Cosby, is a successful comedian, product representative, television
producer, story teller, author, and film and television actor. His
work in the media has been recognized by his peers and critics,
and acclaimed by audiences.
began his career as a stand?up comedian and in that arena developed
his trademark of using raceless humor to capture audience appeal.
His "humor for everyone" cast him less as a jokester than as a story
teller, commenting on the experiences of life from a personal point
of view. Immensely popular on the nightclub circuit, Cosby translated
his act to phonograph recordings and won five Grammys and seven
gold records for his comedy albums.
His first starring role on television, however, came not in comedy,
but in the 1960s action-adventure series, I Spy (1965-68).
Producer Sheldon Leonard fought network hesitance to cast him as
costar for Robert Culp, making Cosby one of the first African American
players to appear in a continuing dramatic role on U.S. television.
More than the faithful sidekick to the star, Cosby's role developed
into an equal partner, winning him three time Emmy awards. His portrayal
in this series introduced viewers to an inoffensive African American
feature character who seldom addressed his blackness nor another
Cosby began to produce his own comedy series, however, this disassociation
with black culture ended. The programs were noted not only for their
wit, but for introducing a side of African American life never portrayed
on the small screen. Cosby's comedies share several common characteristics.
Each has been a trend setter, has included characters surrounded
by family and friends, and has specialized in plots with universal
themes and multidimensional characters.
Chet Kincaid in The Bill Cosby Show (1969?71) Cosby defied
the typical image of the militant black man depicted on 1960s television
by exuding his blackness in more subtle, nonverbal ways. Starting
with the opening music by Quincy Jones, the program created a black
ambience unique to the African American experience. Kincaid wore
dashikis, listened to black music, had pictures of Martin Luther
King and H. Rap Brown and prints of black artist Charles White hanging
on the walls of his home. He worked with less privileged children
and ordered "soul" food in black restaurants. Kincaid was pictured
as a colleague, friend, teacher, and member of a close supportive
family unit. Audiences experienced his failures and successes in
coping with life's everyday occurrences.
Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972?84) was the first cartoon show
to include value?laden messages instead of the slapstick humor used
in most cartoons to that time. Plots featured Fat Albert and the
Kids playing, going to school, and sharing experiences that provided
the back-drop for the inclusion of pro?social content. After the
success of Fat Albert on CBS, ABC and NBC also added children's
shows to the Saturday morning schedule that presented specific value
most notable success in series television, The Cosby Show (1984?92),
discontinued familiar sitcom formulas filled with disrespectful
children and generational conflict and presented instead a two-parent
black family in which both partners worked as professionals. In
the Huxtable household, viewers were exposed to the existence and
culture of historically black colleges and universities. Prints
by black artist Varnette Honeywood decorated the walls. The music
of African American jazz artists was woven into the background or
featured for discussion. Events in black history and signs calling
for an end to apartheid became elements of plots. Just as Chet Kincaid
and the Cosby Kids portray their frailties and personality traits,
the Huxtables followed this Cosby pattern by depicting imperfect
but likable people in realistic situations.
Even when he turned to the police genre with The Cosby Mysteries
(1994-95), Cosby continued his exploration and presentation of his
fundamental concerns. His use of nonverbal symbols (e.g. pictures,
magazines, a fraternity paddle) attached his character, Guy Hanks,
a retired criminologist (who recently won the lottery), to African
ensure that universal themes were depicted in his series, Cosby
hired professionals to serve as consultants to review scripts. When
A Different World (1987?93)--the spin-off series from The
Cosby Show that portrayed life on the fictional Hillman College
campus--floundered during its first year on the air, Cosby hired
director and choreographer Debbie Allen to lend her expertise to
focus and give direction to writers and actors. The ratings improved
significantly and A Different World became a top 20 program
for the 1991 season.
began to interest Cosby in the mid-1970s and he has developed into
one of the most respected and believable product spokespersons on
television. He has represented Coca Cola, Jello Pudding, Ford Motor
Company, Texas Instruments, and Del Monte Foods. The Marketing Evaluation
TVQ index, the television industry's annual nationwide survey of
a performer's popularity with viewers, as well as the Video Storyboard
Tests that rank the top most persuasive entertainers in television
commercials rated Cosby the number one entertainer for five consecutive
years during the 1980s.
1974, he teamed with Sidney Poitier in the film Uptown Saturday
Night. This duo was so popular with audiences that two sequels
followed, Let's Do It Again (1975) and A Piece of the
Action (1977). Cosby also starred in a number of other movies,
but his Everyman character, so successful on the small screen, did
not translate into box office revenues in theatrical release.
a creative artist, Cosby's forte is the half-hour comedy. In this
form his application and exploration of universal themes and multidimensional
characters create situations common to audiences of all ages and
races. He counters the accepted practice of portraying African Americans
as sterile reproductions of whites, as trapped in criminality, or
as persons immersed in abject poverty performing odd jobs for survival.
Instead, he creates black characters who are accepted or rejected
because they depict real people rather than "types." These characters
emanate from his own experience, not through reading the pages of
18th century literature or viewing old tapes of Amos 'n' Andy.
The Bill Cosby Show presented a more realistic image of the
black male. Fat Albert significantly altered Saturday morning
network offerings. And with The Cosby Show, a standard was
set with which all television portrayals of the black family and
African American culture will be compared. Cosby's personal style
is stamped on all his products, and his creative technique and signature
are reflected in each book he writes or series he produces.
COSBY. Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, U.S.A, 12 July 1937.
Served in U.S. Navy, 1956-60. Attended Temple University; University
of Massachusetts, M.A. 1972, Ed.D. 1977. Married: Camille Hanks,
1965; children: Erika Ranee, Erinn Chalene, Ennis William, Ensa
Camille, and Evin Harrah. Worked as stand-up comedian through college;
appeared on Tonight Show, 1965; starred in TV's I Spy,
1965-68; guest appearances on shows, including The Electric Company,
1972; host and voices, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, 1972-79;
star and producer, various television programs since 1984. Recipient:
Four Emmy Awards; eight Grammy Awards for comedy recordings.
1964-65 That Was the Week That Was
1969-71 The Bill Cosby Show
1971-76 The Electric Company
1972-73 The New Bill Cosby Show
1972-77 Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
1981 The New Fat Albert Show
1984-92 The Cosby Show
1987-93 A Different World (executive producer)
1992-93 You Bet Your Life
1992-93 Here and Now (executive producer)
1994-95 The Cosby Mysteries
To All My Friends On Shore
1978 Top Secret
1994 I Spy Returns
1968 The Bill Cosby Special
1969 The Second Bill Cosby Special
1970 The Third Bill Cosby Special
1971 The Bill Cosby Special, Or?
1972 Dick van Dyke Meets Bill Cosby
1975 Cos: The Bill Cosby Comedy Special
1977 The Fat Albert Christmas Special
1977 The Fat Albert Halloween Special
1984 Johnny Carson Presents The Tonight Show Comedians
and Boggs, 1972; Man and Boy, 1972; Uptown Saturday
Night, 1974; Let's Do It Again, 1975; Mother Juggs
and Speed, 1976; A Piece of the Action, 1977; California
Suite, 1978; The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981; Bill
Cosby Himself, 1982; Leonard: Part VI, 1987; Ghost
Dad, 1990; The Meteor Man, 1993.
Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow... Right!; I Started Out as a
Child; Why is There Air?; Wonderfulness; Revenge; To Russell My
Brother With Whom I Slept; Bill Cosby is Not Himself These Days;
Rat Own Rat Own Rat Own; My Father Confused Me; What Must I Do?
What Must I Do?; Disco Bill; Bill's Best Friend; Cosby and the Kids;
It's True It's True; Bill Cosby - Himself; 200 MPH; Silverthroat;
Hooray for the Salvation Army Band; 8:15 12:15; For Adults Only;
Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs; Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby
The Wit and Wisdom of Fat Albert. New York: Windmill Books,
Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1986.
Flies. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
and Marriage. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
Cosby's Personal Guide to Tennis Power. New York: Random House,
"Someone at the Top Has to Say: 'Enough of this'" (interview). Newsweek
(New York), 6 December 1993.
Barbara Johnston. The Picture Life of Bill Cosby. New York:
F. Watts, 1986.
Bill. The Cosby Wit: His Life and Humor. New York: Carroll
& Graf, 1986.
Steve. "Billion Dollar Bill." Channels of Communication (New
York), January-February 1986
Donna. "Cover Story: The Cos, Family Man for the 80s." USA Today
(New York), 23 December 1986.
Joel H. Cool Cos: The Story of Bill Cosby. New York: Scholastic,
Brad. "Cosby!" Life (New York), June 1985.
Linda K. The Cosby Show: Audiences, Impact, and Implications.
Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1992.
Dan. "'I Do Believe In Control'; Cosby Is a Man Who Gets Laughs
and Results--By Doing Things His Way." Time (New York), 28
Cynthia, and George Hill. "Bill Cosby: In Our Living Rooms for 20
Years." Ebony Images: Black Americans and Television. Los
Angeles, California: Daystar Publications, 1986.
Jhally, Sut, and Justin Lewis. Enlightened Racism: The Cosby
Show, Audiences, and the Myth of the American Dream. Boulder,
Colorado: Westview, 1992.
Todd. "Bill Cosby: Prime Time's Favorite Father." Saturday Evening
Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), April 1986.
Randall. "Bill Cosby, Capitalist." Forbes (Chicago), 28 September
Steve. "Wussler, Cosby Eye NBC Bid." Broadcasting & Cable
(Washington, D.C.), 19 July 1993.
Bishetta D. "Bill Cosby: TV Auteur?" Journal of Popular Culture
(Bowling Green, Ohio), Spring 1991.
Ronald L. Cosby. New York: St. Martin's, 1986.
Also Cosby Show;