MELBOURNE, Fla. -- Bill Cosby commented Friday on the growing accusations of rape and sexual assault that have derailed his career comeback and crumbled his tour schedule in an interview with a Florida newspaper.
"I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos," the comedian told Florida Today. "People should fact check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos."
After giving the backstage interview, Cosby regained the revered status he long enjoyed, for 90 minutes at least.
The show in Melbourne, Florida, might have seemed destined for disaster for the comedian. What he got, though, was an adoring audience that laughed so hard they slapped their knees, shouted love at the stage and rose to their feet as he came and went.
"I think people went in there with him as Bill Cosby from the TV show," said Travis Weberling, 40, of Melbourne, "not the guy they heard about on the news."
The 2,000-seat theater beefed up security and announcements before Cosby took the stage warned a disturbance was possible - radio hosts had even offered cash and prizes to anyone who made it happen.
Cosby addressed the radio hosts' offers in the Florida Today interview.
"These people are prodding and pushing people and asking people to have a frat house mentality," Cosby said. "Now suppose someone brings a weapon or decided to do more foolishness. There will be announcements made and the stations made some disclaimers, but what if people don't listen to what they said and they entice violence. That's not good for anyone."
Reporters swarmed the venue. But, in the end, just one protester stood outside, holding a sign that read, "Rape is no joke."
What remained to be seen was whether the evening marked a turning point for a beloved television father, or simply a momentary reprieve. It did nothing to immediately change the fact that Cosby's projects have been nixed and stalled, performances have been canceled across the country and women continue to come forward accusing him of serious crimes.
Cosby has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations.
Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, said the accusations had "escalated far past the point of absurdity," dismissing them as "fantastical," ''unsubstantiated" and "uncorroborated."
"When will it end?" he asked. "It is long past time for this media vilification of Mr. Cosby to stop."
And, throughout the audience, his fans agreed.
They talked of watching him on TV as a child, and of his albums becoming familiar friends when the moved to unfamiliar, faraway towns. They brushed off the accusations, howling at everything he uttered.
When he took the stage at the Maxwell C. King Center For The Performing Arts, they stood and hollered, and he returned a thumbs-up. Only a smattering of empty seats were seen. Cosby wore cargo pants and a shirt that said "Hello Friend" and never once ventured in the realm of controversy. His 90-minute set wandered from a childhood fear of God to the loss of freedom in marriage to the rocket-speed Spanish of a piñata-store worker.
He sat for much at the start of the show, then grew increasingly physical, impersonating jujitsu and gymnastics poses, laying on the floor in stocking feet and thrusting a fist upward in a gesture of battling the everyday oppression of living with a wife. And when it was over, he said "good night," walking off as the audience again stood.
The most impassioned of his fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Judith Stone traveled from Madison, West Virginia, for the show, deeming it "absolutely fantastic" and grateful no one interrupted.
"I think he will leave with a very positive attitude," she said.
CBS News reported this story.