Legendary comedian and philanthropist Bill Cosby premiered the Cosby Show on NBC television network thirty years ago. The iconic show featured Cosby as the lovable Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, head of an upper middle-class African-American family living in New York. The show was a commercial and critical success. In honor of the show’s thirtieth anniversary, the Rinkins Report is sharing a previous exclusive conversation with the Philadelphia-bred humanitarian. During the conversation, Cosby revealed his ambitions of using his career to “promote and advance our culture,” through entertainment and education.
“Culture to me is something that is meaningful. Culture has been with us and has shown our strength while we were fighting to achieve success,” he shared. “We have to stay true to that authentic Black culture. Not fads that glorify profanity and drugs. We can’t support anything that doesn’t value who we are as a people.”
Combined with its cultural impact, The Cosby Show has a business and wealth building legacy. In addition to being lead actor on the program, the comedian successfully negotiated an episodic salary and a 33.3 percent ownership stake with Carsey-Werner Productions. This shrewd move allowed Cosby to profit from the program’s syndication. According to Forbes Magazine, the show’s re-runs have earned in excess of $1 billion. He negotiated a similar ownership deal with The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World.
“During negotiations [for the Cosby show], I agreed to take a certain amount in salary per week. Originally, it wasn’t a huge salary. But, I took a bet on syndication. That is where the real money is made,” Cosby said. “Everything was done in a way that I was a partner. All three of us (Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner) were equal partners.”
Throughout his five-decade career, Cosby donated millions of dollars to various educational institutions, causes and scholarships. In 1976, he earned a doctorate degree in education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The 77-year-old legend attributed a portion of his success to education.
“My wife and I pushed education to our children. It was very important to us,” he said. “I am always challenging the young people I meet to take their education seriously.”
He disclosed that his entertainment persona is much different than the man he presents when meeting young people around the world.
“I am a very boring person when I meet young people. After I shake their hand, I hold it to examine how firm it is. And, I ask them how are you doing in school?” he said.
Cosby continued: “They may say, ‘I’m doing alright.’ Then, I firmly ask, what does alright mean? You can’t be successful if you can’t think. And, education teaches you how to think.”
He admits success requires more than education. “You can have an education. You can even earn a doctorate degree. But, you will not succeed unless you value yourself. You must also have integrity, honesty and the ability to think.”
Cosby revealed these tips for financial and life success:
Value Yourself: “People need to look at the word value and really consider it. If you value yourself, you really begin to think clearly and consider the best situation for yourself. Once you value yourself you stop accepting just anything.”
Understand the Details: “Read through everything whether it’s a life insurance policy or a mortgage. Don’t take the salesperson’s word for it. Read through it for yourself and scrutinize the price. Understand everything you are required to pay. Then, make an intelligent decision.”
Eliminate Excuses: “If you do something wrong, you cannot look around and blame others. Accept responsibility for your actions. If you want to be successful, you have to eliminate any and all excuses.”
Sign Your Own Checks: “One of the biggest crimes that occur all the time is when people we trust steal or mismanage our money. Often times, these people lie to themselves and say they intended to replace the money. Never give anybody a blank check. Sign your own checks.”
Show Up Every Day: “There is an old saying that says if you own a restaurant, show up to the restaurant every day. The day you don’t show up is the day your restaurant didn’t make any money. Stay on top of your affairs and show up.”