"Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry."

Happy birthday Bill Cosby!

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Bill Cosby (July 12, 1937) is an American comedian, author, producer, activist, and teacher. He has won five Grammys for his comedy albums, but is perhaps best known for his series The Cosby Show.

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Cosby was born to Anna Pearl and William Henry Cosby Sr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition to playing football, basketball, baseball, track, and appearing in school plays, Cosby spent time working as a shoe shiner and other jobs to help support his family. His teachers noted that he was always the class clown and his grades suffered as a result. After transferring to Germantown High School and failing the tenth grade, he decided to drop out of school to apprentice at a shoe repair shop. Concluding that the job wasn't for him, he enlisted in the Navy.

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While in the Navy for four years, working with injured Korean War vets in physical therapy, Cosby

decided he wanted to go back to school. Before long, he had gotten his equivalency diploma and received a track and field scholarship to Temple University. While in school, he worked as a bartender, which is where he became aware of his ability to make people laugh.

Cosby ended up leaving Temple to pursue his comedy career. After performing gigs around Philadelphia, he made the leap to New York City, appearing at The Gaslight Cafe in 1962. A series of shows in cities across the country led to his appearance on The Tonight Show in 1963. Following that, he signed with Warner Bros. to release Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow...Right! (1964).

His next comedy album, I Started Out as a Child (1964) earned him a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance. He went on to win five Grammys total for his comedy albums.

 

Cosby's effect on race relations in the United States was substantial. He was one of the first African Americans to appear in a leading role on television. In 1965, he co-starred as Robert Culp in the series I Spy.

 

However, his own stand up material did not deal explicitly with race. In response to the question of why the topic was absent, he is quoted as saying, "A white person listens to my act and he laughs and he thinks, 'Yeah, that's 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."

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Not long after I Spy, Cosby appeared in his own sitcom, The Bill Cosby Show, from 1969-1971. He then developed the animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, which he would later cover in his dissertation for a doctorate in urban education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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The 1970s marked Cosby's foray into film. He appeared in Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), A Piece of the Action (1977), and several others.

Cosby's biggest success came with the debut of The Cosby Show in 1984. The show was the first to portray an African American family as affluent and college-educated. Its humor was family friendly, a direct effort on Cosby's part to combat the increasingly violent and vulgar nature of network programming.

He later worked on the shows Cosby, Kids Say the Darndest Things, and Little Bill.

Cosby is the recipient of the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in 2003 and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2009.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 12 July 2014
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