Last night—after months of allowing his lawyers, family members, and fictional wives to speak for him, demanding that the media be “neutral” by not asking him difficult questions, and maintaining that he “does not intend to dignify” the accusations against him—Bill Cosby made his first public acknowledgment of those charges, dignifying them with a joke in his comedy show. After all, if we can’t laugh at ourselves and our two-dozen allegations of sexual assault, who can we laugh at?
Cosby was performing his second of two shows in London, Ontario when, according to numerous reports, a woman stood up in the front row mid-set. When Cosby asked her where she was going, she replied that she was going to get a drink, then offered to get Cosby one as well. Cosby declined, saying he already a bottle of water. Ever one to seize an opportunity, Cosby then offered this droll riposte, as captured by National Post reporter Richard Warnica:
Some other attendees seem to suspect that the woman was a heckler, or that the exchange—which Cosby initiated—was some kind of set-up. If so, it went over great!
What was definitely not expected, at least to those who haven’t bothered to read the news lately, was the man who twice disrupted Cosby’s show, without Cosby having another zinger ready to go. When that man yelled out, “We don’t love you!” early on, Cosby reportedly replied, “Okay,” then simply carried on with his routine. But later, the same man leapt up and yelled, “You are a rapist!” As captured on video, the audience began to boo, at which point Cosby stood and told them to ignore it, in a scene that could double as a dramatic interpretation of the past two decades or so.
“No, no, stop,” Cosby said, hushing the disquieted crowd. “Shhhh. That’s all right. Patience.”
As it has for him off stage, simply calling for silence and waiting it out worked: Security came and escorted the man to the exit, to grateful applause. Later that man was surrounded by six police officers and, reportedly, detained for failing to show ID.
Security at the Budweiser Gardens center was predictably heightened, with Warnica and others saying that ushers had been “cracking down” on phone usage, while the CBC reported that the venue strictly enforced a “zero electronics policy.” Some even said they’d been ejected and detained themselves for attempting to document the show.
Meanwhile, venue staff handed every ticketholder a slip on their way in, warning them that any disruptions would not be tolerated.
The venue had reason to worry, of course: Between 100 and 200 protestors had gathered outside the venue to hold placards and shout, “Shame!” and chant, “Bill Cosby is a rapist!” at attendees.
They also distributed their own warning slips, each of these containing the name of one of Bill Cosby’s accusers.
Amid all that tension—and after the part where the man accused of multiple rapes made a joke about those rapes—Bill Cosby received his second standing ovation of the night. Exiting fans also seemed to single out that bit as pretty funny, leading to the not entirely revelatory conclusion that attendees of a Bill Cosby concert at this point don’t really see anything wrong here.
As always, Cosby himself was more than able to ignore any protest: He issued a statement through his publicist that read, “One outburst but over 2600 loyal, patient, and courageous fans enjoyed the most wonderful medicine that exist [sic] for human-kind. Laughter. I thank you… I’m Far From Finished.” Cosby has one more Ontario show scheduled for tonight, though it seems unlikely he’ll break out any more rape-related quips. Cosby prefers to work with the element of surprise.