I'm not sure if you're aware, especially if you're younger and only know him from Family Guy jokes, but Bill Cosby is one of the funniest comedians ever to tell a joke. His 1983 special Bill Cosby: Himself is one of the all-time great and influential stand-up comedy films, and his '80s NBC show is regarded as one of the greatest, most progressive sitcoms of all time.
So it's a pretty big deal that last week the 76-year-old Cosby announced his first special since Himself, to be aired on Comedy Central in November. To celebrate, I thought I'd take a look back at one of my favorite things about The Cosby Show: the myriad musical guests that abounded on the show throughout its long run, something even The Simpsons took a jab at.
5. Tito Puente As a fan of jazz, as well as sometimes being a performer himself, Cosby was often happy to have artist like Tito Puente on his show just so they could perform. It was often somewhat shoehorned into episodes, but it gave an important showcase to talented musicians who didn't often get a prime-time television spotlight cast on them.
4. Dizzy Gillespie Dizzy makes his appearance on the show as "Mr. Hampton," a music teacher who may not live up to Dizzy's esteemed real-life reputation as a musician. After all, no matter what he does, he can't quite teach young Vanessa Huxtable how to play the clarinet.
3. Lena Horne The jazz songstress and legendary performer showed up as herself in the episode "Cliff's Birthday" to wish Cosby's character a happy birthday and sing a song for him. Ever a dominating personality, she even steals the show with her comedic performance leading up to her musical turn.
2. B.B. King B.B. King turns into an actor for this episode, portraying a thinly-veiled version of himself as "King of the Blues" Riley Jackson. The episode opens with a strong performance from "Jackson," which twentysomething Theo Huxtable seems to enjoy an inordinate amount for someone his age. When he gets home, the king is at their house, hanging out with his parents and dispensing life advice for the duration of the episode.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. Stevie Wonder One of the most classic episodes of The Cosby Show was when superstar Stevie Wonder made his appearance in a special episode dedicated almost solely to his guest turn. The highlight is the visit to the studio, where the Huxtable family gets to chill with Stevie for a while and listen to him mix up some samples, then duet with him on his then-newest hit "I Just Called to Say I Love You."