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Bill Cosby, 75, became part of America’s lives and living rooms a long time ago, and America still holds him dear. Kids got to know him in decades past thanks to “The Electric Company” and “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.” Adults smiled with rueful identification at his self-deprecating humor in his sitcoms, culminating in “The Cosby Show,” which was the top TV series in America for an astonishing eight years.

As a kid, Cosby lived in the projects of Philadelphia. At school, he was the class clown. But he took life seriously enough to pay his way through college on an athletic scholarship. He put in time in the Army, too, all the while honing his unique sense of humor. Cosby’s wide appeal has been seen as a powerful unifier. In a divisive era, he helps people remember all the things they have in common – and to laugh about it.

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter,” Cosby has said. “If you can find humor in anything – even poverty – you can survive it.” – Mary Kunz Goldman

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Bill Cosby — When: 8 p.m. Friday. Where: Kleinhans Music Hall. Tickets: $48-$80. Info: 885-5000.