He began his career as a stand-up comic, winning several Grammies for comedy albums. He also had a top forty song in 1969 and sang on a number of albums. Cosby received Kennedy Center Honors in 1998.
His break-out television role was in I Spy, starting in 1965. Cosby won two Emmy Awards for his portrayal of an undercover CIA agent; it was also the first time an African-American actor starred in a weekly dramatic television series. He then appeared in a series of shows named after himself: The Bill Cosby Show, The New Bill Cosby Show, the animated Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Cos, The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, and Cosby. He has producer, writer, director and even composer credits on many of his projects. He has also written several humorous books about different aspects of life, based on his stand-up comedy such as Fatherhood and Love and Marriage.
He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts in 1977. He has attempted to integrate education with television in some projects and is now a leading educational philanthropist.
He is married to Camille Hanks and they have four daughters. Their only son Ennis, aged 27, was murdered on January 16, 1997, in an attempted robbery while changing a flat tire in Los Angeles, California. On March 12, 1997 Mikail Markhasev was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with shooting Ennis Cosby.