MICHAEL RICHARDS: ANATOMY OF A MELTDOWN

Stand-up comedy is a profession rife with dangers and hostility. When you’re on, you’re “killing,” and when you’re having a bad night, you’re most likely being heckled or, even worse, ignored. For poor Michael Richards, a man most well-known for his ability to enter a room in extravagant fashion as Kramer on “Seinfeld,” stand-up comedy is a place to go to watch your career slowly pass away; or, you know, a place to go to feed your inner-racist.

At this stage, celebrities, or ex-celebrities, gone mad is nothing new. We might as well create a ranking system similar to the United States Terror Alert. If you’ve been out partying you might be “Lohan’ing it up” or if you’re busted with a DUI and insult a religion, you’re “working your inner-Gibson.” Thanks to recent events with Michael Richards, we can add “having a racist tirade” to the board under “going Kramer crazy.”

The Racist Tirade Seen Around the Internet

This is where it started. Michael Richards is having a poor night at the mic at Hollywood’s Laugh Factory when he decides to focus on some hecklers in the audience. After showing off his amazing Racist Rain Man counting skills (50 years ago would’ve been pre-Civil Rights movement, fork up your ass or no), Richards started shouting “nigger” and pointing fingers.

No, Richards is not a rap artist a la Eminem, and if he was, there was no break-beat or other indication that he was busting out his new tune “Hung Upside Down (Wit a Fork in Yo Ass).” And no, he was not giving an educational lesson about the word “nigger.” He was simply having a nervous breakdown, brought upon by years of post-“Seinfeld” mediocrity and marginalization that just so happened to come to a head when, even at his own comedy show, folks didn’t care enough about him to shut up. The only thing he did was start a joke with no punchline.

The Joke Continues on Letterman

A couple nights later, Jerry Seinfeld convinced David Letterman to let him come on and apologize to the world at large for his videotaped meltdown. All TV awkwardness aside, when apologizing to the “African-American” community it’s probably not a good idea to lead by apologizing to the “Afro-American” community. Anyway, Richards seemed genuinely hurt and apologetic, but he seemed convinced that he wasn’t really a racist. And then another video from that evening surfaced, showing that this Seinfeld-Letterman deal was more than just a friend helping a friend…

Seinfeld In The House

Seinfeld was there! He saw the whole thing in person! Sure, he bolted as soon as he could, but of course he had to speak out and try and help Michael make amends, lest he be connected to the hatred. Inviting Michael on Letterman wasn’t about an apology, it was about saving face… and selling “Seinfeld: Season 7″ DVDs. And it gets worse.

B-Roll from “UHF”

Michael’s comments about not being racist took a hit again when the following b-roll from his role in “UHF” hit the internet. Clearly showing that he had no problem with the N-word in the past, the video also shows an eerie similarity to the tirade on the Laugh Factory, making one wonder: is this a mistake, or a scripted jab for attention?

Bring Forth the Spin Doctor

Since the apology just brought more scutiny, Michael hired a publicist, someone who specializes in crisis management, to help him pull himself from the fire. The first thing that happened? Michael sought to talk to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson so he could further his apology. His new legal team also suggested they create a video showing that Michael does feel bad about what he said, and how on the inside, we’re all the same color.

Blind, Black-Face Richards

Unfortunately, Michael’s video backfires…

High School Teacher Speaks Out

The next step was to find a way to academically prove that Richards was not a racist, perhaps by showing that he didn’t say “nigger” but instead “nigga.” The preceding video was shown to help illustrate said point. This, too, backfired.

So Here We Are…

It’s been almost two weeks since Michael Richards went crazy at the Laugh Factory and revived his career, albeit this time his racist career, and not much else has occurred. The guys Richards insulted in the club have come forward, demanding an apology… and money. Richards has agreed to the former point, not so much the latter. (How do you monetize racial slurs anyway?) But what does it all mean!?!

Face it, life is long and there’s more than enough opportunity to put your foot in your mouth and say things that you both mean and do not mean. Is Michael Richards a racist? On a subconscious level, one could just say he’s full of hatred for some reason or another. The racist claim comes not so much from the usage of the racial slurs as it does that his mind went there first. People get irrationally angry with each other all the time, but not everyone caps their anger with racist dialogue. So, in that respect, Michael is a racist. And he’s also getting more press than he has since “Seinfeld” got cancelled, so let’s call him an opportunistic racist too.

The above is more satire than fact, with the obvious factual information being linked to and the more fantastical leaps of imagination being illustrated with poorly edited YouTube clips… except those first two, which were all Michael Richards being Michael Richards…




Posted on November 28, 2006 in Features by
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