William Henry Cosby, Jr
Publicity still by William Morris Agency (1969)
Born: 12 July 1937, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One of four children of a Navy cook, Cosby excelled at sports and coasted in class. He described himself as the "class clown". He failed tenth grade and apprenticed at a shoe-repair shop, then worked in a muffler shop before joining the Navy. He was trained as a corpsman and specialized in physical therapy, spending most of his four years working with soldiers seriously injured in Korea. While in the Navy he got his high school diploma by correspondence. He was given a track scholarship at Temple University at Pittsburgh. Working as a bartender to pay school bills he learned that snappy patter behind the bar led to good tips, and soon was doing standup comedy. He left school to pursue a performing career, first around Philadelphia but then at New York City and others. He came to national attention in a 1963 appearance on The Tonight Show, followed by a number of comedy albums, starting with "Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow ... Right!". In 1965 he co-starred with Robert Culp in I Spy, the first black with a starring role in television. He married Camille Hanks in 1964, they had five children. He received his MA from the University of Massachusetts in 1972, followed by an Ed. D. four years later, also from UMass. Temple University later granted him his bachelor's degree based on his "life experience", and he has received at least ten honorary doctorates. There were several iterations of The Cosby Show and he produced several educational television shows. In fact, his doctoral dissertation was based on the use of "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids", a Saturday-morning children's show he produced based on his own childhood. Cosby was in demand as a comedian, more recently speaking on themes based on his best-selling book Fatherhood. He was criticized for not addressing "black themes" in his television work but felt that appearing as an equal with white stars was more beneficial. He has taken the black community to task for a failure in parenting, with harsh comments about language use and personal responsibility.
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Bill Cosby quotes:
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- A baseball manager has learned a lot about his job from having played the game, but a parent has not learned a thing from having once been a child. permalink
- A new father quickly learns that his child invariably comes to the bathroom at precisely the times when he's in there, as if he needed company. The only way for this father to be certain of bathroom privacy is to shave at the gas station. permalink
- A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice. permalink
- Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry. permalink
- Any man today who returns from work, sinks into a chair, and calls for his pipe is a man with an appetite for danger. permalink
- Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them. permalink
- Did you ever see the customers in health-food stores? They are pale, skinny people who look half dead. In a steak house, you see robust, ruddy people. They're dying, of course, but they look terrific. permalink
- Every closed eye is not sleeping, and every open eye is not seeing. permalink
- Fatherhood is pretending that the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope. permalink
- Gray hair is God's graffiti. permalink
on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (13 March 1984)
- Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit. permalink
- How long can you tread water? permalink
- Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come back home. permalink
- I am certainly not an authority on love because there are no authorities on love, just those who've had luck with it and those who haven't. permalink
- I am not the boss of my house. I don't know how I lost it. I don't know when I lost it. I don't think I ever had it. But I've seen the boss's job and I don't want it. permalink
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