Hear Bob Edwards' Morning Edition interview with Cosby.
The Doctor of Comedy Specializes in Family Medicine
Web Exclusive: Hear an unaired segment of the interview.
Oct. 26, 2001 -- Listen to Bill Cosby even briefly, and it quickly becomes clear that the love of family is at the core of his comedy. It's also clear that Cosby believes the love-hate relationships in families are two sides of the same coin.
Photo: Courtesy Hyperion Books
Take the inevitable question between husband and wife: If I go first, will you remarry?
"My feeling is, personally, I want to die first ... because I believe that when you die, your soul goes immediately up for judgment -- and I don't want my wife up there first," the comedian, actor and author tells Morning Edition host Bob Edwards. "No, the judgment will be horrendous."
And then there are parents. "Parents are people who yell and they yell and they yell and they yell. And you already have the point ... and they're still yelling," Cosby says. "They're more annoying now than they are giving good lessons."
But he also looks at his family with fondness. For example, when Cosby was going to Central High School in Philadelphia, his grandfather warned him not to play football. Of course, the young Cosby ignored the advice, signed up for the team -- and promptly broke his shoulder. After making his way across town to visit Cosby at the hospital, his grandfather "pressed a quarter in my hand and he said, 'You go get yourself some ice cream. It's got calcium in it.' And he left. It's the worst feeling in my life of embarrassment."
Cosby also finds a warm spot for his teachers -- in particular, his math teacher at Central High, to whom he dedicates a chapter in his new book, Cosbyology, Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy. The chapter is called "To Mr. Sapolsky with Love."
"Mr. Sapolsky and I had our battles," Cosby recalls in the interview with Edwards. "I just didn't do the work -- reading the book. I listened to him. I saw him enjoying triangles unlike any person I've ever seen ... In those days, I just didn't dig it. I was of course a disappointment to Mr. Sapolsky."
After he became famous, Cosby ran into the teacher again at a Central High dinner honoring the comedian.
"Stepping to the podium, I look down and sitting up front was Mr. Sapolsky, looking the same with the same sport coat on ... and the speech fled from my mind." As the applause died and the room grew silent, "I said, 'Mr. Sapolsky, I'm sorry.'... For me, it's one of the great moments in my life to look at this teacher, who worked very, very hard. Benjamin Sapolsky, Russian Jew, came all the way from Russia to bother me."
Cosby Career Highlights
1960s: Standup comedian and comedy recording artist. His comedy albums included Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow, Right!, 200 M.P.H. and Wonderfulness.
1965-68: Co-stars with Robert Culp as a CIA agent in I Spy, the first African American to have a leading role in a weekly TV series.
1972-84: Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids animated series airs on Saturday mornings.
1984-92: Stars as Dr. Cliff Huxtable in NBC's hit comedy series The Cosby Show.
1986: His best-selling book Fatherhood is published.
1996-00: Stars as Hilton Lucas in the CBS comedy series Cosby.
1998: Receives Kennedy Center Honors lifetime achievement award.
• Read an excerpt from Cosbyology
• Kennedy Center Honors: Bill Cosby
• Internet Movie Data Base: Bill Cosby
• The Hip Surgery Encyclopedia of Music, a Bill Cosby fan site