No "friend" of Bill Cosby.
A protester interrupted the legendary comedian and sitcom star during his well-worn routine Friday night. The heckler demanded Cosby — who took the stage attired in his usual "HELLO FRIEND" sweatshirt — address the dozens of accusations of sexual assault, spanning decades, he's been publicly confronted with over the last six months.
According to the Baltimore City Paper, the voice from the crowd belonged to Michael M. Cook, who screamed, "38 women called you a rapist!" from the balcony of the Modell Performing Arts Center in Baltimore. His words set off a screaming match in the crowd, which Cosby attempted to quell by asking audience members to calm down.
"We are here," he said, "to enjoy my gift."
Watch the video of the protester calling out Cosby here.
Earlier in the day, Baltimore's WBAL reported on the charged protest scenes outside the theater before Cosby took the stage.
Over three dozen women have come forward to publicly accuse the comedian of sexual assault since the charges resurfaced in a comedy routine by Hannibal Buress in October. New allegations have continued to crop up, even on the day of the show, when two more women came forward.
The brouhaha ultimately subsided with Cook and other protesters being removed from the theater.
The Modell Center and Cosby's attorney Martin Singer were unavailable for comment.
A stunning fall. Though the show went on, the interruption was yet another reminder of the dramatic decline the now 77-year-old Cosby has suffered over the last year. Plans to bring Cosby back to primetime were shelved by NBC, while TV Land went so far as to pull reruns of The Cosby Show from the air. Even Cosby's 32-year tenure as a trustee of Temple University was canned. Stand-up shows have been canceled from Massachusetts to California. Those that have gone on, including on his current "Far From Finished," have faced low ticket sales and hecklers like Cook. Twitter has also been unkind as the controversy, along with the list of accusers, grew apace.
Increasingly, much of Cosby's audience appears to be there for the spectacle. His shows are now routinely accompanied by protesters outside the theater. According to the Washington Post, audience members in Baltimore were not even allowed to buy water bottles for fear that someone would hurl them at the stage.
Audience member Adrian Nicholson, a contractor, told the Post, "I came more for the notoriety and to see the hoopla. I wanted to see if there was going to be more support or more negativity."
Like the divide between those who go and those who protest, public opinion over whether it's still cool to laugh with Cosby are split. The sheer volume of women who have come forward — and Cosby's inscrutable denials — must be reckoned with. Still, Cosby has never been convicted of any sex crime, and what remains of his career has devolved into a proxy debate over the way society confronts allegations of sexual assault. By contrast, comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen has emerged mostly unscathed despite a graphic accusation; he is set to create a new series on Amazon.
The question, then, for the people who have laughed at Cobsy's jokes for decades, and those who continue to attend his shows despite the allegations, becomes more clear with the passing of each of ugly incident — Is this a man you can continue to support, with your voice and your wallet?
For Cosby, another, more ominous issue looms: How much longer can he go on petulantly dismissing these devastating allegations?