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 11-year-old son of the bass player, asked if the boy knew who he was and then told him.
“I used to be a comedian,” Cosby deadpanned.
The 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 arrived at the jazz club on the arm of his spokesman Andrew Wyatt. He wore a gray hoodie printed with the phrase “Hello Friend,” something his late son, Ennis Cosby, often would say.
He 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.
The 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.