Like a lot of later-comedians, Bill Cosby (William Henry Cosby) self- designated himself at school as “the class comedian.” He was born in 1937, and he did several different jobs, for example, stocking shelves in a supermarket, and apprenticing in a shoe repair shop. He worked four years in the U.S. Navy and later entered Temple University on a track and field scholarship. He played fullback on the Temple soccer team.
Upscaling of Bill Cosby’s career journey
Cosby started working as a bartender to have an additional income while at Temple. Cosby chose to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian as he could make his customers laugh while serving them drinks. Back in 1963, he received his first national TV experience by appearing on “The Tonight Show.” In 1964 his very first classic comedy album was recorded named “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow… right!”
By the year of 1965, Cosby became one of the latest nightclub comics in America. Robert Culp wrote a script at which he was to appear as a James Bond styled secret agent. Culp took the script to producer Carl Reiner, and Carl told him to show it to producer Sheldon Leonard, who was developing a new TV series called “I Spy.”
The co-starring role in “I Spy” was called Alexander Scott. It was originally supposed to be an elderly, mentor-type, Caucasian character. However, after noticing the stand-up comedy action of Cosby, Leonard thought otherwise. He felt Bill Cosby was perfectly suited for the role of Alexander Scott. Of course, if it was in today’s time, he could have just hired Cosby without a second thought. But it was 1965, and the times were a bit different than today. If Cosby were signed for this role, this would be the first instance in the history of TV that a black American would co-star in a TV show.
The ups and downs with the show “I Spy”
Using his keen sense of talent, courage, and foresight, Leonard hired a stand-up comic who had no experience of professional acting. Premiering on September 15, 1965, “I Spy” was a direct hit, and Cosby was praised for his fantastic job.
In an earlier episode, guest-starring actor Martin Landau made a racial joke on Cosby. Both the Culp and Cosby stood up against it and demanded that no such racial comments would ever be passed again on the show. From that point in time, that is what exactly was followed.
During the first two years, i.e., 1965-66, “I Spy” was a huge success. It secured its place in the “top twenty” most popular shows in the Nielsen ratings. Like many other success stories we have heard, this wasn’t truly a smooth journey. Some of the affiliates refused to broadcast the series. Their reason was an African American actor being shown on the same level as a white star in the show. Cosby received a ton of death threats and hate mails during those times.
Aside from those harsh comments and threats, “I Spy” became a renowned, exceptionally creative, and popular show. It made millions of loyal fans who loved the show. If you are one of those who have not watched the series, it was a must-watch of its time.
Cosby’s role never drank or smoked like in his real life. Cosby also added additional touches to “Scotty” – for example, Cosby, the character was born and raised in Philadelphia and joined Temple University.
In the year of 1968, post three successful seasons, “I Spy” was canceled. By that time, however, Bill Cosby did what no black American could do before him, co-starred in a highly successful dramatic television series.