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Cosby an icon worth emulating

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

With all the things that are going on in the world today, it's nice to find an opportunity to kick back and enjoy some good old laughter.

And if anyone fits the bill for doing that, it's Bill Cosby.

When you think of people in America who have touched lives in a positive way, it's hard to come up with a more worthy example than Cosby. In a career that stretches back to the 1960s, he has been an iconic father figure to generations of Americans, the caring dad with a delicious sense of humor and keen insight. And like a father, he has sometimes scolded, but never without leaving you with the feeling that the plain speaking was meant to illuminate a better way.

What has been remarkable is the longevity and the glass ceilings he has shattered. He broke a color barrier on television when he co-starred as Rhodes scholar Alexander Scott with Robert Culp in the secret agent series "I Spy." He followed that up headlining his own "The Bill Cosby Show" before launching the long-running animated series, "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," a Saturday morning staple. Of course, most remember him as the role-model dad Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable in the long-running "The Cosby Show" from 1984-92. During that time, he used his leverage to require that his spin-off "A Different World," a show that gave a more positive view African-American college life, follow his show's lead in, ensuring its message reached a bigger audience.

One aspect of his career that has endeared him with many is his standup work where he tells wonderfully human stories about growing up and experiencing fatherhood, which is what he'll do while on stage tonight at the Albany Civic Center. The tales of the exploits of Old Weird Harold, his brother Russell and the others from his childhood have tickled funny bones for decades, as have his observations of more recent events (the story of the overactive child on the cross-country jetliner is a favorite, particularly the punchline).

What William Henry Cosby Jr., a doctor of education and native of Philadelphia, is is a quintessential storyteller, plain and simple. He tells stories that have living, breathing characters who his audiences can relate to, care about and share a good-natured laugh over. He doesn't make up jokes about people; he talks about the funny things people do.

And unlike so many comedians whose careers have come and gone, Cosby's done all this without offensive language and without underlying meanness. In an age when edgy humor is just another word for foul-mouthed, Cosby has opted to stay true to himself with observations rich in detail, humor and an undeniable sense of good-naturedness. If anyone has ever deserved the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which he received a few years ago, it is Cosby.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital officials, in the course of celebrating the hospital's centennial, have done a fine thing to make it possible for Southwest Georgians to see one of America's greatest entertainers live on stage in Albany. It's a rare opportunity to see a performance featuring such a legendary American.

We hope you enjoy your visit to Albany, Dr. Cosby. We know we will.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board