Despite controversy -- a number of Southern affiliates threatened not to air the show -- Leonard stood firm, and Cosby became the first black actor ever to star in a dramatic program; ultimately, the show was a huge hit, and he even won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Agent Alexander Scott. Cosby quickly distinguished himself from his peers in a number of ways: After earning his diploma through correspondence courses, he won a football scholarship to Temple University; while taking classes during the day, he tended bar in the evenings, where his easy ability to make customers laugh resulted in the decision to pursue a career in comedy. Although albums like 's Live: Clearly, his audience wanted to see the performer in his natural milieu; accordingly, the family sitcom Cosby debuted in
Although his popularity was never in question before the show's debut, The Cosby Show made its titular star even more of a success; not only was he the most popular and beloved talent on television, but he also became a successful author, and in he also returned to recording with the album Those of You with or Without Children, You'll Understand. After keeping a low profile for several years, he resurfaced in with The Cosby Show, an NBC series inspired largely by his own family experiences. With the program, Cosby suffered his first major artistic setback; although NBC committed to two seasons of the show, ratings were weak, and at the end of the two-year period, NBC pulled the plug. Significantly, the album also marked the debut of Fat Albert and his gang, a group of beloved Cosby characters that later formed the basis of a long-running animated series for children. Madison Square Garden Center and When I Was a Kid were successful, the period following the series' cancellation marked a crossroads for Cosby; his well of childhood reminiscences was running dry, and he clearly needed to explore new ground. After 's Wonderfulness reached the Top Ten, Cosby hit his commercial peak the following year with Revenge, which rose to the number two spot. Before Cosby, black comics were largely relegated to the so-called "chitlin circuit" of black nightclubs and theaters, their albums banned from white-owned record stores; after Cosby, comedians of all racial and cultural backgrounds found a home in the mainstream, and were even given the opportunity to prove their talents in major film and television roles. Clearly, his audience wanted to see the performer in his natural milieu; accordingly, the family sitcom Cosby debuted in The show was an unparalleled success that brought new life to the sitcom format -- a vehicle pronounced dead by many onlookers -- and quickly shot to the number one slot in the Nielsen ratings, a position where it remained throughout the majority of its eight-season run. After earning his diploma through correspondence courses, he won a football scholarship to Temple University; while taking classes during the day, he tended bar in the evenings, where his easy ability to make customers laugh resulted in the decision to pursue a career in comedy. Despite controversy -- a number of Southern affiliates threatened not to air the show -- Leonard stood firm, and Cosby became the first black actor ever to star in a dramatic program; ultimately, the show was a huge hit, and he even won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Agent Alexander Scott. Simply put, Cosby broke comedy's color barrier, and he set the stage for the widespread success of everyone from Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy. Released in , I Started Out as a Child -- the first of a record six consecutive Grammy-winning releases -- proved even more popular with audiences, and soon Cosby was contacted by television producer Sheldon Leonard to star with Robert Culp in the espionage series I Spy. Released in , Bill's Best Friend continued the trend, as well as offering cautionary messages against alcohol and drug use, while the popularity of concert films -- primarily those of Richard Pryor -- sparked the feature and soundtrack Bill Cosby: Cosby quickly distinguished himself from his peers in a number of ways: After another failed television attempt, 's children's prime-time variety program Cos, he came back to standup with a vengeance for 's My Father Confused Me, What Should I Do? Not surprisingly, he took a subsequent hiatus from television; after recording 's Inside the Mind of Bill Cosby and the next year's Fat Albert, he shifted his focus to film, teaming with Sidney Poitier in for Uptown Saturday Night, the first in a successful series of crime comedies that also included 's Let's Do It Again and 's A Piece of the Action. Also Available in iTunes About Bill Cosby Although African-American comedians had long been a staple of the standup circuit prior to the emergence of Bill Cosby, none had come even remotely close to reaching the same heights of commercial success or universal acceptance. That same year he launched The New Bill Cosby Show, a disastrous variety program that lasted only one season. As a result, his success was immediate: The son of a maid and an absentee father, he grew up in abject poverty, ultimately dropping out of high school to join the Navy. Only film remained impenetrable, as both 's abysmal Leonard, Part 6 and 's similarly bad Ghost Dad bombed miserably. In , the Comedy Central network aired Far from Finished, his first filmed concert special in 30 years. A flurry of releases followed as Cosby fulfilled his Warner Bros. Even at the series' peak, he continued writing and performing standup, issuing the Top 20 hit Why Is There Air?
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