the other day, michael richards—best known as "kramer" on tv's seinfeld, though his role in the movie uhf is dear to me—was doing stand-up at the laugh factory in LA when he was heckled by some blacks in the audience.
heckling is one of the dangers of live performance, especially stand-up. i myself have been heckled before as a musician, and it's hard to deal with. the best stand-up comedians are able to turn it around and hilariously make fun of the hecklers. michael richards didn't respond so well.
instead, richards flew off the handle, declaring that "fifty years ago, we'd have you upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!" and before eventually screaming the N-word over and over like a petulant child. some audience members yelled back that his comments were uncalled for, and he argued with them before angrily walking off stage.
even worse for richards, the tirade was captured on tape. the recording is shameful and shocking to watch. (you can watch it here, but be warned that the video features an angry white man screaming racial slurs... in other words, it's extremely not-work-safe.)
last night, richards went on the late show with david letterman (via satellite) to apologize, insisting that he is not racist, but was only very, very angry. you can watch that segment here. in the segment, richards is clearly upset, and seems to be sincere. but, as shakespeare's sister says, the idea that he's categorically "not racist" is hard to swallow. there are a million ways to insult someone who's pissed you off. why jump immediately to lynching references and screaming racial slurs?
still, he is to be commended for taking responsibility (at least partially) for his actions, and not blaming it all on substance abuse like mel gibson did. ¶