Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby is eyeing a return to performing in 2023, despite recent accusations of sexual assault from multiple women.
In a 15-minute interview with Marion, Ohio, internet radio station WWGH, the 85-year-old said he feels like he'll be able to "perform and be the 'Bill Cosby' that my audience, in-person, knows me to be."
When host Scott Spears asked whether 2023 would be the year for Cosby's return, the comic said, "Yes. Yes, because there's so much fun to be had in this storytelling that I do."
Once known as "America's Dad," Cosby has been eyeing a return to comedy since the days leading up to his 2018 sexual assault trial in Pennsylvania. He has long maintained his innocence.
Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former university basketball official, at his mansion near Philadelphia in 2004. More than 50 other women had also accused Cosby of a similar pattern of drugging and assaulting them.
However, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court overturned Cosby's conviction in 2021 due to an earlier nonprosecution agreement. In 2005, Bruce Castor, a former district attorney in Montgomery County, promised he would not prosecute Cosby, in hopes of getting the comedian to testify in a civil trial around a sexual assault lawsuit filed by Constand. The Pennsylvania court ruled that prosecutors in the 2018 case must honor the previous promise. The rare reversal meant Cosby was freed from prison.
Within months of his release in 2021, Cosby appeared on the same WWGH online radio show, where he told Spears he would consider a return to performing based on feedback and response from audiences.
Since then, Cosby has continued to face additional sexual assault accusations from other women. This last June, a civil jury in Santa Monica decided Cosby was liable for sexually abusing a teenage Judy Huth at the Playboy Mansion in the mid-1970s, He was ordered to pay Huth $500,000.
In her civil lawsuit, filed in 2014, Huth accused Cosby of giving her alcohol and taking her to the Playboy Mansion in 1975, when she was 16. Huth said Cosby, who was in his late 30s at the time, attempted to put his hand down her pants. After she told him she was on her period, he put her hand on his erect penis and used it to masturbate, she said. Huth said she didn't give him consent.
Earlier this month, five women — including “Cosby Show” actors Lili Bernard and Eden Tirl — filed a separate sexual assault lawsuit against Cosby and NBCUniversal Media, Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Carsey-Werner Co., which together ran the show from 1984 to 1992.
The 34-page lawsuit details multiple, separate instances of alleged rape and drugging by Cosby throughout the 1960s and into the ’90s. Several of the defendants alleged that Cosby had placed an “intoxicant” in their beverages and raped them. The allegations were consistent with those by women who had previously spoken out against Cosby.
The suit — filed under New York’s new Adult Survivors Act, which gives survivors of sexual assault one year to sue their alleged abusers, even if the statute of limitations has expired — alleges that Cosby threatened to “blacklist” one of the plaintiffs if she resisted his forceful sexual advances or spoke out against his behavior.
During Wednesday's interview, radio host Spears avoided conversation about Cosby's legal cases or the latest accusations against him, instead asking questions about the holidays with family, education, technology and new year's resolutions.
When addressing his desire to return to comedy, Cosby alluded to his continued legal issues, saying that he has felt "respect" from his friends, family and Spears, for "what I have tried to do and will continue to do when we, quote-unquote, get out of this mess."
One caller who phoned in after the interview voiced displeasure with the show's decision to host Cosby. The caller was at first confused about the comedian's release from prison, asking, "Was he the one spiking those ladies drinks and raping them?"
"That was the accusation," Spears responded. "You know, I don't think we ever know what is true and what is false."
The host went on to clarify that Cosby had been released in 2021.
"Before, when you've had him on, I turn him off," the caller said. "It's like [Jeffrey] Epstein and [Harvey] Weinstein ... When they do that, I don't listen. I don't give ’em a platform, ’cause if you do something like that ... I have no interest in it, there's nothing I want to hear from him."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.