Cosby jokes in 1st show since 2015 he ‘used to be’ co­me­dian

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL SISAK

PHILADEL­PHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby per­formed in pub­lic for the first time since a sex abuse scan­dal em­broiled him in 2015, jok­ing that he “used to be a co­me­dian” and play­ing with a jazz band in his home­town as a re­trial looms in his crim­i­nal sex­ual as­sault case.

The 80-year-old en­ter­tainer took the stage for about an hour Mon­day night at a Philadel­phia jazz club for his first show since May 2015. Be­fore a friendly crowd, he told sto­ries, hon­ored old friends and fin­ished by leading the band in a set, first us­ing his mouth to scat in place of a miss­ing horn sec­tion and then tak­ing a turn at the drums.

Cosby, hand­ing the drum­sticks off to the bass player’s 11-year-old son, asked if the boy knew who he was and then told him.

“I used to be a co­me­dian,” Cosby dead­panned.

Cosby rem­i­nisced about his child­hood, telling the crowd about how when he was four he grilled a rel­a­tive about the im­pend­ing birth of his brother. He mim­icked his Un­cle Wil­liam, who took a swig from a cock­tail be­fore an­swer­ing ev­ery ques­tion — in­clud­ing whether a stork was re­ally de­liv­er­ing the baby to his par­ents.

Af­ter­ward, Cosby nearly dropped a glass jar he was us­ing as a prop, prompt­ing a “Whoa!” from the crowd.

Cosby, who’s legally blind, seized on the mo­ment.

“Let me tell you some­thing about peo­ple talk­ing to blind peo­ple, you sighted peo­ple,” Cosby said. “If you see a blind per­son walk­ing into a pole or some­thing, if you speak perfect English, there’s a word called ‘Stop!’ Not ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!’

“You laugh when blind peo­ple walk into things,” he con­tin­ued. “And guess what: Blind peo­ple laugh when sighted peo­ple fall down!”

Cosby ar­rived at the jazz club on the arm of his spokesman, Andrew Wy­att. He wore a gray hoodie bear­ing the phrase “Hello Friend,” some­thing his late son, En­nis Cosby, of­ten would say.

He posed for pho­tos with friends, in­clud­ing a cou­ple he hon­ored at the start of his set. They all grew up in the same pub­lic hous­ing com­plex.

Cosby said he de­cided to make his re­turn to the stage be­cause of his friends.

“I came here tonight to en­joy be­ing with my friends and the mu­si­cians and the peo­ple who came,” he said after the show.

He de­clined to dis­cuss his up­com­ing re­trial in a sex­ual as­sault case.

Dur­ing the show, the re­cep­tive crowd ap­plauded and laughed along with Cosby’s jokes, a far cry from how his last per­for­mances went. His last com­edy tour ended amid protests as about 60 women were com­ing for­ward to ac­cuse him of drug­ging and mo­lest­ing them over five decades, some­thing he has de­nied.

Cosby is sched­uled for an April 2 re­trial on charges he drugged and mo­lested a woman at his sub­ur­ban Philadel­phia home in 2004. He has pleaded not guilty and re­mains free on bail. His first trial ended with a hung jury last year. Jury se­lec­tion for his re­trial will start March 29.

Cosby’s spokesman no­ti­fied re­porters of the com­edy per­for­mance about two hours be­fore he was to take the stage at the LaRose Jazz Club. The show was part of a pro­gram hon­or­ing jazz mu­si­cian Tony Wil­liams.

Out­side the jazz club there was one pro­tester, a woman who fre­quently hounded Cosby at his trial last year. She played He­len Reddy’s song “I Am Woman” on a loop and held up a sign that said, “Per­se­ver­ance to all sur­vivors.”

The jazz club per­for­mance is Cosby’s lat­est step back into the spot­light he’s mostly shied from since his De­cem­ber 2015 ar­rest.

Two weeks ago, Cosby in­vited re­porters to tag along as he ate din­ner with old friends at a Philadel­phia res­tau­rant.

Over the week­end, Cosby’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts fea­tured pho­tos of him vis­it­ing a bar­ber and a cafe in the area and show­ing sup­port for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, who won Sun­day’s NFC Cham­pi­onship game against the Min­nesota Vik­ings and se­cured a spot in the Su­per Bowl.

PHO­TOS COURTESY OF YOUTUBE.COM

AWAIT­ING RE­TRIAL: Bill Cosby per­formed at a Philadel­phia jazz club.

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