"Somebody said 'I'm either flippin' burgers or sellin' some drugs,"' said Cosby, echoing a common complaint of young people in poor communities. "But people flippin' burgers never seem to say 'I want to be the manager of the burger place."'
Cosby's visit to Compton High School Wednesday, where he spoke to several gatherings of students, parents and teachers, is part of a 15-city tour he hopes will bring a message of hope and self-improvement to the black community.
Cosby, 68, accused young black people of squandering the civil rights accomplishments of the 1950s and '60s.
"These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Cosby said of today's youth.
"I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," he added in his talk last May.
Cosby's message Wednesday was warmly received by many, including Lamiya Patrick, a 16-year-old Compton High School sophomore, who said the comedian proved anyone could make something of themselves if they tried.
Cosby, who grew up in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood, left high school in the 10th grade but went on to earn a doctorate in education and to succeed in movies, television and nightclubs.
"We can relate in Compton because there are a lot of broken homes. ... It doesn't mean you can't succeed," said Patrick.
Some, though, resented the visit.
"There's no reason for him to come here and jump on black men who have been held down for years," said Daima White, a 77-year-old retired nurse and mother of five.