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Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Kramer... we hardly knew ye...

The topic originally slated for today has been pre-empted and may appear tomorrow, should I actually finish writing it because I keep getting interrupted with other worthy topics.

...or did we?

As many of you have probably discovered through late night television, You-Tube,, newspapers and news outlets, comedian Michael Richards really screwed his career the other night.

Michael Richards, for those not making the connection, was the guy who played Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld for many years. He was doing a stand-up routine at an L.A. comedy club when he started getting heckled by a couple of guys in the audience. Richards, got angry and started heckling back. Now, I've seen comedians do that in a most good-natured way that totally embarrasses the heckler and makes for some great laughs. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. Richards noticed that the two hecklers were black and started making mean racial comments about how those guys would have been, well, skewered for their comments years ago and started using an epithet that I won't repeat here, but starts with the letter 'n'.

Not. Good. Especially when someone in the club has a cell phone and is filming the whole exchange and it ends up being the most popular viral video within hours. The comedy club banned him. Comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was also appearing there that night, was disgusted with Richards' behavior (and rightly so). Jerry Seinfeld was reportedly sickened by the whole thing, but said that the guy deserves a chance to apologize.

The comedy club relented and let Richards go up the next night to apologize. What does Richards do? He does his act, no apology for his behavior. But he issues statements and apologizes on David Letterman's show (thanks to Seinfeld) and emphasizes that he's not a racist. He lost his cool. But did he?

Someone (and I can't recall who) accused Richards of being an actor who was trying his hand at stand up and not knowing how to handle hecklers. Richards started out as a stand-up comedian in the early 80s, so I don't buy into that excuse.

And even veteran stand-ups lose their cool.

I once watched George Carlin lose his cool on stage. Yes, *that* George Carlin. The crowd was mixed young and middle age adults with some college kids sprinkled in. I heard someone in the center front starting to yell at the stage and kept getting Carlin's attention. Then he stopped his act and told the guy to "Shut The F--- Up". The guy told Carlin that he wasn't going to shut up and what the hell was Carlin going to do about it. Carlin threw the live mike on the stage (BOOM) and walked off.

The guy was removed before the rest of us tried to kill him.

Carlin returned to the stage after 5 minutes. I heard some folks call Carlin a prima donna, but honestly he was just trying to do his job, and this guy wasn't going to let him do that. Granted, Carlin could probably have ripped the guy's head off verbally, but for some reason he wasn't in the mood to do that and stopped the act instead. Was it unprofessional to stomp off the stage like that? You bet. Should he have made fun of the guy instead? Well, maybe.

But that's neither here nor there - Richards lost his cool, and instead of handling it by walking away or making fun of the guys, he let loose in a completely unacceptable sort of rage. When I first heard about it, I was wondering if we were going to hear that he hadn't had his medication, or had been drinking too much. After all, the drinking thing worked for Mel Gibson right?

Oh wait, Gibson's movie has been pushed out twice, the advertising for 'Apocalypto' has been cut in virtually half, and people aren't sure that Mel has the box office draw that he used to any longer. People are reluctant. Just like people are reluctant to work with Tom Cruise, except he didn't do anything offensive, he just went slightly cuckoo. Will the apology route work for Richards? Only time will tell. Little trivia bit - Michael Richards is the only actor from Seinfeld who hasn't hosted 'Saturday Night Live'... much you wanna bet it stays that way?