Years before a deluge of women started speaking out about Bill Cosby’s behavior off-screen, the then-beloved comedian revealed that there were some things he didn’t find particularly funny — specifically, the web series “House of Cosbys,” an absurdist animated series created by a young Justin Roiland.
Originally produced in 2005, “House of Cosbys” was one of the first major successes for Channel 101, the screening series/digital platform created by Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab. “Channel 101” featured a number of comedy stars, including Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, and The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone – while also leading to the collaboration between Harmon and Roiland that would eventually give birth to “Rick and Morty.”
It also, however, attracted the ire of Cosby, who for some reason didn’t see the humor in the show. “Cosbys” focused on Mitchell (voiced by Jeff B. Davis, who would later join the cast of “Rick and Morty”), a young man who just wanted to make, per the opening credits song, “a house of Cosbys.”
The resulting Cosby clones did not lead to Mitchell capturing the feel-good family spirit of “The Cosby Show,” mostly because each clone emerged from Mitchell’s cloning machine with their own odd traits, none of which led to wholesome viewing.
“House of Cosbys” lasted for four episodes before Roiland and Channel 101 were served with a cease-and-desist order by Cosby’s attorneys (despite the fact that Cosby is a public figure, and the series clearly exists in the realm of satire).
A fifth episode, addressing the cease-and-desist order, was produced by, according to its credits, Eric Falconer, Chris Romano, and Chester Tam; you can find it on YouTube, but it’s profane enough that we won’t post the link here.
Roiland once again went back to the Cosby well for “Kosbees,” an animated short initially produced for “Acceptable TV,” Harmon and Schrab’s attempt to bring the Channel 101 sensibility to VH1. Shockingly, the series didn’t work out, as the unique sensibility of Harmon and Schrab failed to translate, but Roiland’s short is an enjoyable riff on his past legal issues with Cosby as well as the “Gremlins” film franchise.
Harmon and Roiland, in the years since, have created a real hit with “Rick and Morty.” But when you watch “House of Cosbys,” the early roots of its genius are clear. While “Rick and Morty” is a much more complex sci-fi satire, the irreverence of “Cosbys” is a direct stepping stone to the animated series that redefined what we thought TV animation could do.