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Born: Willian Henry Cosby, Jr., July 12, 1937, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Spouse: Camille Hanks (1964-present) (5 Children)
Bill Cosby was born William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. (born July 12, 1937). He is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer and activist. He started his career as a stand-up comedian. He got his first major acting job in the action show I Spy. Later he had his own television series, The Bill Cosby Show in 1969. He was on the Electric Company for its first two seasons. He then created The Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon. He's been in a lot of movies. Bill Cosby's net worth is estimated at over $300 million.
In the 1990s, Cosby starred in Cosby, which aired from 1996 to 2000, and during the show's last two seasons, hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things, and appeared in a number of movies. He has also appeared on the stand-up circuit.
He has always been seen as an easy-going father figure and has been nicknamed "America's Dad". He is a popular choice as a spokesman, including Jell-O Pudding, Kodak Film, Ford, Texas Instruments and Coca-Cola (as well as New Coke).
In 1976 he got his Ed. D. degree from the University of Massachusetts. His dissertation was entitled "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". You can get a copy of his dissertation from University Microfilms International as document number 7706369.
Cosby was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has three brothers. His mother's name is Anna Pearl. She was a maid. His father was William Henry Cosby, Sr., a cook for the U.S. Navy. His father fought in World War II. Bill Cosby was a class clown, shocking! He was captain of the the baseball and track and field teams at Mary Channing Wister Elementary School in Philadelphia. He was also class president. He continued to play in sports and participated in plays at Glynn Academy. He went to Central High School, a school for smarter kids. He played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. These activities made it hard to keep up with school work. He worked before and after school too. He sold produce, shined shoes, and stocked shelves at a local supermarket. He later transferred to Germantown High School. He failed the 10th grade. Instead of repeating, he got a job as an apprentice at a shoe repair shop. He liked the job but knew he didn't want to do that for the rest of his life. He joined the Navy and served at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Naval Station Argenia, Newfoundland (Hey....that's in Canada) and at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
After being in the Navy for some time he realized the value of a good education and got a high school equivalency diploma through correspondence. He then got a track and field scholarship to Philadelphia's Temple University in 1961-1962. He studied physical education while running track and playing fullback on the football team. He joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
Bill Cosby always loved humor and called himself a class clown. He worked at the Cellar, a club in Philadelphia and got bigger tips by making customers laugh. He did try some of his material on stage.
Cosby left Temple to get into a comedy career. He did do other studies in the 70s. He worked in clubs in Philadelphia and then later went to New York City. Cosby was discovered by Carl Reiner, you know .....meathead from All In The Family----no this is meathead's dad. Meathead was Rob Reiner. Cosby was lined up doing gigs in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Washington DC. He appeared on NBC's Tonight Show in 1963 and released Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow...Right!, the first of a series of popular comedy albums in 1964.
Other comedians were doing risky comedy material but Cosby stuck to telling funny stories from his childhood. Cosby didn't tell stereotypical race jokes. He defended his comedy material by saying "A white person listens to my act and he laughs and he thinks, 'Yeah, that't the way I see it too' Okay. He's white. I'm Negro. And we both see things the same way. that must mean that we are alike. Right? So I figure this way I'm doing as much for good race relations as the next guy."
In 1965, Cosby co-starred with Robert Culp in I Spy, a spy adventure show.......I Spy.......spy show? ...... how do we get that from that? The show was inspired by the James Bond films. Cosby was the first black star of a dramatic television series by doing the part in the show. The show was a great success. Cosby got three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
Critics of I Spy said the show should have explored race issues that were happening during the shows original run. Cosby relieved when the show ended because he missed spending time with his family. He also missed performing live.
Fat Albert, The Bill Cosby Show, and the 1970s
Cosby always explored a variety of television work. He was a regular guest host on the Tonight Show and did an annual special for NBC. In 1969 He starred in The Bill Cosby Show, a sitcom that lasted two seasons. On that show Cosby was a Phys. Ed. teacher in a Los Angeles high school. The show wasn't a critical success but it was a ratings hit. It finished 11th in its first season.
When The Bill Cosby Show ended Cosby went to the University of Massachusetts to do graduate work. He attended as a student who did not complete a bachelor's degree. He qualified because he had contributed in a positive way to society and through his acting and other activities. He then got involved with PBS by joining the cast of The Electric Company. On the show he recorded segments teaching reading skills to young children.
In 1972, Cosby received an MA from the University of Massachusetts and also worked on a new variety series, The New Bill Cosby Show. The ratings were not great and the show only lasted one season. From 1972 to 1979 Cosby worked on his Saturday morning show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. That show did well. The show was even used by some schools as part of their teaching material.
Other projects that Cosby worked on in the 1970s included work he did with Sidney Poitier. They teamed up to produce work that gave African-Americans more exposure in media. They made a few films aimed at doing this. Some of these films include Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let' Do It Again (1975). Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976) costarring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel; A Piece of the Action, with Poitier; and California Suite didn't do well at all. In 1976 Cosby worked on an hour-long variety show, Cos, featuring puppets, sketches, and musical numbers, was canceled within a year of it's beginning. Cosby was also a regular on children's public television programs starting in the 70s, hosting the "Picture Pages" segments that lasted into the early 80s.
The Cosby Show and the 1980s
The Cosby Show (1984) was Cosby's greatest television success. It aired weekly on NBC and became the highest ranking sitcom of all time. Cosby's aim was to use the show provide family entertainment that wasn't violent and aimed at getting quick ratings points. Cosby believes that you can have humor that is entertaining and family-oriented. He insisted on having full creative control of the project and he got it. He was involved in every part of the production. He used material that was based on his actual family life. The main characters on The Cosby Show, Cliff and Claire Huxtable were similar to Cosby and his wife Camille in real life. The characters and Cosby and his wife are all well educated and financially successful with 5 children. The show was about the adventures of a wholesome family. The fact that the show was about an intelligent, rich, non-stereotypical African-American family made it different from any other show.
A lot of the first season of The Cosby Show was based on material in Cosby's popular video Bill Cosby: Himself (1983). The show maintained high ratings for most of its long run. It was number one for five straight seasons. People magazine called the show "revolutionary", and Newsday called it a "real breakthrough."
In 1987, Cosby tried the big screen again by starring in Leonard Part 6. Cosby wrote and produced the movie but realized during production that it wasn't going to be successful. He actually admitted this publicly and told people not to go to the movie.
In the 1990s and 2000s
After The Cosby Show ended in 1992 Cosby tried a remake of You Bet Your Life (the classic Groucho Marx game show). He also starred in a I Spy Returns with bad results. Another not-so-successful movie was The Cosby Mysteries. He did commercials for Turner Classic Movies. He did three other movies as follows: Ghost Dad (1990); The Meteor Man (1993); and Jack (1996). Cosby was interview in Spike Lee's "4 Little Girls" (1997), a documentary about the racist bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963. In 1996 he worked on a new show for CBS called "Cosby." Phylicia Rashad co-starred. The show was based on a British sitcom called One Foot in the Grave. Cosby lightened the humor. Cosby plays Hilton Lucas who is a senior citizen who's employer downsizes making Hilton unemployed. He ends up annoying his wife because he is home instead of at work. From 1995 to 1998 Cosby was spokesman for WWJ-TV for it's advertising campaign. In 1998 Cosby hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things. The show had four great seasons "Cosby" was canceled. Cosby continued to work with CBS on other projects.
In 1999 Cosby worked on Little Bill, a series for preschoolers.
Cosby met his wife, Camille Hanks, when he was doing stand-up in Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s. She was a student at the University of Maryland. They got married on January 25, 1964 and had five children.
Cosby is an alumni supporter for Temple University.
Outstanding Lead Actor - Drama Series
Golden Globe Awards
Best Actor - Television Comedy/Musical
1985 The Cosby Show
1986 The Cosby Show
Best Comedy Recording
1965 I Started Out as a Child
(Jan. 27, 2013, Sunday, 9:38pm)