Richards’ Racism Reveals A Sad Desperation

The biggest news about Michael Richards isn’t that he went over the line to some hecklers during a show at The Laugh Factory this past week, although that is certainly worthy of coverage.  It’s that his career has been reduced to performing at The Laugh Factory.
 
Think about it.  When was the last time anyone in the media talked about Michael Richards?  Exactly.
 
Last Friday, Richards was doing some stand-up comedy at The Laugh Factory, this club in Los Angeles.  Apparently, he was being heckled by a few black guys who attended the show.  At one point, he lost all sense of reason and comic timing and screamed at them. 
 
Now, heckling is something every single comic goes through.  The best comics come up with such strong putdowns of their verbal tormentors that the heckling ceases to be a problem.  It’s a rite of passage, when you think about it. 
 
I remember a scene in the highly underappreciated comedy, Mr. Saturday Night, where a young Buddy Young Jr. is being bothered by this enormous man who gets out of his seat and complains very loudly about how bad the kid sucks at stand-up.  What does Buddy do?  He calls him “New Jersey in pants”.  Everybody, including the fat man, laugh uproariously and he’s not heckled for the rest of the show.  In fact, it’s a turning point for his burgeoning career.
 
What did Mr. Richards do?  He called his tormentors “niggers” several times at the top of his lungs.  How do I know this?  I heard an audio clip of his asinine remarks on CNN.com.  (I couldn’t get the video to work, unfortunately.)  A woman in attendance is heard saying very clearly, “O my God.”  Indeed.
 
All this would be terribly significant if Richards had a career.  The truth is he doesn’t. 
 
After spending nearly a decade playing Cosmo Kramer, the strangely lovable mooch on Seinfeld (a role that earned him 3 Emmy Awards), Richards hasn’t had a single success of his own.  Remember The Michael Richards Show where he played this bumbling detective?  Few do.  He could’ve played Adrian Monk instead, the role that ended up reinvigorating Tony Shalhoub’s career (and, interestingly enough, has so far earned him 3 Emmy Awards). 
 
A quick glance at Richards’ filmography on The Internet Movie Database reveals the sad truth:  he hasn’t participated in movies or episodic Television in 6 years.  (The Michael Richards Show went off the air in 2000 and that same year, he played Mr. Wilkins Micawber in a TV adaptation of David Copperfield.)  True, he’s made numerous appearances on TV talk shows and naturally, he contributed his time to all those Seinfeld DVDs, not to mention his stand-up stints, but other than that, there’s been nothing. 
 
In a mini-biography posted on imdb.com, the author notes that “Michael is smartly riding out the Kramer storm until he finds the right time to resurface.”  Well, he’ll be waiting for the rest of his life, if that, indeed, is his plan.  He will always be Kramer. 
 
The timing of Richards’ meltdown couldn’t be worse.  Tomorrow, the complete 7th season of Seinfeld makes its debut on DVD.  (There’s only one season to go before the entire series is available on that format.  That will probably be out next year.)  And, according to the Internet Movie Database, he’s signed on to voice a character in the animated movie, Cat Tale.  (It’s currently in pre-production and scheduled for release in 2008.)  Will his stupidity cost him his first movie job in a decade?  (Trial And Error, unseen by me, came and went in 1997.)
 
As I sit here thinking about all this, I can’t help but wonder if Richards’ disturbing hostility towards those hecklers is a cover for what’s really bothering him.  I would imagine he has a love/hate relationship with Cosmo Kramer, perhaps the real source of his anger. 
 
He loves him because he made him an award-winning star and kept him working on a sitcom, one of the best gigs an actor can get, for almost 10 years.  He hates him because no matter what he does in the future he will always be Cosmo Kramer to everyone.  That can get irritating.    
 
One wonders if this was a desperate plea for attention.  Does he really hate black people or did he want to be thought of in a completely different manner than Kramer?  Did he play the race card out of genuine hatred for those hecklers and black people in general or was it to kill off Kramer in the eyes of the public who attended the show?
 
All I know is the sooner he sincerely apologizes for his awful rant (which apparently went on for 2 minutes before people had enough and left the club) the sooner the media will move on to some other celebrity screw-up.  (This just in:  according to TMZ.com, the site that broke the story in the first place, Richards appeared via satellite during a taping of The Late Show With David Letterman to apologize for the incident.  Jerry Seinfeld is also on the program.  Whether it was sincere or not will be determined later tonight when the show airs.)     
 
In the end, Richards has no one to blame but himself.  From this point forward, everyone will be looking at him in a completely different light.  But the fallout would be a lot worse if he still had a career. 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, November 20, 2006
6:38 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  This is long overdue.  I erroneously noted that there was one more season of Seinfeld left to be made available on DVD.  I forgot that there were nine seasons altogether, not eight.  Normally I would make the necessary substitution quietly without much fuss but because of how it was worded here, I’ve decided to leave it as is and just note my mistake here instead.  I should have pointed this out a lot sooner.  Better late than never.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, January 25, 2008
12:54 a.m.
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Published in: on November 20, 2006 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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