The nerves about Bill Cosby’s appearance in Lafayette were beginning to show when, shortly before 8 p.m. Friday, this announcement was made before his performance: “Dear patrons: We have been advised that there may be attempts to disrupt tonight’s performance. If a disruption occurs, please remain calm until the matter is resolved and do not confront the person making the disruption.”
Nevertheless, Cosby, 77, walked on the Heymann Center stage shortly after 8 p.m. to loud cheers.
“Now wait a minute,” he said. “Somebody here said, ‘Bill Cosby.’ Is that what you said? Why did you say it? Nobody else is coming.”
Despite the P.A. announcement about possible disruptions, no disruptions were heard during the first 45 minutes of the show, as Cosby moved easily from topics such as old age, the Bible’s story of Adam and Eve and marriage.
Cosby’s only Louisiana appearance in his comedy tour was far from a sellout.
About a third of the venue’s 2,320 seats, mostly in the balcony sections, were still available Friday afternoon, and some were buying tickets at the box office Friday evening.
More than a dozen fans — and no protesters — lined up outside the Heymann Performing Arts Center about 15 minutes before the doors opened at 7 p.m.
Don and Freida Alleman said they bought tickets more than a year ago and lauded the 77-year-old comedian for being both intelligent and hilarious.
“We may never get to see him again. He’s getting old,” Don Alleman said.
The married couple from Crowley — who said they recorded episodes of “The Cosby Show” until it recently went off the air — was never swayed about the controversy surrounding the slew of sexual assault allegations lodged against Cosby in recent months, he added.
“That’s his business,” Don Alleman said. “He’s innocent until proven guilty.”
Another couple said they debated whether to attend the show after their daughter offered them her tickets.
“If I’d have had to buy the tickets, I wouldn’t have come,” said the woman, who — along with her husband — declined to be identified.
“And he’s never been charged,” the husband chimed in.
A handful of attendees declined interviews, including one Cosby fan who, as he walked toward the entrance, said, “I’m glad we have tickets. He’s the man!”
Although Cosby’s public relations firm issued a statement this week on his behalf, thanking Lafayette for the support, the message fails to overshadow the reason it was delivered.
More than 25 women since November have come forward with allegations Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them in the past, and that’s in addition to 14 women who claimed the same in a 2006 civil suit that was settled out of court.
Since then, a planned NBC series and Netflix stand-up special starring the comedian were canceled, and 16 of his tour dates have been canceled or postponed. But most of Cosby’s shows had already happened by the time the controversy ignited in the media.
A CNN report cited numbers from concert publication PollStar, which showed Cosby’s tour had $10.8 million in ticket sales over 101 shows in 2014, averaging about 2,200 per venue at about $57 each.
His remaining tour dates are not available on his website, but tickets are available on Ticketmaster for five more shows this year. The next is Saturday at the William B. Bell Auditorium in Augusta, Georgia.
Ebony Tucker, executive director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, said those who organize and buy tickets to Cosby’s shows should consider the seriousness of the alleged victims’ accusations.
“We would also caution the public against victim-blaming in this matter,” she said.
Tucker also urged Cosby’s fans to consider him separate from his public persona, which includes his eight-year run as a warm, funny dad on “The Cosby Show.”
The sitcom explored family life for an affluent black family in Brooklyn, New York. His character, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, was an obstetrician.
Advocate staff writer John Wirt contributed to this report.