Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is saying that he plans to return to stand-up with a comedy tour slated for 2023.
Cosby, 85, was released from prison last year after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his criminal sex assault charge, ruling that Cosby should never have been prosecuted per an agreement he made with a district attorney.
The only written evidence of such a promise is a 2005 press release from then-prosecutor Bruce Castor, though his successors say it falls far short of a lifetime immunity agreement.
In 2018, Cosby became the first celebrity convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era for the drugging and molestation of Andrea Constand, a college sports administrator. He served three years before being released.
Cosby spoke publicly about his intention to return to the comedy circuit during a Dec. 28 radio interview with Scott Spears on WGH Talk. Spears asked the comedian if he intended to return to the stage in 2023, to which he responded “yes.”
“Yes, because there’s so much fun to be had in this storytelling that I do.”
Cosby seemed to reference his incarceration and legal battles during the interview, saying, “When we quote-unquote get out of this mess, I know who my enemies happen to be and I know why they are my enemies.”
“I respect people like you,” Cosby told Spears, “and others who have had a clear viewpoint of what has happened to me.
“When I come out of this, I feel that I will be able to perform and be the Bill Cosby that my audience, in person, knows me to be.”
Cosby’s representative, Andrew Wyatt, confirmed to Variety and ET that the comedian is “looking at spring/summer to start touring.”
Reactions on Twitter to Cosby’s intention to start touring were mostly negative.
Earlier this month, five women filed a new sexual assault lawsuit against Cosby under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. Two of the plaintiffs are actors who worked on The Cosby Show, Lili Bernard and Eden Tirl. The three other women are Jewel Gittens, Jeniffer Thomspon and Cindra Ladd.
Bernard, who played the role of Mrs. Minifield on The Cosby Show, said Cosby drugged and raped her on two occasions in 1990 and 1991. Tirl, who played a small role as a police officer on the show in 1989, alleges that Cosby inappropriately touched her without consent while in a dressing room.
Two of the other women, Gittens and Ladd, say that they were drugged and raped by Cosby. Thompson alleges Cosby touched her inappropriately without her consent when she was 18.
Cosby denied the allegations through a statement from his representatives.
“Mr. Cosby continues to vehemently deny all allegations waged against him and looks forward to defending himself in court.”
Cosby has faced dozens of similar accusations in recent years, with more than 50 women coming forward in 2014 and 2015 to say they had been assaulted by the now-disgraced television star.
Earlier this year, jurors at a civil trial found that Cosby sexually abused a 16-year-old girl at the Playboy Mansion in 1975.
The Los Angeles County jury delivered the verdict in favour of Judy Huth, who is now 64, and awarded her $500,000.
— With files from Global News’ Michelle Butterfield