By JACKIE NANCE
“If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” Urban legend? Not so much for Cosby, a name of fame for generations. Holding fast to the comedy hardwired into the world, Cosby’s lifelong dedication to humor was no accident.
The oldest of four boys, William Henry Cosby Jr. learned early the value of laughter. In Philadelphia, despite the drudge of poverty and the death of one son, Cosby’s mother Anna read aloud Mark Twain and other stories to her remaining three children.
By 9, Cosby himself was a gifted storyteller, giving his teachers grief with the performing talents he revealed in the classroom instead of on the stage. At home, Cosby latched on to radio and television performers like Sid Caesar and Jack Benny. He also began imitating comedians such as Jerry Lewis whenever he could.
After serving in the Navy, Cosby attended Temple University. While at Temple, his calling as a comedian came to life when he landed a job as a bartender at a coffee house. His humor brought opportunities to fill in for the house comedian from time to time at a nearby club, and Cosby also performed as a warm-up act for his cousin’s radio show.
His first national appearance was on The Tonight Show in 1963 after he dropped out of college to pursue stand-up comedy. His first album, “Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow … Right!” led to his “I Started Out as a Child” that won a Grammy Award in 1964. For the remainder of the 1960s, Cosby swept in another five Grammys, releasing hit album after hit album.
In the first American dramatic TV series to feature a black actor in a lead role, he starred with Robert Culp in “I Spy” from 1965-68. In the ’70s, he continued his standup act, hosted a couple of short-lived TV shows, guest-starred, did animation voiceovers for some of his well-known comic characters and appeared in movies.
But it was “The Cosby Show,” which ran for eight seasons, 1984-1992, that Cosby’s finest gift to American entertainment and culture. The stories of Cliff Huxtable’s upper middle-class black family dominated the No. 1 spot for years. Life magazine described the program as “a gentle, whimsical, warmhearted” show whose “delicious ordinariness of its pleasures and tribulations has given millions a fresh, laughter-splashed perspective on their own domestic lives.” Soon afterward, Cosby also developed his famed animated series “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” which stemmed from Cosby’s own childhood adventures.
Cosby’s many television appearances include another original inspired by his wife, Camille, and their five children (Erika, Erinn, Ensa, Evin, and Ennis). Cosby also achieved another career milestone as a bestselling author. His reflections on parenting appear in Fatherhood, which sold more than 2.6 million copies. His opus on aging, Time Flies, and a series of children’s picture books also boasted huge sales. His current bestseller is I Didn’t Ask to Be Born, But I’m Glad I Was.
One of the top names in comedy, Bill Cosby holds the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, eight Gold Records, five Platinum Records, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, three Emmy Awards, five Grammy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Marian Anderson Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America’s highest civilian honor).
Bill Cosby will perform at the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum in Pullman this Saturday the 24th. Tickets are $34.50 ($5 discount for WSU faculty, staff, and students) and can be purchased at www.ticketswest.com<http://ticketswest.rdln.com/Default.aspx>or at 800-325-SEAT (7328). The show starts at 7:30 pm.
If you go:
What: Bill Cosby performs
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24
Where: Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, Pullman
Cost: Tickets $34.50 ($5 discount for WSU faculty, staff, and students)
800-325-SEAT (7328), www.ticketswest.com