Bill Cosby can break out one of his favorite sweaters and blow out the candles on his beloved chocolate cake Thursday as he celebrates his 75th birthday. The Coz, who was born in Philadelphia in 1937, is widely regarded as one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever and even as he's become more of an activist in his elder years, remains beloved by many Americans.
Comedian Bill Cosby
Cosby still tours around the country performing new comedy material. Instead of standing up, though, he's known to sit throughout his performances. Earlier this year Cosby called a fan from the stage in front of an audience of almost 2,000 people.
The comic is perhaps best known for his namesake "Cosby Show," which aired from 1984 to 1992, showing a successful, stable African-American family, which had never been broadcast on TV before with such detail.
Before "The Cosby Show" came his legendary special "Himself," an early hour of stand-up comedy that countless comedians of today have cited as a major influence on their persona. "Himself" was a small distillation of everything Cosby would focus on with "The Cosby Show." He discussed his children, the dentist, and how he sometimes struggled to deal with the expectations that came from his wife.
"Chocolate Cake" is his best-known bit.
Cosby first made it big in the 1965-68 TV series "I Spy" playing opposite Robert Culp in a pioneering black-white partnership during the height of the decade's racial turmoil. In 1974 he became the spokesman for Jell-O, a role he maintained for almost 30 years.
"Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids" was also one of Cosby's early projects. He provided the voice for the title character and was lauded for the educational tools he used in during the Saturday morning cartoon's run.
Cosby also spent the early part of his career campaigning against the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Along with Sidney Poitier, he was able to make successful comedy films that acted as a counterbalance to the stereotypical films that were being produced at the time.
Fifteen years ago Cosby's son Ennis was killed during a mugging after he stopped to change a flat tire in Los Angeles.
As he's aged Cosby has become more outspoken about matters of race. He made headlines in 2004 telling youngsters not to let their pants sag in his "Pound Cake" speech.
"Are you not paying attention, people with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack?" Cosby said."Isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?"
"Well, some of your ancestors were hanging from trees - laugh at that," he told Kansas City students last year.
Whether he was Cliff Huxtable or Fat Albert, throughout his life Cosby has championed empowerment and self-responsibility all while making audiences all over the world laugh.
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