MELBOURNE, Fla./LOS ANGELES – Bill Cosby played a sold-out comedy show in Florida on Friday, despite a wave of sexual assault allegations last week that prompted the cancellation of several upcoming shows and two major studios to halt projects involving the comedian.
Cosby, 77, took the stage to a standing ovation and gave the audience a thumbs-up at the King Center in Melbourne. The 90-minute show concluded without incident.
Police patrolled the venue ahead of the show, while a handful of protesters joined some attendees outside the center. “I don’t want it reported that nobody cared,” said Julie LeMaitre, 47, who carried a sign that said, “Rape is no joke.”
Although the show was sold out, there were patches of empty seats, including eight in the center of the orchestra section. The show went ahead despite the cancellation of Cosby’s Las Vegas performance next week.
With NBC and Netflix also dropping projects with the comedian, the allegations have threatened Cosby’s public image and future in show business.
Still, many ticketholders said they had no qualms about attending the comedian’s performance. “It’s his personal life, and I don’t really care,” said Melbourne resident Russ McDonald, 62, a retired teacher.
Cosby has refused to address questions about the allegations as more women have come forward, saying he forced himself on them sexually, with some accusing him of drugging them first. The comedian has never been charged and his lawyers have said the assault claims were discredited and defamatory.