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Published: Friday, 4/2/2004

Cosby finds humor in daily life

Cosby Cosby

What do Jell-O Pudding Pops and civil rights have in common?

Not much, really, except that they've both had an eloquent spokesman in comedian and actor Bill Cosby.

But while Pudding Pops were just a corporate client for Cosby, civil rights has been a passion of the 66-year-old performer for much of his life.

On Sunday, the man who has been using his gentle humor to make people laugh at themselves for more than 40 years will appear in a pair of shows in the Stranahan Theater.

Born in Philadelphia, the young Cosby began making jokes about his school buddies - "Fat Albert," "Weird Harold," "Dumb Donald," and other characters he immortalized in his later routines.

He attended Temple University in Philadelphia. While supporting himself as a bartender, he developed a reputation as a pretty funny guy. He eventually left Temple and headed for New York to try his luck in nightclubs.

In 1965, Cosby made the jump from stand-up comedy to television, appearing in the first of two landmark series that would help redefine race relations in America. I Spy broke TV's racial barrier by featuring Cosby opposite Robert Culp as the first-ever black lead of a weekly dramatic series.

Cosby's next groundbreaking series was The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992. Cosby played Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, head of an upscale, close-knit family that offered viewers a vastly different take on the African-American experience than anything they had ever seen on television before.

While performing live, Cosby tries to keep things intimate, often by deploying giant video screens so his audiences can see the gestures and facial expressions that are such a big part of his humor.

Comedian Bill Cosby will appear Sunday at 4 and 7:30 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets, at $35.50, $43.50, and $50.50, are available at the box office, by phone at 419-474-1333, and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Information: 419-381-8851.

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