Upon receiving his Bob Hope Humanitarian Award at the 2003 Emmys, Bill Cosby paid tribute to two people: children's show host Fred Rogers (who had died earlier that year) and, poignantly, his late son, Ennis.
It's the little things that count when you're a daddy. Like taking your little girl for ice cream. First, you have to teach her about the concept of gravity. I can't tell you how many ice creams I've had to pick up off the floor, rinse off and stick back on my kid's cone. Now that may sound strange, but have you bought ice cream lately? Good gosh, it's up to 75 cents a scoop. A scoop! What's in it, gold?
-- Bill Cosby
William Henry Cosby Jr.
12 July 1937, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
William Henry "Bill" Cosby, Jr. (born July 12, 1937) is an American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist. A veteran stand-up performer, he got his start at various clubs, then landed a starring role in the 1960s action show, I Spy. He later starred in his own series, the situation comedy The Bill Cosby Show. He was one of the major characters on the children's television series The Electric Company for its first two seasons, and created the educational cartoon comedy series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, about a group of young friends growing up in the city. Cosby has also acted in a number of films.
During the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in what is considered to be one of the decade's defining sitcoms, The Cosby Show, which aired eight seasons from 1984 to 1992. The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family. He also produced the spin-off sitcom A Different World, which became second to The Cosby Show in ratings. He starred in the sitcom Cosby from 1996 to 2000 and hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things for two seasons.
He has been a sought-after spokesman, and has endorsed a number of products, including Jell-O, Kodak film, Ford, Texas Instruments, and Coca-Cola, including New Coke. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante included him in his book, the 100 Greatest African Americans.
In 1976, Cosby earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts. For his doctoral research, he wrote a dissertation entitled, "An Integration of the Visual Media Via 'Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids' Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning".
Cosby was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is one of four sons born to Anna Pearl (née Hite), a maid, and William Henry Cosby, Sr., who served as a sailor in the U.S. Navy. During much of his early childhood, Cosby's father was away in the U.S. armed forces and spent several years fighting in World War II. As a student, he described himself as a class clown. Cosby was the captain of the baseball and track and field teams at Mary Channing Wister Elementary School in Philadelphia, as well as the class president. Early on, though, teachers noted his propensity for clowning around rather than studying. At Fitz Simmons Junior High, Cosby began acting in plays as well as continuing his devotion to playing sports. He went on to Central High School, an academically challenging magnet school, but his full schedule of playing football, basketball, baseball, and running track made it hard for him. In addition, Cosby was working before and after school, selling produce, shining shoes, and stocking shelves at a supermarket to help out the family. He transferred to Germantown High School, but failed the tenth grade. Instead of repeating, he got a job as an apprentice at a shoe repair shop, which he liked, but could not see himself doing the rest of his life. Subsequently, he joined the Navy, serving at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland and at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
While serving in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman for four years, Cosby worked in physical therapy with some seriously injured Korean War casualties, which helped him discover what was important to him. Then he immediately realized the need for an education, and finished his equivalency diploma via correspondence courses. He then won a track and field scholarship to Philadelphia's Temple University in 1961–62, and studied physical education while running track and playing fullback on the football team. Cosby also joined the school's chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
Cosby loved humor, and he called himself the class clown. Even as he progressed through his undergraduate studies, Cosby had continued to hone his talent for humor, joking with fellow enlistees in the service and then with college friends. When he began bar tending at the Cellar, a club in Philadelphia, to earn money, he became fully aware of his ability to make people laugh. He worked his customers and saw his tips increase, then ventured on to the stage.
Cosby left Temple to pursue a career in comedy, though he would return to collegiate studies in the 1970s. He lined up gigs at clubs in Philadelphia and soon was off to New York City, where he appeared at The Gaslight Cafe starting in 1962. He lined up dates in Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. He received national exposure on NBC's The Tonight Show in the summer of 1963 which led to a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, who released his debut LP Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right!, the first of a series of popular comedy albums, in 1964.
While many comics were using the growing freedom of that decade to explore controversial, sometimes risqué, material, Cosby was making his reputation with humorous recollections of his childhood. Many Americans wondered about the absence of race as a topic in Cosby's stories. As Cosby's success grew he had to defend his choice of material regularly; as he argued, "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."
Carl Reiner, at the awarding to Cosby of the Mark Twain Prize in 2009, described a step in Cosby's career. Reiner's son Rob Reiner, then in his early teens, delivered what the father regards as a word-for-word rendition of Cosby's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show of the "Right!" routine, from his "Noah" series that also appears on the 1963 album Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow...Right!. The father's interest led him first to obtain the video-taped performance, and then to propose Cosby as a guest for The Dick Van Dyke Show. Asked about whether the comic could act, he asserted anyone who could pull off the role of The Lord in the "Right!" routine must be a skilled actor. Cosby's official agency biography differs, saying Carl Reiner had caught Cosby's act in Pittsburgh "and introduced Cosby to producer Sheldon Leonard, who signed him to star in the I Spy series."
Cosby remains an actively touring stand-up comedian, performing at theaters throughout the country.
In 1965, when he was cast alongside Robert Culp in the I Spy espionage adventure series, Cosby became the first African-American co-star in a dramatic television series, and NBC became the first to present a series so cast. At first Cosby and NBC executives were concerned that some affiliates might be unwilling to carry the series. At the beginning of the 1965 season four stations declined the show; they were in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. But the rest of the country was taken with the show's exotic locales and the authentic chemistry between the stars, and it became one of the ratings hits of that television season. I Spy finished among the twenty most-watched shows that year, and Cosby would be honored with three consecutive Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series.
During the run of the series, Cosby continued to do stand-up comedy performances, and recorded a half-dozen record albums for Warners. He also began to dabble in singing, recording Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings in 1967, which provided him with a hit single with his recording of "Li'l Ole Man". He would record several more musical albums into the early 1970s, but he continued to record primarily stand-up comedy work.
In June 1968 Billboard reported that Cosby had turned down a five-year, US$3.5 million contract renewal offer and would leave the label in August that year to record for his own record label.
Tetragrammaton Records was a division of the Campbell, Silver, Cosby (CSC) Corporation, the Los Angeles based production company founded by Cosby, his manager Roy Silver, and filmmaker Bruce Post Campbell. It produced films as well as records, including Cosby's television specials, the Fat Albert cartoon special and series and several motion pictures. CSC hired industry veteran Artie Mogull as President of the label and Tetragrammaton was fairly active during 1968–69 (its most successful signing was British heavy rock band Deep Purple) but it quickly went into the red and ceased trading during 1970.
Cosby pursued a variety of additional television projects and appeared as a regular guest host on The Tonight Show and as the star of an annual special for NBC. He returned with another series in 1969, The Bill Cosby Show, a situation comedy that ran for two seasons. Cosby played a physical education teacher at a Los Angeles high school. While only a modest critical success, the show was a ratings hit, finishing eleventh in its first season. Cosby was lauded for using some previously unknown African-American performers such as Lillian Randolph, Moms Mabley, and Rex Ingram as characters. According to commentary on the Season 1 DVD's for the show, Cosby was at odds with NBC over his refusal to include a laugh track in the show (he felt that viewers had the ability to find humor for themselves when watching a TV show). He was originally contracted with NBC to do the show for two seasons, and he believes the show was not renewed afterwards for that reason.
After The Bill Cosby Show left the air, Cosby returned to his education. He began graduate work at the University of Massachusetts, qualifying under a special program that allowed for the admission of students who had not completed their bachelor's degrees, but who had had a significant impact on society and/or their communities through their careers. This professional interest led to his involvement in the PBS series The Electric Company, for which he recorded several segments teaching reading skills to young children.
In 1972, Cosby received an MA from the University of Massachusetts and was also back in prime time with a variety series, The New Bill Cosby Show. However, this time he met with poor ratings, and the show lasted only a season. More successful was a Saturday morning show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, hosted by Cosby and based on his own childhood. That series ran from 1972 to 1979, and as The New Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids from 1979 to 1984. Some schools used the program as a teaching tool, and Cosby himself wrote a dissertation on it, "An Integration of the Visual Media Via 'Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids' Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning", as partial fulfillment of obtaining his 1976 doctorate in education, also from the University of Massachusetts. Subsequently, Temple University, where Cosby had begun but never finished his undergraduate studies, would grant him his bachelor's degree on the basis of "life experience".
Also during the 1970s, Cosby and other African-American actors, including Sidney Poitier, joined forces to make some successful comedy films that countered the violent "blaxploitation" films of the era. Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let's Do It Again (1975) were generally praised, but much of Cosby's film work has fallen flat. Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976) costarring Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel; A Piece of the Action, with Poitier; and California Suite, a compilation of four Neil Simon plays, were all panned. In addition, Cos (1976) an hour-long variety show featuring puppets, sketches, and musical numbers, was canceled within the year. Cosby was also a regular on children's public television programs starting in the 1970s, hosting the "Picture Pages" segments that lasted into the early 1980s.
Cosby's greatest television success came in September 1984 with the debut of The Cosby Show. The program aired weekly on NBC and went on to become the highest ranking sitcom of all time. For Cosby, the new situation comedy was a response to the increasingly violent and vulgar fare the networks usually offered. Cosby is an advocate for humor that is family-oriented. He insisted on and received total creative control of the series, and he was involved in every aspect of the series. The show had parallels to Cosby's actual family life: like the characters Cliff and Claire Huxtable, Cosby and his wife Camille were college educated, financially successful, and had five children. Essentially a throwback to the wholesome family situation comedy, The Cosby Show was unprecedented in its portrayal of an intelligent, affluent, African-American family.
Much of the material from the pilot and first season of The Cosby Show was taken from his then popular video Bill Cosby: Himself, released in 1983. The series was an immediate success, debuting near the top of the ratings and staying there for most of its long run. The Cosby Show is one of only three American programs that have been #1 in the Nielsen ratings for at least five consecutive seasons, along with All in the Family and American Idol. People magazine called the show "revolutionary", and Newsday concurred that it was a "real breakthrough."
In 1987, Cosby attempted to return to the big screen with the spy spoof Leonard Part 6. Although Cosby himself was producer and wrote the story, he realized during production that the film was not going to be what he wanted and publicly denounced it, warning audiences to stay away.
After The Cosby Show went off the air in 1992, Cosby embarked on a number of other projects, including a revival of the classic Groucho Marx game show You Bet Your Life (1992–93) along with the TV-movie I Spy Returns (1994) and The Cosby Mysteries (1994). In the mid-1990s, he appeared as a detective in black-and-white film noir-themed commercials for Turner Classic Movies. He also made appearances in three more films, Ghost Dad (1990), The Meteor Man (1993); and Jack (1996); in addition to being interviewed in Spike Lee's 4 Little Girls (1997), a documentary about the racist bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963.
Also in 1996, he started up a new show for CBS, Cosby, again co-starring Phylicia Rashād, his onscreen wife on The Cosby Show. Cosby co-produced the show for Carsey-Werner Productions. The show was based on the British program One Foot in the Grave. It centered on Cosby as Hilton Lucas, an iconoclastic senior citizen who tries to find a new job after being "downsized", and in the meantime, gets on his wife's nerves. Madeline Kahn costarred as Rashād's goofy business partner. Cosby was hired by CBS to be the official "spokesman" for the WWJ-TV during an advertising campaign from 1995 to 1998. In addition, Cosby in 1998 became the host of Kids Say the Darndest Things. After four seasons, Cosby was canceled. The last episode aired April 28, 2000. Kids Say the Darndest Things was also canceled the same year. Cosby continued to work with CBS through a development deal and other projects.
A series for preschoolers, Little Bill, made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999. The network renewed the popular program in November 2000. In 2001, at an age when many give serious consideration to retirement, Cosby's agenda included the publication of a new book, as well as delivering the commencement addresses at Morris Brown College, Ohio State University, and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Also that year, he signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to develop a live-action feature film centering on the popular Fat Albert character from his 1970s cartoon series. Fat Albert was released in theaters in December 2004. In May 2007 he spoke at the Commencement of High Point University.
In the summer of 2009, Cosby hosted a comedy gala at Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival, the world's largest.
In May 2004 after receiving an award at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that outlawed school racial segregation, Cosby made public remarks critical of African Americans who put higher priorities on sports, fashion, and "acting hard" than on education, self-respect, and self-improvement, pleading for African-American families to educate their children on the many different aspects of American culture.
In "Pound Cake," Cosby, who holds a doctorate in education, asked that African American parents begin teaching their children better morals at a younger age. Cosby told the Washington Times, "Parenting needs to come to the forefront. If you need help and you don't know how to parent, we want to be able to reach out and touch" (DeBose, Brian). Richard Leiby of The Washington Post reported, "Bill Cosby was anything but politically correct in his remarks Monday night at a Constitution Hall bash commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision."
Cosby again came under sharp criticism, and again he was largely unapologetic for his stance when he made similar remarks during a speech in a July 1 meeting commemorating the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. During that speech, he admonished blacks for not assisting or concerning themselves with the individuals who are involved with crime or have counter-productive aspirations. He further described those who needed attention as "blacks had forgotten the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement." The speech was featured in the documentary 500 Years Later which set the speech to cartoon visuals.
Georgetown University sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson wrote a book in 2005 entitled Is Bill Cosby Right or Is the Black Middle Class Out of Touch? In the book, Dyson wrote that Cosby was overlooking larger social factors that reinforce poverty and associated crime; factors such as deteriorating schools, stagnating wages, dramatic shifts in the economy, offshoring and downsizing, chronic underemployment, and job and capital flight. Dyson suggested Cosby's comments "betray classist, elitist viewpoints rooted in generational warfare."
Cornel West defended Cosby and his remarks, saying, "He's speaking out of great compassion and trying to get folk to get on the right track, 'cause we've got some brothers and sisters who are not doing the right things, just like in times in our own lives, we don't do the right thing. ... He is trying to speak honestly and freely and lovingly, and I think that's a very positive thing.
In a 2008 interview, Cosby mentioned Chicago; Atlanta; Philadelphia; Oakland; Detroit; and Springfield, Massachusetts among the cities where crime was high and young African-American men were being murdered and jailed in disproportionate numbers. Cosby stood his ground against criticism and affirmed that African-American parents were continuing to fail to inculcate proper standards of moral behavior. Cosby still lectures to black communities (usually at churches) about his frustrations with certain problems prevalent in underprivileged urban communities such as taking part in illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, Black Entertainment Television, high school dropouts, anti-intellectualism, gangsta rap, vulgarity, thievery, offensive clothing, vanity, parental alienation, single-parenting and failing to live up to the ideals of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the African-American ancestors that preceded Generation X.
Cosby has become an active member of The Jazz Foundation of America. Cosby became involved with the foundation in 2004. For several years, he has been a featured host for its annual benefit, A Great Night in Harlem, at the Apollo Theater in New York City.
Cosby met his wife Camille Hanks Cosby while he was performing stand-up in Washington, D.C., in the early 1960s, and she was a student at the University of Maryland. They married on January 25, 1964, and had five children: daughters Erika Ranee (b. 1965), Erinn Chalene (b. 1966), Ensa Camille (b. 1973), and Evin Harrah (b. 1976), and son Ennis William (1969–1997). His son Ennis was shot dead while changing a flat tire on the side of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles on January 16, 1997. Cosby maintains homes in Shelburne, Massachusetts, and Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.
Bill Cosby has hosted the Los Angeles Playboy Jazz Festival since 1979. An avid musician, he's best known as a jazz drummer although he can be seen playing bass guitar with Jerry Lewis and Sammy Davis, Jr. on Hugh Hefner's 1970s talk show. His story "The Regular Way" was featured in Playboy's December 1968 issue.
Bill Cosby is an active alumnus supporter of his alma mater, Temple University, and in particular its men's basketball team, whose games Cosby frequently attends.
Cosby is a devoted fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2002, when both the Eagles' starting and backup quarterbacks were injured, Cosby sent a letter to head coach Andy Reid, joking that he was ready to play if needed.
Cosby also attends many public events, such as the 100th Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden in New York on February 2, 2007. His love for track and field athletics has also been shown with his long time sponsorship, and on-track work with the Penn Relays. For many years, Cosby has been known to work the finish line at Franklin Field and congratulate athletes.
During the 2009 NFL Draft, he celebrated the draft with former Texas Longhorns' wide receiver Quan Cosby as a means of support, though the two are not related. He even wore a Temple University helmet and jersey.
National Enquirer offers $100,000 reward for the capture of the killer of Bill's son, Ennis. [January 1997]
Bill's son, Ennis Cosby (27), was shot dead while fixing a flat tire off the San Diego Freeway. [16 January 1997]
He and wife Camille O. Cosby have five children: Erika (b. 8 April 1965), Erinn (b. 23 July 1966), Ennis (15 April 1969 - 16 January 1997), Ensa (b. 8 April 1973) and Evin (b. 27 August 1976).
In 1976, he earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His dissertation was titled "An Integration of the Visual Media Via "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" (1972) into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning."
His wife, Camille O. Cosby, is a direct descendant of Nancy Hanks, Abraham Lincoln's mother.
At one time expressed a very public interest in purchasing the National Broadcasting Company.
Sang on a number of albums in the 1970s.
In addition to numerous best-selling comedy albums over the years, for which he won several Grammy awards, Cosby had a top-40 hit as a singer in 1969 with "Little Old Man."
Insisted that "The Cosby Show" (1984) be filmed in New York; he disliked working in Hollywood.
Grand marshal, Tournament of Roses parade 
Many elements of "The Cosby Show" (1984) were references to his own family. Phylicia Rashad's (Clair Huxtable's) maiden name was Hanks, like his wife Camille's maiden name. Also, like he has in real life, the Huxtables had four daughters and one son.
Is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Son Ennis is buried on Cosby family estate in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
First black performer to win an Emmy, for "I Spy" (1965).
Biography in "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pp. 120-122. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Cliff Huxtable, Cosby's character on "The Cosby Show" (1984), was ranked #1 by TV Guide in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time [20 June 2004 issue].
The oldest of 4 children.
Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1994.
Broke Radio City's 53-year-old attendance record for his concert appearance. (1986)
Was an Honoree at the Kennedy Center Awards, and attended the ceremony with Bill Clinton, and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Fat Albert, Old Weird Harold, and Dumb Donald were based on his series of comedy routines about his school pals, and he tested them on his most appreciative audience: his mother.
Was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) for his commitment to advancing higher education and for his longtime love and promotion of jazz. [May 2004]
Was once part-owner of the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association.
Has been imitated by various comedians, such as Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Dave Coulier, Eddie Griffin, Kenan Thompson and Adam Sandler.
The character Dr. Hibbert from "The Simpsons" (1989) is based on him.
Within 15 seconds after watching Kenan Thompson's Fat Albert (2004) audition tape, he said to director Joel Zwick, "Hire him!"
When "The Simpsons" (1989)) started competing with "The Cosby Show" (1984) in 1989, the already declining audience of the show decreased even more. Because of this, both shows had a playful attitude toward each other. "The Cosby Show" made small references to the "The Simpsons", including one episode where Bill wore a Bart Simpson mask, and "The Simpsons" made small references to "The Cosby Show", including the character of Dr. Hibbert, a direct reference to Cosby.
He decided to become a stand-up comedian when he was a bartender. Many of the bar's customers would comment on how funny he was and tell him to try his act on stage for an audience. He is one of the most successful stand-up comics in history, releasing numerous hit records of his shows and still selling out venues to this date.
When "The Cosby Show" (1984) was ruling the NBC line-up in the mid-'80s, he insisted that his newly produced show, "A Different World" (1987), a spin-off of "The Cosby Show", follow after his show instead of the hit "Family Ties" (1982). He wanted this because he felt there was a lack of shows on TV that featured African-Americans in a positive light. NBC made the move, which led to two things happening: "The Cosby Show" audience was cut by 20% and never fully recovered, and "Family Ties" struggled to get the high numbers it once received. It was canceled in 1989.
Dyslexia ran in the Cosby family. Bill didn't inherit it, but brother Russell Cosby did (not finding out until he was an adult). Bill's son Ennis was dyslexic, but overcame it well enough to graduate from college.
Wife Camille O. Cosby (nee Hanks) is related to Tom Hanks, and both share lineage with Abraham Lincoln through Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks.
Like Bob Newhart, has the ability to be funny without resorting to profanity.
Recently became a vegetarian.
All his children name's start with the letter E for excellence
Outstanding athlete at Temple University, in football and track and field.
When "The Cosby Show" (1984) was ruling the NBC line-up in the mid-'80s, he insisted that NBC purchase and use Ikegami studio cameras for the production of his show. At the time NBC was owned by RCA, whose studio cameras NBC used exclusively. But Cosby felt that Ike gami's product produced a better picture. NBC agreed and used the cameras.
Won the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album six years in a row, 1965 to 1970.
Did not submit himself for Emmy consideration during the eight-year run of "The Cosby Show" (1984).
Holds a Doctorate in Education.
Played as Running Back for Temple University (Philadelphia, PA, USA) football team during the 1962-64 seasons.
Played in two movies where his characters were mistook for Satan: The Devil and Max Devlin (1981) and Ghost Dad (1990).
Received the 12th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor [October 2009].
[on his murdered son, Ennis} He was my hero.
The problem is that your daughter has given her heart to a 15-year-old boy, and a 15-year-old boy does not yet qualify as a human being.
Gray hair is God's graffiti.
A word to the wise ain't necessary -- it's the stupid ones who need the advice.
Don't worry about senility--when it hits you, you won't know it.
Human beings are the only creatures that allow their children to come home.
I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.
[on the failure of his experimental educational/variety show, "Cos" (1976)] My first series ["I Spy" (1965)] ran three years, my second ["The Bill Cosby Show" (1969)] ran two years and my third ["The New Bill Cosby Show" (1972)] ran one. This show, if I'm lucky, will run the 13 weeks we contracted for.
My mother and father ate oink. And they loved oink grease. Lard is what they ate. And they soaked up grease with a biscuit. And they loved butter too. And they sopped up and drank and ate grease. Sausage. Bacon. Ham. They loved it. Fatback. Salt pork. Oink. And I was born with lard all on my head, in the cracks of my arms and the back of my leg. So now my cholesterol is 741. So what? It doesn't bother me that it's 741. You eat what I eat, it's supposed to be. Every once in awhile my left arm will go numb. Okay. But if you shake it, it'll go away.
Because of my father, I thought my name was Jesus Christ. My brother Russell thought that his name was Dammit.
[speaking in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling that eradicated segregated schooling in America] These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around. The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids--$500 sneakers for what? I can't even talk the way these people talk, "Why you ain't," "Where you is?" You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!
Kids will spend $500 on sneakers but won't spend $200 on "Hooked-on-Phonics".
[on "The Cosby Show" (1984)] I wanted to give the house back to the parents.
No parent must ever say, "Get the kids out of here, I'm trying to watch TV." The father who does start saying this is likely to see one of his children on the 6:00 news."
[commenting that many young actors don't give their parents proper credit] I'm still waiting for some actor to win, say, an Oscar . . . and deliver the following acceptance speech: "I would like to thank my parents, first of all, for letting me live."
What best defines a child is the total inability to receive information from anything not plugged in.
If you're a parent, the five worst words you can say to your children are, "When I was your age . . . " You were NEVER their age. You were older in the womb.
I can tell you, from experience, that whoever said "Children and fools cannot lie" was one or the other himself. There's only one way to guarantee that your children are telling the truth: limit your questions to the names of their schools.
[on Detroit's large population of people in poverty] When I come back and come back and come back I'm making a statement that this is for real. You're about to listen, absorb and to challenge yourself to move in a positive direction. Strength, that's what we're after.
Phil Woods said the following: Death is the last thing he wants to do. Don't worry about it! You don't worry about what's going to be the last thing. You know you're going to be dead. So do I. And if I go before you, am I worried? No. Jealous? Yeah.
[on artist, Varnette Honeywood, in 1997]: You can depict segregation, starving, and homelessness, but in Varnette's work, you can see teenagers doing homework, a family cooking a meal, girls doing their hair. Certain art in our culture depicts a down feeling about African American people are treated. They are poor and needy and need help in the Rightings the wrongs. Varnette's work let us not forget the personal joys.