Monday, November 20, 2006

Kramer vs. Kramer

I'm sure most of you know by now that actor Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) went nuts on stage on Friday night, unleashing a stream of racist comments at a group of people who were heckling (or possibly just talking during) his stand-up routine.

The story seems to be pretty much everywhere, but I haven't seen the complete footage (only a YouTube video that begins after he's already lost it), so I don't know exactly what happened. They had quotes from Jerry Seinfeld in the article I read, explaining that he was shocked and saddened by Richards' remarks. Like there was a chance he was gonna say how proud he was?

Richards came on Letterman (via satellite) to apologize during Seinfeld's interview segment. I don't know if Seinfeld was booked for this reason, or if this is a coincidence.

Richards began a rambling apology, expressing confusion that the words had come out of his mouth at all. He was all over the place, and at a few points in the beginning, Letterman's audience laughed at his lack of eloquence like they thought it was a bit. Seinfeld attempted to chastise them, and Richards at one point said he might have made a mistake in trying to apologize on what is primarily a comedy program.

He went on to talk about his rage and hatred, seemingly puzzled by the workings of his own mind. He indicated he was going to seek treatment. He rambled a bit more about "Afro-Americans" and racism and the overall anger about Katrina. He seemed to fear that his remarks would lead to racial violence. Like if there hadn't been a hurricane everything might've been fine? Letterman interrupted to ask him if he thought his reaction would have been different if the hecklers had been white. Richards said that he had dished out hatred to everyone who was there, not just the black people. He had tried to apologize to everyone afterward, managed to talk to a couple of the audience members, but most of them had left.

Letterman also asked if he had perhaps been trying to go so far and so big as to make the whole thing into a joke. This was the first thought that I had. It seemed like such a weird outburst to me when I heard about it. Richards said that at first he had tried to do this, but failed, and then some kind of rage took over. He said this was reflected in the full show he did, but not in the video being shown on the news (or, apparently, the one being shown on YouTube).

So he apologized, but it seems like he needs, at the very least, some help with his anger. I don't know if he is a racist. He claims he is not. I'm not sure it's possible to say racist things and then claim it doesn't come from racism. He did seem genuinely contrite, though, acknowledging that the jokes and flurry of attention his remarks provoked were totally understandable.

The version I saw, which ends with Richards dropping the microphone onto the stage and walking off, made me angry and sad. I don't understand racism, but I do know a little something about rage, and his comments fell well outside of the kinds of things you say only because you're angry. Unless you mean them. And that's just sad.


Julia Buckley said...

It's amazing isn't it? Sounds to me like he had some kind of breakdown, or at least an 'episode'.

Nowt funnier than folk - as they say in my hometown.

The Moon Topples said...

Hey, and season 7 of Seinfeld is out today, so we can all relive those heady days when he was still on the correct side of the funny/racially insensitive line.