Born: July 12, 1937
BlueMeter: Tame

Like this comedian?
Log-In or Register to mark it!

Who’s Funnier?




2001 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bill Cosby
1986 Those of You with or Without Children, You'll Understand

Won 1986 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1982 Bill Cosby: Himself
1977 My Father Confused Me, What Should I Do?
1976 Bill Cosby is Not Himself These Days, Rat Own, Rat Own, Rat Own

Musical comedy album parodying popular R&B singers

1973 Fat Albert
1972 Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby
1971 For Adults Only
1971 When I Was a Kid
1970 Live: Madison Square Garden Center
1969 8:15 12:15
1969 Bill Cosby

Won 1969 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording. Also known as "Bill Cosby: Sports"

1969 The Best of Bill Cosby
1969 It's True! It's True!
1968 200 M.P.H.
1968 To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With

Won 1968 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1967 Revenge

Won 1967 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1966 Wonderfulness

Won 1966 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1965 Why Is There Air?

Won 1965 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1964 I Started Out as a Child

Won 1964 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording

1963 Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right!

Specials (and other video)

2013 Far From Finished
1987 Bill Cosby: 49
1983 Bill Cosby: Himself
1971 The Fourth Bill Cosby Special
1970 The Third Bill Cosby Special
1969 The Second Bill Cosby Special
1968 The Bill Cosby Special

Books (by and about)

2011 I Didn't Ask to Be Born: (But I'm Glad I Was)
2003 I Am What I Ate... and I'm frightened!!!
1987 Time Flies
1986 Fatherhood


Bill Cosby's warm family comedy first won over audiences in the early 60's. Back then his anecdotal monologues offered humor from the child's point of view as he imitated their voices and put on beguiling faces of wide-eyed innocence or smirky naughtiness. Later, his tales came from the parents' viewpoint, his visage comically stern, his style leaning toward frustrated lectures.

Either way, Cosby never veered from his aim in presenting healthy, wholesome humor that could often be healing and even educational. The way he did it, as "Cool Cos," everybody's big brother and friend—was completely unique. His style of comedy, though, goes back to the descriptive antics of Mark Twain, whose stories were often read to him by his mother.

Cosby re-invented his childhood when he hit his stride as a monologist in 1964-65. His father, in reality, was an absentee who disappeared when Cosby was a teenager. His homelife was marred by poverty and the death of a brother at six. He turned his life around after Navy service, earning an athletic scholarship to Temple University. He left to gamble on a career in comedy.

After a few low-selling albums, Cosby began gaining ground, and suddenly he found himself cast—with no acting experience—in "I Spy." Ironically, by avoiding racial humor in both his monologues and the televsion series, he became a powerful symbol of the black man as equal. It was brutally tough to do, but by putting himself out there as a comedian and an actor, no different from either his stand-up contemporary Bob Newhart or his "I Spy" co-star Robert Culp, Cosby made his point. He was, to quote the title of his first album, "a very funny fellow," period. Cosby won a record six straight Grammy awards (1964-1969) for his comedy albums. Over a dozen went on to become RIAA certified gold best-sellers. For three straight years he won Emmy awards for "I Spy."

Through the decades, Cosby navigated rough waters, years when the radical black power movement and raging civil rights controversies made him seem disappointingly neutral, and when more radical performers such as Richard Pryor made headlines with their controversies. Yet through it all, Cosby stuck to his convictions and emerged as an enduring comedian, a legend in his own time.

Twenty years after his first splashy fame, Cosby had the greatest success of his life with "The Cosby Show," which was the #1 rated series through most of its first half dozen years. His second sitcom (he played a teacher in his first, a doctor in the new one) the time was once again ripe for the cycle of "family" entertainment. Cosby, a respected scholar (he went back to school and earned his Ph.D. in 1977) as well as cool kid at heart, appealed to all ages.

In 1987 Forbes Magazine estimated his earnings at $100 million for the year. It seemed accurate. Without much fanfare, Cosby donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta. One of his four daughters was attending school there. A 1988 deal for the syndication rights to "The Cosby Show" was placed at over $500 million. Not only was he #1 as a money making comedian, with the #1 show, his book "Fatherhood" was the #1 best seller of 1986, selling 2.5 million hardcovers. His follow-up books did almost as well.

Cosby's books were filled with the same observational humor as his monologues. In "Time Flies" he addressed the problem of getting older:

"Although I just can't take the plunge into bean sprouts or alfalfa one day I did put a few carrot sticks and celery stalks into a bag and I took a healthful walk in the park. After a while, I sat down on a bench beside an old man, who was both smoking and eating a chocolate bar, two serious violations of a longevity diet. "Do you mind my asking how old you are?" I said. "Ninety-two" he replied. "Well, if you smoke and eat that stuff, you're gonna die." He took a hard look at my carrots and celery, and then he said, "You're dead already."

Being the top star on TV, and an "establishment" figure left Cosby open to jibing criticism from younger stars. Eddie Murphy liked to mimic what he perceived as the Cosby professorial smugness in concert and fun-spoiling clean image. Cosby set the record straight: "In his act he says I chastised him for cursing, which is not true. I chastized him because I had heard from enough people as I followed him on the road that Eddie was telling audiences, whenever he got upset with them, how much money he made. I said that isn't the right thing to do."

Cosby then found himself competing with another badboy in comedy, cartoon character Bart Simpson, the bratty star of "The Simpsons" TV show. In 1990 it was front page news when the sullen and grousing Simpson clan, the latest hot fad in the industry, were re-scheduled opposite the wholesome Cosby family. Cosby won. His strategy was simple: to work harder. He maintained the level of the show's scripts and with his advisers made sure to avoid the "preaching" some viewers detected in his coverage of sex, drugs, and other family problems. Cos joked about the competition to the media, and on his show allowed one of his family to sport a "Bart" Halloween mask in one episode. Of the "new wave" of "nasty" sitcoms, including "The Simpsons" and "Married with Children" Cosby remarked, "The mean-spirited and cruel think this comedy is on "the cutting edge." But what is entertaining about that?"

One of the most respected and best-loved comedians of all time, Bill Cosby continued his steady course in comedy, dividing his time between television, stand-up concerts, books, a variety of unpublicized educational and philanthropical pursuits, and an occasional movie. People magazine declared, "To the millions who watch his show and read his books, Cosby has become the decade's antidote to sleaze and cynicism, the self-appointed ombudsman of American morality…He's as smart as six laywers rich enough to buy Arabia and practically as famous as God." For all that, he never varied from his hectic schedule of daily work.

"It's not a killing schedule, not at all," said Cosby. "I love this work…my mind is always working. I enjoy the fact that I have an outlet…When people remind me that I have all the money in the world, and I'm happy, and ask me when I'm going to retire, I don't understand…"

In late 2009, Cosby was honored by the Kennedy Center with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The ceremony was later broadcasted on PBS and hosted by Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock.