Comedian Bill Cosby performs at the Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts in Melbourne, Florida, on Nov. 21.
MELBOURNE, Florida — "We love you, Bill Cosby," yelled a woman at the 77-year-old comedian's sold-out show at the King Center for the Performing Arts on Friday night.
With extra security guarding every exit, the positive affirmation was the only interruption during Cosby's 90 minute performance. The hecklers were absent inside the venue, even though a local radio station earlier in the day encouraged attendees to taunt Cosby about the escalating sexual assault allegations being made against him.
The relatively tame show ended just as it had begun, with a standing ovation that lasted more than 30 seconds. Cosby charmed audience members — some of whom were surrounded by empty seats despite the venue claiming the show sold out — with relatable family-friendly humor peppered with just a few tinges of subtle yet awkward adult references.
Outside King Center, though, just before the show started, protestor Julie Lemaitre attracted some attention while holding a sign emblazoned with, "RAPE IS NO JOKE."
She was one of only two protesters who demonstrated their anger.
Melbourne resident Rob Tinsley, 58, whose brother turned down a ticket because of the sexual misconduct allegations, praised Cosby's humor and vivid expressions.
"Bill tells everyday stories that we all go through in a way that's very funny," Tinsley said, adding that he wasn't surprised about the two standing ovations.
"A great entertainer can block out everything. It's sad to hear what's happening, but tonight he was clean and family-oriented."
Cosby, who gave a thumbs up during the crowd's first standing ovation at the beginning of the show, primarily stuck to childhood stories about 9th-grade athletics, his mom's pregnancy and sibling rivalries — all while wearing a sweater that said "HELLO FRIEND" on it. It's a reference to the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby foundation, which is named after his son who was fatally shot in 1997.
Cosby prefaced one story by saying he's a "mature husband, father and grandfather" before offering to give advice to young guys in the audience. At one point, he said "I want all of you men to know that I said, 'Listen, woman!'" before continuing a joke about his wife.
Leading up to Friday, some local residents had criticized the venue for not canceling Cosby's appearance amid the growing number of sexual assault allegations Cosby is facing from multiple women who are just now coming forward. Venues in Nevada, Illinois, Arizona, South Carolina and Washington have all recently canceled Cosby appearances.
He didn't mention the allegations during the show, even as TV networks have begun distancing themselves. TVLand said it would no longer air reruns of The Cosby Show, NBC halted development on of a Cosby sitcom, and Netflix postponed a comedy special.
But in an exclusive interview before his show, Cosby told county outlet Florida Today why he's been mum: "I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos."
While Cosby was busy performing, his attorney Martin Singer released this statement:
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. These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years. Lawsuits are filed against people in the public eye every day. There has never been a shortage of lawyers willing to represent people with claims against rich, powerful men, so it makes no sense that not one of these new women who just came forward for the first time now ever asserted a legal claim back at the time they allege they had been sexually assaulted. The situation is an unprecedented example of the media's breakneck rush to run stories without any corroboration or adherence to traditional journalistic standards. 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's long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop.
Among the newer allegations is one from model and TV host Janice Dickinson, who during an interview on Entertainment Tonight said Cosby attacked her three decades ago.
Mash was in attendance Friday and live-tweeted the show:
Announcer at Bill Cosby show: "If a disruption occurs, please stay calm until the disruption is resolved." About this http://t.co/vTkn90fHJB
The stage is set for Bill Cosby's 7:30 comedy show in Melbourne. Still plenty of empty seats for this sold-out show. pic.twitter.com/cq2IjGB9wC
Bill Cosby's show starts with a standing ovation as he walks onstage. His response: a thumbs-up while wearing a "HELLO FRIEND" sweater.
Bill Cosby's jokes so far are tame compared to what I'm used to hearing. Topics: 9th grade athletics, his parents & church. Lively delivery.
Awkward. "All of the women went crazy about a thing called high balls. HIGH BALLS" ~ Bill Cosby on childhood dinnerspic.twitter.com/JgAboAEaJ0
Bill Cosby is stuck on childhood stories: Pregnant mom. Storks. Sibling rivalries. Audience loves it. Crowd is mainly parents & grandparents
Bill Cosby prefaces a story saying he's a "mature husband, father and grandfather," then offers to give advice to young guys in the audience
For context about this Bill Cosby show: Melbourne, southeast of Orlando, has about 75,000 people. Crowd here is mainly white & older than 30
A woman just yelled "We love you, Bill Cosby" an hour and 15 minutes into the show. Still no hecklers. Extra security/police all around.
Bill Cosby told an entire exercise joke while lying on the ground. Now he's talking about a bed and his wife and IDK pic.twitter.com/PE4SrUmIiW
Hmm. Bill Cosby just said "I want all of you men to know that I said, 'Listen, woman!'" before continuing a joke about his wife.
Ew. Now Bill Cosby is talking about his butthole, which he calls "orifice" with "soft tissue." Farting incident. pic.twitter.com/NhzEsYiBkl
"They own us," Bill Cosby said about wives/women after ending a bedroom fart joke where his wife jokingly said she wanted a divorce.
Bill Cosby's show ended just like it had begun, with a standing ovation that lasted more than 30 seconds. Surprised? Full story to come.
Cosby has more than two dozen scheduled shows left on his comedy tour, though more could get canceled amid mounting allegations, none of which he has ever been charged.
The buzz about some of Cosby's decades-old allegations resurfaced when a video from comedian Hannibal Buress gained steam online. In it, Buress said Cosby "raped women."
Tags: BILL COSBY, CONVERSATIONS, ENTERTAINMENT, TELEVISION, U.S.