Bill Cosby warmly welcomed in Kitchener despite sex assault allegations

Comedian Bill Cosby, embroiled in controversy amid a growing spate of sexual assault allegations, was greeted tonight with applause and whoops of delight by fans at his first standup show of 2015 in Kitchener, Ont.

Comedian gets laughs from audience, but many fans tried to unload tickets before show

People protest at the Centre In The Square venue where Bill Cosby performed Wednesday in Kitchener, Ont. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Comedian Bill Cosby, embroiled in controversy amid a growing spate of sexual assault allegations, was greeted tonight with applause and whoops of delight by fans at his first standup show of 2015 in Kitchener, Ont.

Cosby, who promised fans who will be attending a trio of performances in Ontario this week "the show of their life," was "getting good laughs" from the audience after taking the stage at Kitchener's Centre in the Square at around 7:30 p.m. ET, reported CBC's Matthew Kang.

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As the show came to a close, Cosby had made no mention of the widespread allegations that have dogged him since November.

Cosby is also scheduled to perform at Budweiser Gardens in London on Thursday and at Hamilton Place Theatre on Friday.

A growing number of women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, with some of the accusations dating back decades. Cosby has denied the allegations through his lawyer and has never been criminally charged in connection with any of the claims.

While the 77-year-old comedian had previously warned his fans there might be disruptions from protesters who didn't want him to perform, none materialized. 

A woman protests against Bill Cosby, outside the Centre In The Square venue where the controversial comedian performed on Wednesday. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

A handful of protesters gathered outside Centre in the Square ahead of the show, with some heckling fans as they entered the venue, reported CBC's Deana Sumanac.

Running at the same time as the Cosby show, meanwhile, was an alternative fundraiser for sexual assault support groups at another Kitchener venue, Dallas nightclub. Organizers offered free admission to anyone coming to the $20 event with Cosby tickets.

Discount tickets available online

Many fans attempted to sell their tickets online ahead of the show at a reduced rate in light of the allegations against Cosby.

A search on Kijiji in Kitchener-Waterloo on Tuesday showed at least two full pages of private ads for Cosby tickets offered at a discount.

Aatif Baskanderi offered, at half price, the six tickets he bought for family members for $600, after he and his family decided they did not want to attend the show due to the sexual assault allegations against Cosby.

Aatif Baskanderi and five family members decided they could no longer attend Bill Cosby's performance in Kitchener, Ont., on Wednesday, given the number of serious allegations against him. (Matthew Kang/CBC)

Cosby, whose acting credits include having starred as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, has never been criminally charged in connection with any of the alleged sex assaults, and has consistently denied the allegations.

Baskanderi said he initially tried to get a refund on his tickets, but was denied by Centre in the Square.

"The thing that disappointed me was the justification of it," said Baskanderi. "The way they went against it was, 'Yeah, we understand, we also have concerns, but it's purely for financial reasons that we're not cancelling it.'"

'I don't buy it'

Alicia Hendley, a clinical psychologist from Guelph who has been closely following developments surrounding Cosby's Kitchener appearance, was both a big fan of Cosby's work and a victim of sexual assault when she was a teenager.

She said his eponymous sitcom was "incredibly important" to her. 

"To me, it was one of the best family sitcoms out there, that and Family Ties," said Hendley. "I remember even telling friends like, 'I mean my own dad is wonderful, but if I could pick a dad other than mine, it would be Dr. Huxtable.'"

American comedian Bill Cosby, seen performing in November in Florida, will perform three Ontario shows this week, including Kitchener tonight. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

She thinks Centre in the Square should have cancelled the show. She believes the community would have offered support through fundraising if the venue had called it off.

"I don't believe for a second people would have turned their backs on Centre in the Square," said Hendley, who did not purchase a ticket for Cosby's show. "I don't buy it. I just don't."

In a statement on its website, Centre in the Square said breaking the contract with the promoter, Innovation Arts and Entertainment, would have involved compensation for box office losses and show expenses, a refund of all tickets and paying back "any guarantee fee contracted to Mr. Cosby."

With files from The Associated Press


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