After flunking 10th grade, he worked as an apprentice at a local shoe repair shop and began performing stand up comedy at The Hungry I nightclub in San Francisco. While attending Temple University, he worked as a bartender at a Philadelphia club called The Cellar.
In 1965, he starred in I Spy, and a couple years later he won a Best Comedy Performance Grammy Award for his album To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With. In 2018, he was tried and found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
His wife on The Cosby Show was Clair Huxtable, played by Phylicia Rashad.