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Creator / Bill Cosby

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"Hey, hey, hey!"

William Henry "Bill" Cosby (born July 12, 1937) is an American comedian famous for his versatility over his long career; he broke barriers for his fellow African-American entertainers, and — until 2014 — was seen by Americans of all walks of life as a role model.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia projects, Cosby attended Temple University as a physical education major but eventually dropped out to become a standup comedian in the mid-1960s. He was an immediate success, in part because his material — in sharp contrast to most of the black comedians of the day (and today) — was largely apolitical, based instead around Cosby's friends and foibles growing up and the perils of raising his own family, which eventually grew to include five children. Defending this choice, Cosby once noted: "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."


Success in the clubs led to an impressive string of hit comedy and music albums, including the now-classic To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With and the, er, genesis of the similarly beloved "Noah" routine ("It's The Lord, Noah." "Riiiiight!"). Cosby's second album, I Started Out as a Child (1964), was the first to feature stories about his childhood, which would eventually inspire the Fat Albert cartoon series in the 1970s. These stand-up albums were followed in 1965 by a groundbreaking role alongside Robert Culp in the Spy Fiction dramedy I Spy. It was the first time a black actor had ever starred in a television drama, and it earned Cosby the first Emmys (three total) a black actor had ever received.

Naturally, in 1969, the next step was The Bill Cosby Show — no, not that one, the one that featured Cosby as Chet Kincaid, high school gym teacher. No, really, it ran two whole seasons. He even sang the theme song.


The 1970s saw the re-emergence of William H. Cosby Jr., who had gone back to school to earn his doctorate in education. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, a hit (12-season!) animated take on the old routines featuring his friends in the projects, and Picture Pages, short interactive educational skits as part of Captain Kangaroo, were the most prominent initial results of this new interest. Also included were memorable guest-starring stints on both Sesame Street and The Electric Company (1971).

At this undisputed high point, he was even starring in hit films with Sidney Poitier: Uptown Saturday Night and the sequel Let's Do It Again, made as a rebuttal to the violent, one-dimensional Blaxploitation films then popular. Somehow, though, while that genre has emerged beloved and even homaged, Cosby's own film career... has not. By the time vanity project Leonard Part 6 debuted in 1987, Cosby was reduced to instructing talk show audiences not to see it, by way of salvaging his big-screen reputation.

Much better received was his 20-odd-year side career as pitchman for Jell-O pudding. Cosby was a fitting spokesman for the product, having mentioned it by name in multiple stand-up routines, perhaps most notably smearing it on the floor as a child to use as booby trap to protect himself against monsters. The standard spot featured Cosby mugging shamelessly while surrounded by cute moppets and – of course – lots and lots of chocolate pudding. Not at all surprisingly, they were instrumental in switching his image from young, hip urban dude to goofy sweater-wearing curmudgeon.

This is how the current generation (or two) knows him best: as Cliff Huxtable in the classic Sitcom The Cosby Show, which lasted from 1984 to 1992 on NBC and was again based around his old routines, this time those featuring his own family. At loose ends (largely due to by-now hopeless typecasting as that same curmudgeon) once it left the air, he took on the TV equivalent of odd jobs, hosting Kids Say the Darndest Things and the 1992 revival of You Bet Your Life. He also dabbled in detective drama (The Cosby Mysteries, natch) for the ABC Mystery Movie revival, and created the animated Nickelodeon series Little Bill and Fatherhood.

His last fling at prime-time television was the 1996–2000 sitcom Cosby, in which he played a lovable elderly curmudgeon in a scenario loosely based on the Britcom One Foot in the Grave. However, the episode most remembered by fans was a fourth-wall-destroying episode in which Cosby's character dreamt that he was Alexander Scott from I Spy (complete with guest appearance by Robert Culp), and Cosby's wife dreamt that she was a character in The Cosby Show.

At last notice, he is participating in the development of a modernized revival of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids with DreamWorks Animation. As of 2020, it is unclear what the future of the revival will be.

Cosby's diverse range of material has netted him four Emmy Awards and nine Grammy Awards for his many albums... and a Razzie, for Leonard Part 6. He has written best-selling books, hosted comedy festivals, and – most recently – campaigned publicly against what he perceives as a lack of ambition and drive within the African-American community. This last role has earned him considerable controversy, mitigated somewhat by sympathy after the murder of his only son, Ennis, in 1997.

In November 2013, Cosby did his first stand-up special in nearly 30 years, Far From Finished, which aired on Comedy Central. In spite of that title suggesting that he would have more stand-up shows in the future, including a planned Netflix special featuring a show he did on his 77th birthday, this would prove to be his last hurrah due to circumstances that would ultimately end his career and tarnish his image as "America's Dad" forever.

Cosby may have dodged sexual assault accusations since 2002, but things kicked into high gear in 2014, when comedian Hannibal Buress brought them up in a stand-up bit that went viral. At least 55 women came forth accusing Cosby of sexual assault, permanently damaging his public image and more or less ending his career. Out of the more than 70 awards and honorary degrees that Cosby has received from various colleges, universities, and organizations, all but a small handful have been rescinded in light of the allegations made against him. As of July 2016, he has also lost his eyesight and is considered legally blind.

Cosby was charged with several sexual assaults, and was tried for two of them in June 2017. The case was such a matter of interest in the Philadelphia area that they bused in a jury all the way from Pittsburgh to Norristown (a western suburb of Philadelphia, where the trial was held because it is the seat of Montgomery County, PA, where Cosby lives and is alleged to have committed the assaults) to ensure a fair trial. This trial ended up with a hung jury, so the judge declared a mistrial. A new trial was held in April 2018, in which Cosby was found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. He received a sentence of three to ten years in September 2018, which he is currently serving at State Correctional Institution – Phoenix.


Comedy albums

  • Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right! (1963)
  • I Started Out as a Child (1964) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1965 Grammy Awards
  • Why Is There Air? (1965) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1966 Grammy Awards
  • Wonderfulness (1966) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1967 Grammy Awards
  • Revenge (1967) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1968 Grammy Awards
  • To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With (1968) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1969 Grammy Awards
  • 200 M.P.H. (1968)
  • 8:15 12:15 (1969)
  • It's True! It's True! (1969)
  • Sports (1969) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1970 Grammy Awards
  • Live: Madison Square Garden Center (1970)
  • When I Was a Kid (1971)
  • For Adults Only (1971)
  • Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs (1971) – Winner, Best Recording for Children, 1972 Grammy Awards
  • Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby (1972)
  • Fat Albert (1973)
  • My Father Confused Me...What Must I Do? What Must I Do? (1977)
  • Bill's Best Friend (1978)
  • Himself (1982)
  • Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand (1986) – Winner, Best Comedy Album, 1987 Grammy Awards
  • Oh, Baby! (1991)
  • Far From Finished (2013)

Not to be confused with the legendary Bing Crosby, or actor Bill Cobbs. Compare Jimmy Savile, a family-friendly television icon from the United Kingdom whose history of sexual abuse didn't come out until shortly after his death.

Bill Cosby and his works provide examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: The "$75 Car" routine. While in college, Cosby buys a 1942 Dodge with four bald tires. He puts one snow tire on in the back because it's all he can afford, loads the trunk full of sandbags to get traction, and paints "CAPTAIN AMERICA" along the side. It starts to protest if driven over 50 miles per hour. Then Cosby tries to drive it after a blizzard and ends up skidding sideways down the road before he finally crashes into a tree.
    • In the "200 M.P.H." routine, he describes his embarrassment at being heckled by the driver of one (a Volkswagen) as he sits by the road in a Rolls-Royce that has quit on him.
    Cosby: (as the other driver) We get a hundred miles to the gallon, too! If the fan belt breaks, we use a rubber band! (as himself) That, I don't need from anybody. I don't need that from people, you know, it's just out of line. See, but a Volkswagen owner will not tell you about when they're driving down the highway, how when a truck comes from an opposite direction - whooof - how you wind up in the ditch. And you haven't even turned the steering wheel, you know. "How did we get in the ditch?" "I don't know, the car is afraid of trucks, that's all there is to it." They won't tell you about how they're barred from the Golden Gate Bridge 'cause they keep changing lanes without moving the steering wheel. They don't say nothing to you about why you gotta roll the windows down before when you get in the car, and you close the door - blam! 'Cause if you don't, if the windows are up, your brains - blam! - smash against the window and you have to go to the doctor. "My brains just fell against the window over here." "What happened?" "Well, I was closing the door on a Volkswagen." They don't tell you about if they have a head-on collision with a dog, they lose. No, all they know is, "Hundred miles to the gallon!"
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: A lot of people thought the "Chicken Heart" routine was a fake Lights Out episode that Cosby made up just for comedy purposes. There was indeed an actual episode of Lights Out called "The Chicken Heart" and it actually was surprisingly rather creepy. Be sure to have your Jell-O prepared!
  • Angrish:
  • Answers to the Name of God: Inverted:
    It was because of my father that, from the ages of 7 to 15, I thought that my name was Jesus Christ, and my brother, Russell, thought that his name was Dammit. "Dammit, will you stop all that noise?" And, "Jesus Christ, sit down!" One day, I'm out playing in the rain, and my father yelled, "Dammit, will you get back in here!" I said, "Dad, I'm Jesus Christ!"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During Bill's wife's labor pains. She stands up on the table in the stirrups, grabs Bill's bottom lip, yells at him for morphine, and tells everybody in the delivery room that his parents were never married.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • During "Natural Childbirth", as his wife gets hit with contractions and she demands morphine:
      I said, "But dear!" [imitates Lamaze breathing] She said, "YOU SHUT UP!!! YOU DID THIS TO ME!"
    • He also says this when he talks about his mother's hypocritical parenting skills:
      When a mother asks you a question and you try and answer, she tells you to shut up! "Day and night, night and day, work my fingers to the bone, and for what?" "I don't—" "Shut! UP! When I ask you a question, you keep your trap shut! Think I'm talking just so I can hear myself talk?! ANSWER ME!!!"
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: The "Chinese Mustard" routine about the time when he took a girl to a Chinese restaurant as a teenager. Being broke, he attempted to get as much as he could for his money and dunked his entire egg roll in the mustard. His description of his reaction on biting into it is priceless.
    • His account of tasting some of the local chili sauce in Mexico, during his "Foreign Countries" routine:
      And so then they brew this old chili sauce and everything, and right away the smell starts getting to you. And you say, "Oh, man, I gotta have some of that." And your stomach says, "No, you don't." But your mouth says, "Yeah, gimme some." ...And you drink an orange soda, right, and the next thing, PAIN!! Then you die.
  • Brick Joke:
    • He describes childbirth pains in "Natural Childbirth":
    "Carol Burnett described what labor pains feel like. She said, 'Take your bottom lip and pull it over your head.'"
    "Then my wife stood up. In the stirrups. Grabbed my bottom lip. And said, 'I! WANT! MORPHINE!!!'"
    • The argument in "To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With" begins when Bill tries to claim ownership of part of a small bed. At the routine's end, after their father has forced Bill and Russell to stand on one spot all night as punishment for causing so much noise, Bill tries to claim part of the floor.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: "Grandparents":
    And mothers are always more interested in the condition of your underwear than your body if you're ever in an accident. And they tell you that; "I hope for my sake if you're ever in an accident, you have on clean underwear." Well, I thought that's what an accident was! Look; you're driving a truck. Here comes another truck, gonna hit you. Now, whether you hit the truck or not, you're going to have soiled underwear. Because first you say it, then you do it! Now comes your mother to the hospital: "Did he have on clean underwear?" "Yes, we found it in the glove compartment."
  • Call-Back: Cosby's story about him and Weird Harold going to see Frankenstein ends with them getting scared on the way home and trampling a wino. A later story he tells of him getting run over by a frightened Fat Albert ends with him in the hospital room next to "a wino who'd been run over by a pair of kids, and we both agreed that frightened children were dangerous."
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Played for laughs in the "Chicken Heart" sketch. A young Bill listens to a horror radio program called Lights Out, convinced that a giant chicken heart is coming to eat him up after the program says it is. This causes a terrified Bill to smear Jell-O all over the floor and set the sofa on fire in order to dissuade the chicken heart from coming.
  • Combat Medic: He had a routine where he talked about training to become a US Navy corpsman because he thought the Geneva Convention's rules on medics in combat would keep him safe. Then, after completing training and being assigned to a Marine Expeditionary Unit, he was shown a film where medics get slaughtered by the enemy and realized that the big red cross on his helmet made him an even bigger target.
  • Comically Missing the Point: In the 200 M.P.H. story, he thinks the fire extinguisher in the car is there so that he can jump out of the car and help put out houses on fire and such.
  • Contractual Purity: In Far From Finished, he talks about a few of the reactions he got when telling people he was getting a special on Comedy Central. One grown man burst into tears and shouted "Mr. Cosby's gonna swear!", apparently having his childhood destroyed by the mere thought of it (even though it's happened before). Another guy was also really hoping and expecting him to swear to a creepy level. He doesn't actually swear in the special, perhaps because of one or both of these reactions.
  • Cool Car: Played simultaneously for laughs and drama in the titular routine of the album 200 M.P.H. It's a true story about Cosby's love of sportscars and his very brief ownership of a Shelby Cobra Super Snake CSX 3303. The car was so powerful that he freaked out while idling in his own driveway, and he decided to return it on the spot after a test drive showed him how hard it was to handle safely.note 
  • Corporal Punishment: He spoke quite frankly about how his children were disciplined through corporal punishment and even built an entire routine around it in "Himself", describing his wife wielding a yardstick like a samurai sword while he corralled the kids to make sure all were punished.
  • Creator Backlash: For Leonard Part 6, a movie he co-produced and co-wrote but ended up begging audiences not to see. Cosby not only accepted his Razzie for Leonard Part 6, he had the studio make him a statuette.
  • Creator Breakdown: The death of his son seems to have marked the unofficial end of his comedy career, although he had made occasional appearances on stage.
  • The Danza: Completely inverted. Cosby was never the Danza, even though a majority of his shows had his name in the title. He was Alexander Scott on I Spy, Chet Kincaid on The Bill Cosby Show, Heathcliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Guy Hanks on The Cosby Mysteries and Hilton Lucas on Cosby.
  • Demon Head: His wife when he feeds his kids chocolate cake for breakfast.
    "I've always heard about people having a 'conniption', but I'd never seen one. You don't wanna see 'em. My wife's face…split. The skin and hair split and came off of her face so that there was nothing except a skull. And orange light came out of her hair and it lit all around. And fire shot from her eye sockets and began to burn my stomach. And she said "WHERE DID THEY GET THIS CHOCOLATE CAKE FROOOOOOM?!?!?""
  • Edited for Syndication: In the late '80s, Disney Channel aired "Himself" many times, but it edited out the more objectionable parts (most notably the "Jesus Christ and Dammit" joke near the end). The album version also eliminated the entire opening sketch on drugs, and hacked up a lot of the other segments (for instance, the "Natural Childbirth" segment fades in on the Title Drop).
  • Epic Rocking: Yes, he actually played this trope straight with the Badfoot Brown pair of albums; the former contains one song per side: "Martin's Funeral" on the first and "Hybish Shybish" on the second. Cosby wrote and played electric piano on these two songs.
  • The Eponymous Show: A trademark, epitomised by The Cosby Show, of course.
  • Explosive Breeder: During his "Noah" routine, he had to repeatedly remind the rabbits "Only two, only two" when two of every animal were boarding the ark.
  • Fake Rabies: "Roland and the Rollercoaster" deals with his crazy friend Roland, who used to do things like keep soap chips in his mouth. When people think Roland's head has been turned around by the roller coaster (due to Roland wearing his clothes backwards), there is a throwaway line from someone seeing Roland: "And he's got the rabies!" It's a good Brick Joke as it usually takes the audience a few moments to remember the soap chips in the mouth (which was mentioned early on in a fairly long story).
  • First Gray Hair: In Time Flies, he points out that he didn't mind the hair on his head turning gray, because he thought it made him look dignified. His pubic hair, on the other hand...
  • Flanderization: The most popular media portrayal of Cosby (thanks to The Simpsons and Family Guy) is that of a gibbering, crazy old man.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The "Chicken Heart" story of the radio program Lights Out ends with the titular monster paying the audience a visit. "It's in your home state!" *bump-bump* *bump-bump* "It's outside of your door!" *bump-bump* *bump-bump* "And it's going to eat you up!" It scares Little Cos badly enough to both smear Jell-O all over the floor and set the sofa on fire.
  • Gargle Blaster: The "Fernet Branca" routine. After mistakenly ordering a revolting dish of barbecued sparrow in Italy and forcing himself to eat it, he develops a roaring case of indigestion. He takes a drink of Fernet Branca (a liqueur with an intensely bitter flavor) to settle his stomach, with the following results:
    Cosby: The bird saw what was coming and started running...and I started running!
  • Gasshole: Himself closes with a skit about how fathers are the only people in the house who are allowed to pass gas. He says that his father used to do it and blame it on invisible animals, which his brother Russell was dumb enough to go looking for. The last line of the special is him stating that his father's game was "pull my finger".
  • Grey Goo: Mentioned in a retelling of the old radio serial Lights Out and its "Chicken Heart" episode. The routine is probably far better known than the original audio drama.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: At least according to his act.
  • Hotter and Sexier: As implied by the title, "For Adults Only" was an attempt to appeal to an older audience, while not going completely blue, and featured more risque jokes and references to sex.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "Dentists tell you not to pick your teeth with any sharp metal object. Then you sit in their chair, and the first thing they grab is an iron hook."
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Much of Cosby's forays into music have consisted of him doing this, including the theme song to his own The Bill Cosby Show (credited to Cosby himself and Quincy Jones - Jones later recorded it as "Hicky-Burr").
  • Inflation Negation: Cosby has a stand-up routine in which he says that grandparents will give you money; all that you have to do is listen to a story about how much the money used to be worth. He quotes his grandfather saying that he once had 50 cents and bought "a house... and a car... and put 17 cents in the bank."
  • Insane Troll Logic: "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast," wherein, having been woken out of a sound sleep to go feed the kids breakfast, he gives his kids the chocolate cake they clamour for after rationalizing that it's healthy for them — because, after all, it has wheat and eggs and milk. And when his wife demands to know why they are eating it for breakfast, his kids pipe up, "We asked for eggs and milk! AND DAD MADE US EAT THIS!!!" So his wife sends him to his room. Which is where he wanted to go in the first place.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • In the second part of the "Noah" three-part routine:
      Noah's neighbor: Listen, what's this thing for, anyway?
      Noah: I can't tell you. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
      Noah's neighbor: Well, I mean, can't you give me a little hint?
      Noah: You want a hint?
      Noah's neighbor: Yes, please.
      Noah: How long can you tread water? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
    • In the third part, when Noah's griping at God about all the hassle and ridicule he's gone through:
      God: Noah?
      Noah: Yeah?!
      God: How long can you tread water?
  • Ironic Echo Cut: In "Driving in San Francisco", after stopping on a hill so steep that he's afraid he'll roll backward as soon as he lets go of the brakes:
    Cosby: Well, I don't want to let [the guy behind me] know I can't drive, so I say "Come around, idiot, come around!" but he can't hear me because he's busy telling the guy behind him, "Come around, idiot, come around!"
  • Irony: Several times on the Revenge album:
    • In the title track, Bill plans to hit Harold with a snowball, but Junior Barnes hits him with a slushball instead (prompting Bill to complain in much the same way Harold always does). Bill ends up saving a snowball in his freezer, but when he goes to use it against Junior Barnes in the middle of July, he discovers his mother had found it and thrown it away. (Undaunted, he spits on Junior Barnes instead.)
    • In the second half of "Buck, Buck", Bill is taken in by a prank involving a statue of Frankenstein's monster. When he tries to help play the same prank on Fat Albert, it backfires on him: "I forgot I was behind him." Cue Fat Albert (described minutes earlier as weighing 2,000 pounds) trying to run away...and so terrified he doesn't even realise he's trampling Bill into the ground in the process.
    • Then, they take Bill to the hospital and put him next to "a wino who was run over by two kids." In the previous track, "9th Street Bridge," Bill and Harold ran into a wino in the dark, mistaking him for a monster and trampling him as they ran away.
    • Also in his first album (Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow...Right!): His football coach's pep talk prompts them to "really wanna smash together"; they run out and the door is locked.
  • Kids Shouldn't Watch Horror Films: His "Chicken Heart" routine. It culminates in him smearing Jell-O on the floor to trap the giant heart and setting the couch on fire, which his father slips on, breaking his arm.
    • There's also the incident with the wino after they spend all night trying not to watch a movie full of horror monsters.
    • Which leads into the Frankenstein-monster statue prank described above.
  • Lamaze Class: The "Natural Childbirth" routine. Cosby seems to enjoy his role much more than his wife does, even doing "macho breathing" along with her and cheering, "Push 'em out, shove 'em out, waaay out!" Trying to apply this approach in the delivery room of the hospital, however, was rather less successful.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Invoked with the "Jeffrey" story, where, after Cosby and an airplane full of other people were terrorized by a four-year-old boy named Jeffrey for the entire flight, the kid fell asleep. The passengers took great pleasure in yelling "Goodbye, Jeffrey!" in the kid's ear, waking him up crying. This also extends to Jeffrey's poor, harangued mother, who came down the airplane stairs, handed the boy to his father...and then punched him dead in the face.
  • Looping Lines: Happens at least twice on the album version of Bill Cosby: Himself. A flubbed line about "brain damage" is re-dubbed, and in the "chocolate cake for breakfast" skit, his accidental reference to being awakened at 4 o'clock in the morning instead of 6 has the correct time of "6 o'clock in the morning" looped in from later.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Granted it was blackjack, but Bill recounts a time in Vegas where a fellow gambler had lost seventeen games in a row. She had twenty, and the dealer was showing a face card. She demanded another card. The dealer even protested, but she insisted.
    "And... *bam!* Ace.
    • Subverted when Bill describes a colossal losing streak of his own. He gets two hundred dollars worth of 25-cent chips and hits the roulette table, with the following result:
    "Covered that table. I mean, covered the table! Red and black! Even up! I'm going to win something before I go to sleep! And the guy spun the ball, and it fell on the floor."
  • M.D. Envy: In a skit from Wonderfulness describing the day he had his tonsils removed, the young Cosby addresses an orderly: "Hey, you! Almost a doctor!"
  • Mundane Solution: In the "Chicken Heart" sketch, a terrified Bill has smeared Jell-O all over the floor and set the sofa on fire because she's so scared of the chicken heart on the radio. Bill's father eventually shouts "It's a show, you idiot! Turn it off!" After Bill turns off the radio, there's a beat of awkward silence before Bill admits "I hadn't thought of that".
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Bill got annoyed with people constantly asking him if he really played football in college. He eventually created a whole routine about a Curb-Stomp Battle that Temple was on the receiving end of against rival school Hofstra just to prove he really played.
    "I played football for Temple University. And it's the truth, see! Don't keep asking me 'did you really play?' Yes, I really played! At one time, I had a beautiful body!"
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In Himself, Bill suggests this is the attitude many fathers take towards things they don't want to do.
    "Fathers are the geniuses of the house. Because only a person as intelligent as we could fake such stupidity. Think about your father! He doesn't know where anything is! You ask him to do something, he messes it up! ... That's a genius at work! Because he doesn't want to do it! And he knows someone will be coming soon to stop him from doing it! ... So you see, we are dumb, but we are not so dumb. It takes great courage and work to keep from working."
  • One-Hit Wonder:invoked In 1967, he had a #4 hit on the Hot 100 with "Little Ole Man (Uptight, Everything's Alright)", a semi-parody of Stevie Wonder's 1965 single "Uptight (Everything's Alright)". Cosby had a few more hits on the R&B charts, but they were not as successful.
  • One-Winged Angel: Played straight:
    "I've often heard of people having a conniption, but I'd never seen one. You don't wanna see 'em! My wife's face...split. The skin and hair split and came off of her face so that there was nothing except the skull! And orange light came out of her hair and it lit all around! And fire shot from her eye sockets and began to burn my stomach! And she said, 'Where did they get chocolate cake from!?!?'"
  • Pink Elephants: In his "Dudes on Drugs" routine, Bill mentions that alcoholics do not like going to Disneyland because the think they're getting the DTs. In another routine, he describes his father—who was an alcoholic and suffered the DTs—as the only man to have seen the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. There's only three of them now because he choked one to death with a paper towel
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Cosby is known for being very clean in his comedy both in the content and the language, but he will occasionally swear to emphasize a point. From "Himself":
    "I asked a friend, 'What is it about cocaine that makes it so wonderful?' And he said 'Well, it intensifies your personality.' To which I responded, 'Yes, but what if you're an asshole?'"
    • Cosby also says "shit" at one point in that same skit, which is perhaps the only time he ever said that word onstage.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: As part of his "Natural Childbirth" routine, when he talks about his wife actually giving birth:
    "Then my wife stood up. In the stirrups. Grabbed my bottom lip. And said, 'I! WANT! MORPHINE!!!'"
  • Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy: Which eventually turned into "sit-down comedy", as Cosby took to performing while seated in a chair.
  • Revisiting the Roots:
    • The Cosby Show was filmed in studios in Brooklyn and Queens, more closely matching the location of the story, rather than NBC's typical Los Angeles locations, on Cosby's insistence.
    • My Father Confused Me — What Must I Do? contains a number of obscure routines which seem to delve into issues a bit more oriented to black life, including one about "dudes on dope." One telling example is an early version of "The Dentist" delivered quite differently than his more well-known Himself version.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Rape allegations going back decades surfaced in 2014. His conviction in 2018 completely ended his career as a comedian before netting him jail time.
  • Running Gag: Throughout Bill Cosby: Himself, his kids answering nearly every question with, "I don't know." He refers to it as "brain damage". This shows up again on Those of You With or Without Children, You'll Understand a few years later.
  • Secret Weapon: Buck Buck, a game about who can get dogpiled longer without falling down. Bill and his friends had crazy endurance, but so did the kids from "the rough part of town" (to the point of no-selling it). The thing is, those kids didn't have Fat Albert - described by Cosby as weighing 2,000 pounds and causing earthquakes when he ran up.
  • Shoot the Medic First: The punchline to his "Medic!" routine on I Started Out as a Child.
  • Shout-Out: A meta example. In a skit on Bill Cosby: Himself, Cosby uses his Mushmouth voice for a dentist patient who has just taken Novocain.
  • Silly Walk:
    • In one of stand-up routines, Cosby talks about how every boy in his neighbourhood had to have their own "cool walk". He demonstrates his and, while the full effect is lost on the recorded version, the audience's reaction gives a good indication of exactly what this looked like.
    • Another routine has him demonstrate several different ways that people walk when they're drunk.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The opening segment of Bill Cosby: Himself, on the original release, was a parody of Grover Washington Jr.'s "Just the Two of Us" sung by Cosby himself, titled "Just the Slew of Us". On the original VHS and 1990s cable releases, it was replaced with an example of this trope: a slow, somber ballad called "It Was a Good Idea at the Time".
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: In "Bill Cosby: Himself", Cosby discusses having to make breakfast for his children at 6 AM. He randomly shouts certain words:
    Cosby: So I got up. Needless to say, I was angry. And I went downstairs without putting on my robe. Standing there in my pajamas, and I'm talking to myself. I said, "Get these, go down and cook breakfast, but it's six o'clock in the morning", and I slam the pans down. Blam! On the stove. I slam them down and go to the refrigerator and look around and I get to the damn bacon and the sausage, cooking breakfast, six oblam!!! in the morning, and I grab the- you have to be careful with eggs. Got! to have to cook breakfast! Boom!
    • Also, from the sketch Tonsils: "Well, listen, man. When the nurse leaves, I'll talk to you about that ice cream later... cause we're gonna eat a MESS of ice cream, Jack."
  • Take That!: In his "200 MPH" routine, he talks about when he bought a custom Cobra sports car from Cobra founder Carroll Shelby, that would go over 200 miles per hour. After a nearly lethal test drive that thoroughly unnerved Cosby (the engine was so powerful that Cosby felt as though he was taking his life in his hands when he drove it), he got as far away from the car as he could, and told the dealer, "Take the keys and this car, it's all paid for, and you give it to George Wallace."note 
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Cosby recalls in one story about how his mother caught him and his brother repeating some curse words that they heard from their father, only to have her yell at them, "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FROM?" Cosby then vows to never say that to his own kids. And keeps that vow, until his young daughter (maybe first-grade age) hikes up her dress at the dinner table and shouts, "See my titties?" Cosby's response? "WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FROM?!?" Then he escalates it by going to see the school's principal the next day, figuring she learned it at school.
    • The title of the Far From Finished tour, which started the year before decades of rape allegations resurfaced, completely killed his career, and got him sent to prison.
  • This Is My Side: Figures prominently on the title track of To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With. Even after Dad orders Bill and Russell to get out of bed and stand in their room for the rest of the night, Bill warns Russell not to move onto his side of the floor.
  • Unishment: The "Chocolate Cake for Breakfast" routine. Bill screws up making breakfast so badly that his wife sends him to his room. Seeing as how it was 6 in the morning, and she had woken him up to make breakfast in the first place, Bill was more than happy to go. In fact, Bill even suggests he did that on purpose.
    "So you see, we are dumb, but we are not so dumb. It takes great courage and work to keep from working."
  • Vocal Dissonance: Whenever Cosby does a lower-pitched voice in his stand-up act, since it contrasts with his usual higher-pitched voice. He often uses it when describing things his father (or any father in general) might say.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Several bits on his "For Adults Only" album concern Las Vegas and gambling.
  • What Could Have Been: He had quite a few projects planned for a while that were ready to get started, including a Fat Albert reboot and a new show on Netflix. But then the sexual assault accusations came up and put a very abrupt end to these plans.
  • When I Was Your Age...:
    • During Himself, Bill mentions that his parents have now become grandparents, and his father will willingly give out money to his grandchildren — but when Bill was his children's age, in response to any request for funds, the same man "would tell [Bill] his life story. And this man never told a happy story. For 50 cents, there never was happiness!" Among other things, Bill recalls his father saying something along the lines of the usual: "I had to walk five miles to school! Uphill! Both ways! In 5 feet of snow! And I was thankful!"
    • Also, no matter how his father suffered, he'd always say, "And I was thankful to get it!" For 30 years, Bill claims his father told him, all he had to eat was dirt. "And I was thankful to eat that dirt!"
    • At another point, Bill recalls asking his father for a dollar for his school picnic. His father replied by explaining how he once killed a grizzly bear with his loose-leaf notebook.
  • Zany Scheme: During his "Street Football" routine from I Started Out as a Child:
    Here's a guy with an ingenious mind. He'd call a football play like this...."Now, listen to this, now. Uh, Arnie, go down, uh, ten steps and cut left behind the black Chevy. Filbert, you run down to my house and wait in the living room. Cosby, you go down to 3rd Street, catch the "J" bus. Have him open the doors at 19th Street. I'll fake it to you." They always have one fat kid they never throw it to, says, "What about me?" He says, "You go long."


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