Comedian Bill Cosby received a standing ovation in Canada, at the end of his first live performance since November, despite protests outside the venue. The Cosby Show star personally thanked fans "for giving me the opportunity to bring laughter back into your lives". He told the Ontario audience he had had "a wonderful time". The 77-year-old has been accused by at least 15 women of sexual assault dating back to the '70s and '80s. Three more victims came forward on Wednesday.
Cosby's lawyer made no immediate response to the latest accusations. The star, who has not been charged, has denied previous claims, calling them "fantastical" and "uncorroborated". The comedian's show in Kitchener, Ontario was the first of a three-date tour in Canada. More than a dozen protestors gathered outside the Centre in the Square on Wednesday with placards stating 'rape is no joke'. Some barred the entrance to the venue, before being asked to move by security.
The crowd outside the venue carried signs including 'Rape is no joke'. Some ticket-holders had said they would boycott the performance. The 2,000-seat venue was about two-thirds full. Fans attending the show told reporters they were sceptical of the accusations: "Why are 20 women coming out now when it's 20, 30 years ago?" said one. "Innocent until proven guilty. I'm hoping it's not true and until I know, otherwise I love him to death," said another. At the show: Micah Luxen, BBC News
The sweatshirt draped on his chair read Hello Friend. His oversized shirt read the same. He was the Bill Cosby the crowd knew from decades of feel good entertainment. He made faces, and jokes that were laugh-out-loud funny - talking for the most part about his family relationships.
After a standing ovation, one audience member told the BBC, the show was everything he hoped it would be. But outside, it was bitterly cold. Protestor Aaron Cornish told the BBC that Cosby "can't hide from the 27 women" who have come forward by using "publicity and fames and jokes". "People going inside are ignoring that," he said. The actor is scheduled to appear at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario on Thursday and at the Hamilton Place Theatre, Hamilton on Friday.
Ten dates on his North American stand-up tour, as well as some scheduled TV appearances, were cancelled following the initial allegations which surfaced last autumn. He last appeared in Melbourne, Florida on 21 November 2014. Cosby has denied previous allegations, calling them "fantastical" and "uncorroborated". In a statement released after the Ontario show, Cosby said: "Dear Fans: I would like to personally thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring laughter back into your lives tonight. Also, I would like to applaud all of you and give you a standing ovation for respecting yourselves, the theatre and the event organisers that produced a spectacular show for the Kitchener Community."
Cosby became the quintessential American Dad in his role as Dr Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, which was a huge hit in the US and around the globe. His screen wife in the show, Phylicia Rashad, has said allegations of historical sex offences against her former co-star are part of a campaign to keep him off TV.