Cosby began his career as a stand-up comic at the hungry i in San Francisco during the 1960s. He then landed a starring role in the television show I Spy, followed by his own sitcom The Bill Cosby Show, which ran for two seasons from 1969 to 1971. In 1972, using the Fat Albert character developed during his stand-up routines, Cosby created, produced, and hosted the animated comedy television series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids which ran until 1985, centering on a group of young friends growing up in an urban area. Throughout the 1970s, Cosby starred in about a half-dozen films, and occasionally returned to film later in his career. He attended Temple University in the 1960s and received his bachelor's degree in 1971. In 1973, he received a master's degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and he earned his Doctor of Education degree in 1976, also from UMass. His dissertation discussed the use of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as a teaching tool in elementary schools.
Beginning in the 1980s, Cosby produced and starred in the television sitcom The Cosby Show, which aired from 1984 to 1992 and was rated as the number one show in America for 1985 through 1989. The sitcom highlighted the experiences and growth of an affluent African-American family. Cosby produced the spin-off sitcom A Different World, which aired from 1987 to 1993. He also starred in The Cosby Mysteries from 1994 to 1995 and in the sitcom Cosby from 1996 to 2000, and hosted Kids Say the Darndest Things from 1998 to 2000.
Cosby's career and image were seriously damaged in the mid-2010s by many sexual assault accusations, the earliest of which date back decades. More than 60 women accused him of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery, child sexual abuse, and sexual misconduct, although the statute of limitations had by then expired in nearly all cases. Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in April 2018, and sentenced to three to ten years in prison on September 25, 2018.