Bill Cosby said he had a “wonderful time” and got a standing ovation from polite Canadian fans at his first show following a string of cancellations in the wake of sexual assault allegations from more than 15 women.
But outside, protesters braved below-freezing weather as ticket-holders streamed in and are likely to do so again at the second of three performances in Ontario.
Cosby’s show in Kitchener was his first since November when the entertainer saw at least 10 performances get cancelled on his North American tour.
Like his last show in Melbourne, Florida, on November 21 there were no disruptions during the performance and the crowd laughed throughout.
Wearing a jumper saying “hello friend”, Cosby climbed the stage decorated with two giant posters of him with Nelson Mandela.
“First of all thank you,” Cosby said to the audience before starting his routine with some cold weather jokes.
He left to a standing ovation that was somewhat slow to start.
“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 (Centre In The Square) and the event organisers that produced a spectacular show for the Kitchener Community,” Cosby said in a statement issued by his publicist following the show.
Some ticket-holders had said they would boycott the performance, and the 2,000-seat venue was about two-thirds full. Several police officers and private security guards were posted throughout.
Outside the Centre in the Square, more than a dozen protesters carried signs saying “rape is no joke”. Some shouted “shame on you” at fans. A few protesters blocked the doors of the venue until being asked to leave by security.
But fans defended Cosby as they arrived. “I’m sceptical of all the accusations,” said Gerald Reinink. “I always loved Cosby, good family humour.”