 1977), Ensa Camille (born in 1973), Erinn Charlene (born in 1967) and Erika Ranee (born in 1965). They also had a son named Ennis William Cosby (born in 1969, was a teacher for handicapped children), who was murdered on January 16, 1997, while fixing a flat tire off the San Diego Freeway.
Later that year, the murderer was arrested and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Meanwhile, the Cosby family established Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation, a charitable organization for the early detection and treatment of dyslexia (son Ennis was dyslexic).
"He was my hero." Bill Cosby (about his murdered son, Ennis).
Avid cigar smoker Cosby is now a leading educational philanthropist and also an Omega Psi Phi brother. He recently launched a scholarship program for poor students at the University of Massachusetts. Along with wife Camille, Cosby was honored at a NAACP gala for donating money to historically black colleges. Cosby, who donated $20 million to the Spelman College in Atlanta in 1989, received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2003. The recipient of Kennedy Center Honors (1998) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2002), Cosby currently resides in Shelburne, Massachusetts.
The Cosby Show
"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 timing 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." Bill Cosby (on his performances).
In order to support his life while studying at Temple University, Bill Cosby worked as a bartender. He later decided to be a stand-up comedian and made his debut appearance at "The Cellar" room in The Underground club in Philadelphia. He began performing regularly at New York's Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village in 1962 and left college to pursue his career.
After getting married, Cosby began performing in popular clubs. When he landed an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" in 1965, his performance attracted the attention of TV producer Sheldon Leonard. Leonard signed Cosby to costar with Robert Culp in the series "I Spy" (1965-1968, playing comical undercover CIA agent Alexander 'Scotty' Scott). The series awarded Cosby three Emmys.
After "I Spy," Cosby starred as Chet Kincaid (1969-1971), on the NBC sitcom "The Bill Cosby Show" and starred in the 24-minute film Bill Cosby on Prejudice (1971).
From 1971 to 1972, Cosby played carious characters on the long-running educational show "The Electric Company" and starred as a man who dreams of moving his family out of the ghetto in CBS' To All My Friends on Shore (1972, also executive produced). He also acted in and produced E.W. Swackhamer's Western adventure movie Man and Boy (1972), starring as Civil War veteran Caleb Revers.
Cosby then lent his voice to the CBS Saturday morning series "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" (1972-1984, he also created, executive produced and hosted). During that time, he also hosted the CBS variety series "The New Bill Cosby Show" (1972-1973) and reunited with actor-director Robert Culp to portray private investigators in the movie Hickey & Boggs (1972). Sharing the screen with legend Sidney Poitier, Cosby starred as Wardell Franklin in the comedy Uptown Saturday Night (1974).
Cosby's second collaboration with Sidney Poitier was portraying a couple of blue-collar workers in the funky comedy Let's Do It Again (1975). The following year, he became the wisecracking leader named Mother in Peter Yates' highly irreverent and satirical comedy Mother, Jugs and Speed, alongside Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel. He also hosted the short-lived ABC variety series "Cos."
"My first series ("I Spy") ran three years, my second ("The Bill Cosby Show") ran two years, and my third ("The New Bill Cosby Show") ran one. This show, if I'm lucky, will run the thirteen weeks we contracted for." Bill Cosby (on the failure of his experimental educational/variety show "Cos" 1976).
In 1977, Cosby again teamed up with actor-director Sidney Poitier for the crime comedy A Piece of the Action. He then starred as a veteran American espionage agent in Top Secret (TV) and shared the screen with Alan Alda, Michael Caine, Jane Fonda and Walter Matthau in Herbert Ross' touching and hilarious adaptation of Neil Simon's hit play California Suite (both in 1978). Cosby also portrayed devil Barney, opposite Elliott Gould, in Steven Hilliard Stern's family comedy The Devil and Max Devlin (1981). Meanwhile, he also served as a commercial spokesperson for several products, including Jell-O, Kodak, Coca-Cola and E F Hutton.
"I wanted to give the house back to the parents." Bill Cosby (on "The Cosby Show").
Dr. Cliff Huxtable is more than likely Cosby's most famous role to date. The Golden Globe winning "The Cosby Show" stayed on the cable from 1984 until 1992.
During his stint in the long-lived show, Cosby headlined the successful comedy show "An Evening With Bill Cosby" at the Radio City Music Hall in NYC (1986), starred as a former secret agent in Paul Weiland's comedy Leonard Part 6 (1987, he also wrote the story) and reunited with director Sidney Poitier in his fantasy comedy Ghost Dad (1990). He also hosted the syndicated revival of the 1950s TV game show "You Bet Your Life" (1992) and appeared in Robert Townsend's sci-fi comedy The Meteor Man (1993). Cosby was inducted to the TV Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1992.
The TV movies The Cosby Mysteries and I Spy Returns (CBS, rejoined Robert Culp) were Cosby's works in 1994. He also starred in the short-lived NBC series "The Cosby Mysteries" and the CBS sitcom "Cosby" (1996-2000), reuniting with Phylicia Rashad as his wife. The series was adopted from the British series "One Foot In The Grave" and Cosby also served as executive producer and theme composer.
In 1996, Cosby costarred with Robin Williams and Diane Lane in Francis Ford Coppola's comedy, Jack, and hosted the CBS series "Kids Say the Darndest Things" from 1998 to 2000. From 1999 to the present, he executive produced and lent a character voice for the Nickelodeon and CBS animated series "Little Bill." Recently, he guest starred in the shows "Dr. Phil" and "ABC News Nightline."
Adding to his successful entertainment career, Cosby was also a Grammy winning comedy musician and a best selling writer. In 1963, he released his first comedy album, the Grammy nominated "Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow, Right?" His comedy song, "I Started Out as a Child," gave him the first Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording in 1964. He followed it up with five more Grammys for the comedy songs "Why Is There Air?" (1965), "Wonderfulness" (1966), "Revenge" (1967), "To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With" (1968) and "Bill Cosby" (1969), as well as had a top-40 hit titled "Little Old Man" (1969).
Cosby also won Grammys for his children recordings "Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs" (1971) and "The Electric Company" (shared award, 1972). The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified eight of Cosby's albums Gold Records.
As for writing, Doubleday/Dolphin published Cosby's fastest-selling, hardcover book "Fatherhood," in May of 1986, and followed it up with the largest single first printing in publishing history, "Time Flies," in April of 1989. Doubleday/Dolphin published "Love and Marriage" and in 1991, Putnam published "Childhood." Other publications include "The Wit and Wisdom Of Fat Albert" (1973) and "Bill Cosby's Personnel Guide To Power Tennis" (1986).
- Emmy Awards: Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, 2003
- TV Guide Awards: Career Achievement Award, 2002
- Image Awards: Outstanding Performance in a Youth or Children's Series/Special for Little Bill, 2001
- People's Choice Awards: Favorite All-Time Television Star, 1999
- Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998
- People's Choice Awards: Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series, 1997
- BMI TV Music Award for Cosby, 1997
- People's Choice: Favorite Male in a New Series; award shared with Michael J. Fox, 1997
- Image Awards: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, The Cosby Show, 1993
- People's Choice: Male TV Performer, 1992
- NAACP Image Award: Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for The Cosby Show, 1991
- People's Choice: Male TV Performer, 1991
- People's Choice: All-Around Male Entertainer, 1991
- Aftonbladet TV Prize (Sweden): Best Foreign TV Personality - Male, 1990
- People's Choice: Male TV Performer, 1990
- People's Choice: All-Around Male Entertainer, 1990
- People's Choice: Male TV Performer, 1987
- People's Choice: All-Around Male Entertainer, 1987
- People's Choice: Male TV Performer, 1986
- People's Choice: Male Performer in a New TV Program, 1985
- Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical), The Cosby Show, 1985
- Golden Globe: Best Television Series (Comedy or Musical), The Cosby Show, 1984
- Golden Globe: Best Actor in a Television Series (Comedy or Musical), The Cosby Show, 1984
- Grammy: Best Recording for Children, The Electric Company; shared award, 1972
- Grammy: Best Recording for Children, Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs, 1971
- Grammy: Best Comedy Recording, Bill Cosby, 1969
- Emmy: Outstanding Variety or Musical Program, the Bill Cosby Special, 1969
- Grammy: Best Comedy Recording, To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, 1968
- Emmy: Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Dramatic Series), I Spy, 1968
- Grammy: Best Comedy Recording, Revenge, 1967
- Emmy: Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Dramatic Series), I Spy, 1967
- Grammy: Best Comedy Performance, Wonderfulness, 1966
- Emmy: Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Dramatic Series), I Spy, 1966
- Grammy: Best Comedy Performance, Why Is There Air?, 1965
- Grammy: Best Comedy Performance, I Started Out as a Child, 1964