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Bill Cosby is an American comedian known for creating the 1980s sitcom television series The Cosby Show, in which he starred as the patriarch of an affluent African-American family. Online, Cosby is often featured in Internet memes mocking his appearance in Jell-O pudding commercials, his penchant for wearing sweaters and several sexual assault allegations raised against the comedian in 2004.
After graduating from Temple University in 1962, Cosby began performing stand-up comedy at various clubs in Philadelphia and New York City. In 1963, Cosby appeared on the late-night talk show The Tonight Show. In 1965, Cosby became the first African-American to co-star in a dramatic television series when we was cast in the adventure program I Spy (shown below, left). In 1969, Cosby starred in the television sitcom The Bill Cosby Show (shown below, right).
After receiving an MA degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1972, Cosby hosted the Saturday morning television show Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (shown below, left). In the 1970s, Cosby made the comedy films Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Let’s Do it Again (1975) with actor-director Sidney Poitier. In 1984, Cosby created the television sitcom The Cosby Show, which was inspired by Cosby’s own family life and based on routines from his stand-up act (shown below, right).
On May 1st, 2004, YTMND user Shitman created the “Bill Cosby Likes Drugs”, featuring an audio clip of Cosby saying “Let’s get high and have fun.” On August 14th, 2005, YTMND user Sir-Suicide-Note create a page titled “Bill Cosby Pokemon”, which included audio from a Simpsons parody of the comedian. As of November 2014, there are over 1,900 YTMND search results for the keyword “cosby.”
House of Cosbys
On January 30th, 2005, animator Justin Roiland released the first episode in the House of Cosbys animated web series, in which a scientist clones several different copies of Cosby (shown below).
In June of 2005, Cosby’s attorney John P. Schmitt issued Roiland a cease and desist:
Dear sirs, we are counsel for Mr. William H Cosby, Jr. We have just learned that you offer a deeply offensive animated film that you created, entitled “House of Cosbys”. […] As you are certainly aware, none of you are licensed or in any way authorized to use Mr. Cosby’s voice, name, or likeness. […] Therefore, we demand that you immediately cease and desist from any use of our client’s name, voice, and likeness, including the development and distribution of the “House of Cosbys” series.
Very truly yours,
John P. Schmitt
The Science of Cosby
On June 26th, 2009, the webcomic Nedroid released the results of an experiment posted on Livejournal, which tested if readers would illustrate Cosby wearing sweaters and eating Jell-o brand pudding (shown below).
Now of course, science is unpredictable. As it turns out, our hypothesis was incorrect. Out of a total of 190 Cosbies, only 8 had both a sweater and Jell-o pudding. Baffling, right? That’s only 4.2%! What a shock!
Here is the scientific data we collected:
Cosbies wearing sweaters: 52 (out of 190)
Cosbies with a Jell-O Product: 21
Cosbies spouting gibberish: 10
Cosbies with sweaters and Jell-o: 8
Cosbies with sweaters spouting gibberish: 4
Cosbies with sweaters and Jell-o and gibberish: 0, can you believe it?
Cosbies that confused us: 19
Cosbies facing left with hands clasped which were clearly based on the first Google Image Search result for “Cosby”: 15
On June 30th, 20 of the illustrations were highlighted on the Internet humor blog The Geek Pad, referring to the drawings as “the Bill Cosby meme.”
Social Media Presence
On July 27th, 2009, the verified “Bill Cosby” Facebook page was launched. That month, the @BillCosby Twitter feed was created. In the next five years, the Twitter feed accumulated more than 3.93 million followers and the Facebook page gathered upwards of 430,000 likes. On June 7th, 2011, Cosby launched the TheOfficialBillCosby YouTube channel, which gained over two million video views and 15,500 subscribers in the next four years.
Sexual Assault Allegations
In November 2006, Cosby settled a civil lawsuit with a woman who claimed he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in 2004. By the end of the settlement, 13 other women had come forward claiming he had sexually assaulted them. In October 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a stand-up performance in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in reference to the lawsuit.
“He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up black people, I was on TV in the 80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”
On November 10th, 2014, Cosby tweeted featuring a photograph of himself with the caption “Happy Monday!” along with a link to a meme generator website inviting Twitter users to make their own Cosby image macros with the hashtag “#CosbyMeme” (shown below).
Twitter users subsequently began tweeting photos of Cosby with captions referencing assault allegations against the comedian along with the “#CosbyMeme” hashtag (shown below). That day, the original Cosby tweet was deleted.
Cosby was born on July 12th, 1937 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was raised as one of four sons by mother Anna Pearl and father William Henry Cosby Sr. In July 1997, Cosby revealed in court that he had given $100,000 to a woman named Shawn Upshaw to keep her from publicly revealing their affair. In 1999, Upshaw’s daughter Autumn Jackson was sentenced to 26 months in prison for attempting to extort $40 million from Cosby, whom she claimed was her biological father.