Not so funny man
Michael Richards and friend do standup
"Kramer's" Racist Tirade -- Caught on Tape
Posted Nov 20th 2006 8:30AM by TMZ Staff
Filed under: Train Wrecks
Michael Richards at the Laugh FactoryWARNING: WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE IS PROFANE AND RACIAL
Michael Richards, who played the wacky Cosmo Kramer on the hit TV show "Seinfeld," appeared onstage at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. Kyle Doss, an African-American, told TMZ he and some friends were in the cheap seats and he was playfully heckling Richards when suddenly, the comedian lost it.
The camera started rolling just as Richards began his attack, screaming at one of the men, "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass."
Richards continued, "You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger! He's a nigger! He's a nigger! A nigger, look, there's a nigger!"
One of the men who was the object of Richard's tirade was outraged, shouting back "That's un-f***ing called for, ain't necessary."
After the three-minute tirade, it appears the majority of the audience members got up and left in disgust.
He can't handle a heckler? So he launches into an obscene racial tirade which calls for murdering someone.
His apology with the help of Jerry Seinfeld sucked as well.
Well, he won't have to worry about working for a while. He's lucky he didn't get his ass kicked on the stage. Did he think the audience was on his side?
Update: Lower Manahattanite shares his feeling on the subject
I knew this was something really bad when I got up this morning and my writing partner in L.A. was up e-mailing me about it--at 9:30 a.m. my time--6:30 Pacific. I've never heard from him that early in the day Pacific time.
Then a producer friend sent me the TMZ link a few minutes later. Before I knew it, I'd gotten about six or seven e-mails with variations on "Well...at least it's out in the open", or "Most people just THINK it" in the subject line.
Have f*cking mercy.
Before going on about this, in full disclosure, I've written comedy--for television, for radio and independent film. I've performed comedy on TV and the stage--before some of the most legendarily rough audiences you've heard about. I've written stand-up--for others. And for several years had as part of my job the duty of seeing maybe 400 different stand-ups up and down the eastern seaboard to vet them before going on the TV projects I worked on. I'm something of a student of comedy and its history and can count among my friends several comics. I can appreciate Dusty Fletcher's classic "Open The Door, Richard" routine and Patton Oswalt's rip on NPR vs. Conservative Talk Radio, so I consider myself pretty open-minded on the parameters of comedy.
Okay. Now. That said, let's just break it down into the simplest bits possible, shall we? Richards' wig-out wasn't comedy. It was a frustrated, ill-equipped comedic oddball who got lucky in being cast on a TV juggernaut, having been forced back into playing these clubs due to his inablity to transcend a role--or his limits having been exposed by said role, freaking out and going for the jugular of hecklers when he found himself floundering. The dude's a f*cking failure beyond one charitable and lengthy dance with serendipity. And up on that stage, when he couldn't handle something that EVERY COMEDIAN WORTH A F*CKING DAMN KNOWS WILL HAPPEN MULTIPLE TIMES IN HIS PERFORMING CAREER, went totally "nuclear" in his comeback. Unfortunately, "nuclear" war is usually...a doomsday proposition, ending with both sides blown the f*ck up. And that's what he did here.
Comedians have lines they use for hecklers. Richard Pryor destroyed many a heckler--in character often. Robin Williams f*cking verbally drowns his antagonizers. I heard Chris Rock years ago stun a heckler into silence with a forlorn look heavenward while asking "WHY didn't I wear a sc*mbag when I f*cked this dude's mama twenty years ago? Damn!"
Or you trot out the old stand-by, "Hey, take it easy...little respect. I don't come down to your job and:
a.) Slap the d*ck outta your mouth in the bus station bathroom when you're givin' blowjobs.
b.) Interrupt you and your mom's live sex act at the peep show.
Or some such variation thereof. What so-called professional comedian or person familiar with stand-up comedy doesn't have an idea of how to deal with something as common to the game as hecklers? What he did wasn't satire, alá Sam Kinison--who could really push the envelope while being ironic, or heady wordplay like George Carlin, or even wild performance art in the Andy Kaufman mode. Richards bugged out. And bugged out on the whackdoodle racist tip because he couldn't cope and had nothing in his arsenal but the ultimate weapon against somebody who got to him. Is he a racist? I dunno. I do know, and everybody on earth now knows that racist thoughts evidently bubble up real easy in him, so that speaks volumes. Really.
And let's get a few things clear here for his defenders and apologists--f*ck the Def Jam, Pryor, and Gangsta Rap comparisons. This is a dodge from the real issue and an attempt to obfuscate and give lame-*ss cover for racists. It is one thing for the "N"-word to be used in what I'd call artistic context, i.e. Larry David's use of it in the third season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in his dealings with Wanda Sykes' character's rapper boyfriend's character. It was as funny as f*ck. Pryor--when he did use it pre-'79 and the Def Jam usage is within the actual routine.
What Richards did was bust the routine and go after audience members in a rage-fueled tirade. Hardly within what we'd call "The Performer's Compact With The Audience". There is NO ARTISTIC, COMEDIC, PERFORMANCE excuse to fall back on when you bust the routine and go after the audience. You're on own, then. And you have to take the lumps you f*cking get for it. It was a total loss of professionalism, and there's no cultural or sociological excuse that explains it.
Now, putting on my performer's hat, part of me almost feels bad for him. When you go out on a stage, you sort of join a fraternity, and you empathize with your fellow performers. I have sat in theaters and clubs and cringed--unable to look when a comedian bombs out badly. Your heart sinks. You feel the crushing silence along with the dying comic. Every catcall is a studded whip coming down. I didn't see what transpired before the video. But I have it on good authority that he was awful, and when the hecklers started in with the "You're not funny"s, he first played the class card--"I'm rich and can have you arrested just like that!" against his tormentors. And when that didn't silence 'em, he went "nuclear" and blew up everything. No night's bombing is worth going off the rails like that. I've been to The Laugh Factory on Sunset (on the Tuesday Black Comic Nights) and found it no more heckle-worthy than Caroline's.
What's not being addressed here is that Richards...is not a very good "comedian" in general. He gets laughs when he lapses into "Kramer" schtick--head snaps, jerking limbs and the odd Cosmo-lian yelps. Little else from his act rouses real laughs. Chuckles from familiarity--not hi-larity. And my guess is that it f*cking eats him up. But the sad truth is that if you aren't a good comic, and can't handle criticism, then you shouldn't be on stage. You will fail, and it will destroy you...as it did this poor, f*cking half-a-clown.
As to his "apology" tonight. It was bullsh*t. Seinfeld's unctuous *ss was scheduled to be on to promote his DVD and I'm pretty sure Letterman said "There's no way I ain't gonna ask you about this, Jerry.", and I'm pretty sure Seinfeld said, "Look, I don't wanna discuss this, okay? But if you've gotta do it--take it up with the guy who said it. I'll arrange it, just don't f*cking zing me about it!". And thus came Racistman on Letterman. Seinfeld was p*ssed at Richards for strictly selfish reasons--that outburst damages the Seinfeld "brand". Remember, that's all the show was called--"Seinfeld". So Jerry simultaneously tosses his buddy to the wolves while damage-controlling a bit via the "apology" with his imprimatur. Canny...but craven. I'm waiting for the first *sshole comic to actually "defend" Richards' words and deeds, though. Will it be the two-steps-from-chasing-a-n*gger-onto-a-busy- parkway Colin Quinn? The misanthropic Norm McDonald, or a buzz-starved Dennis Miller? You know the right's setting this up as a "but when n*ggers say 'n*gger' or rip white folks, nobody says anything" paradigm--which doesn't apply, so at least one attention-crazed/racism defending idiot will raise his ugly, pointed, percaled head. I'm just wonderin' who.
And lastly, we live in an age when idiocy is harder to hide than ever. It's wild to see a meltdown like that "captured". Not mere hearsay, or a Hollywood story/urban legend handed down from person to person--no, rather...a full-tilt sh*t-fit caught on video for all history. Goes to show ya--the great God "Videopolis" is everywhere, and watching us all.
Think "Michael Richards" now, and that nakedly racist clip is what you'll remember. "Video May Have Killed the Radio Star", kiddies...but you know what? It f*cking put the one-time television star in a Schiavo-esque vegetative state too.
On the crowd's "reaction":
The initial laughter? Perfectly understandable. Realize that a stand-up audience for the most part comes there wanting to laugh/ready to laugh. They are generally on the performer's "side", and willing to give benefit of the doubt.
Once Richards started in with his side 2, band 4 classic bit "Possessed By Bull Connor", a stunned portion of the crowd did laugh.
Because it was probably the first "out of the box" moment he had all night. The first thing he said that jarred them awake. And they probably gave him a laugh hoping he'd springboard off it into saomething actually funny. When he didn't--and that was about twenty seconds thereafter, they turned on him--badly. Understand that some of the people calling him out verbally were not the hecklers--just p*ssed-off patrons reading him rightfully.
And then walking out en masse.
An odd by-product of the Andy Kaufman school of comedy is that thanks to his confrontational approach, audiences nowadays aren't as immediately shocked when someone does go off the rails. They think there'll be a witty, ironic payoff. Richards got that moment (a unit of time I'll call a "Campanis") to trampoline somewhere funny. Trouble is, he soon did spring off...right onto a f*cking picket fence.
I can't front. I really liked watching "Seinfeld", but damned if when I watch it now, I won't be looking at Richards' 120 volt-haired *ss and thinking about his racist freak-out. Which means I won't be enjoying the show--and sh*t I don't enjoy, I don't watch.
posted by Steve @ 12:37:00 AM