Bill Cosby gets ovation after Florida comedy show

Bill Cosby gets ovation after Florida comedy show
Actor Bill Cosby performs before a welcoming audience at the King Center for the Performing Arts on Friday evening in Melbourne, Fla. (Gerardo Mora / Getty Images)

Bill Cosby walked off-stage Friday night the same way he came on -- to enthusiastic cheers and a rousing ovation.

The reception to the legendary comedian's 90-minute performance at a central Florida theater was in marked contrast to much of the national mood about Cosby, who took the stage in spite of a withering series of renewed allegations of sexual assault.


Although there was heightened security at the venue -- the 2,000-seat Maxwell King Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of a local college -- there were no protests or hecklers. And Cosby's set did not acknowledge or address the controversy that has threatened to destroy the entertainer's legacy as one of TV's most beloved figures.

The closest any moment came to nodding to his current circumstance occurred when a female fan screamed from the balcony, "We love you, Bill Cosby." He raised his fist in solidarity, and the crowd went wild.

In his set, the 77-year-old comedian worked a range of family material, flashing back to his youth and offering glimpses into his grandfatherly present. He described how as a child he exacted revenge on his brother by pretending to slay his brother's invisible friend, and did a long physical bit in which he reenacted a floor exercise that he performed more recently over the objections of his wife. It ended with the punch-line, from his wife, of "I said I want a divorce."

Much of Cosby's material centered on his trademark male cluelessness in the face of a kind of no-nonsense female wisdom. "They own us," he said at the end of one bit. In another, he noted, "The longer you stay in a marriage the more you just want to be heard. 'Can I please say one thing?' It's like talking to a parole officer."

The crowd was roaring and clapping throughout, and even the police officers stationed inside the theater seemed to be enjoying the set.

When the performance ended, the audience streamed into the parking lot reveling in and recounting the jokes. Nearly a dozen fans, men and women, said that they doubted the allegations and saw Cosby as a victim, and even those who were troubled by the claims did not feel like the allegations interfered with their enjoyment of the performance.

Doug Carson, a real estate agent who lives nearby, said the claims of sexual assault did give him pause earlier in the week, but those concerns fell away at the start of the show. "It was classic Cosby," he said. "When you're in the room and laughing none of that matters."

Earlier in the evening, Cosby was welcomed with a standing ovation, which he acknowledged by flashing a thumbs up.

The beginning of his routine, which he delivered sitting down next to a small table, revolved around bits about a religious relay race, churchgoing and drink-swilling relatives. The audience laughed and clapped appreciatively.

The performance was being held as accusations continue to mount against Cosby. A Florida nurse named Therese Serignese became one of the latest to level allegations against Cosby, claiming that the entertainer had drugged and sexually assaulted her in Las Vegas in 1976. In an interview with the Huffington Post, she said Cosby was "lying" and asked him to apologize.

At least half a dozen women, including bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno's wife, Carla, and the model Janice Dickinson, have stepped forward in recent weeks accusing the star of sexual assault.

Cosby's legal representatives have vigorously denied the accusations. Attorney Martin Singer released a statement Friday evening denouncing the latest claims against his client.

"The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity," Singer wrote.

"Over and over again, we have refuted these new unsubstantiated stories with documentary evidence, only to have a new uncorroborated story crop up out of the woodwork. When will it end? It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop. "


On Friday, the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas also said it and Cosby had decided by "mutual agreement" to scrap plans for a show Nov. 28 as a result of the accusations.

New video also surfaced of an AP interview on Nov. 6 in which Cosby repeatedly called upon a reporter's "integrity" not to ask about the allegations and then not to show the portion of the interview in which the question was asked; the news organization opted to release the footage anyway.

Hollywood continues to react strongly to the accusations. Netflix has postponed a planned special with the comedian, NBC has scuttled the development of a planned sitcom, and TV Land has pulled all reruns of "The Cosby Show."

Twitter: @zeitchiklat