Bill Cosby might have a silly side that made him famous, earning him multiple Grammys, Emmys and People's Choice Awards, as well as mega stardom on TV with his highly successful The Cosby Show.
But the iconic master of funny faces is much more than a comedian. He's an actor, author, producer, musician and activist.
Cosby is bringing his stage show Oct. 26 to TRAC in Pasco. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets cost $40 and are available at Ranch & Home in Kennewick, the TRAC box office or www.traconline.com.
Cosby, who turned 75 in July, said he has no plans to retire and will continue his stage shows for as long as he can.
"The mind still works, and I still have to make a living," he said in a phone interview with the Herald. "And if what I do still makes people smile or laugh, then why should I stop?"
Cosby's manner is direct, yet easy, and his comments are laced with his signature humor, as well as philosophical wisdom. His conversations aren't much different than how he would chat with an audience on stage, as he talks about the ups, downs and silliness that life dishes out on a daily basis.
His comedic influence has earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Marian Anderson Award.
Cosby admits he wasted much of his youth doing nothing with his life except watching the sun rise and set each day, he said.
"When I realized what I was doing, I embarrassed myself, so by the time I was 19, I finally woke up and was born again," Cosby said.
He joined the Navy, became a hospital corpsman and got medical training, which led to a physical therapy tech school after the military.
"That helped me because I experienced through other people that injuries not only disable but frighten people, and that can lead to extreme sadness. That's when I began to feel differently about my choices," he said.
It's the choices people make in life that he finds humor in, and Cosby shares the stories with his audiences.
Cosby left college as a young man to pursue comedy, playing in clubs from his hometown of Philadelphia to New York City to Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
He caught a break in 1963, making his first appearance on NBC's The Tonight Show. Soon after, Warner Bros. Records signed him to a contract, and his first album Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow was released in 1964.
The next year, Cosby crashed through TV racial barriers when he was cast as Robert Culp's co-star in the espionage adventure series I Spy. Playing Alexander Scott, he earned three Emmys for outstanding performance by an actor in a leading role in a dramatic series from 1966-68.
He also created and produced the TV cartoon Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids in the '70s, and The Cosby Show launched in 1984.
Cosby doesn't see himself as a creator of cool shows that entertain as well as educate. And most of the time, he doesn't have a clear picture of what he'll talk about to an audience when he gets on stage.
"God creates, I invent," he said. "When I work, I tend to move the topics along through whatever thoughts pop into my head, though I do have some specific topics I want to talk about."
Though he has more than a dozen honorary degrees from various universities, he earned a real doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
He titled his thesis, "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."
He likes to keep his focus on education when he performs, but can't help the random thoughts that sneak their way into his shtick.
"Thoughts come and go, and right in the middle of whatever I'm saying, I'll start to digress," he said. "Sometimes in the middle of one of my digressions, I'll digress again."
Does he plan to star in another TV series like The Cosby Show?
"I don't want to act anymore," he said. "But I'll continue to produce."
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org