No laughs for Kramer in racist ouburst
November 22, 2006
Robert Lusetich, Los Angeles correspondent
AS Cosmo Kramer, Jerry Seinfeld's eccentric neighbour on the seminal 1990s sitcom, Michael Richards drew laughs - and three Emmy awards - for his off-the-wall behaviour.
Now, Richards has drawn derision and yesterday was forced to make a public apology for a racist outburst at a Los Angeles comedy club in which he repeatedly referred to a group of black hecklers as "niggers".
The 57-year-old comedian can be seen in video footage of the incident yelling obscenities.
"Fifty years ago we'd have you hanging upside down with a fork in your ass," he said, in a reference to lynchings of blacks.
Richards continued to repeat the word "nigger" until audience members began jeering and, finally, walking out on the performance. One can be heard on the poor quality recording - made on a mobile phone - telling Richards: "That was uncalled for you f...ing cracker ass motherf...er," employing a term sometimes used to describe whites by blacks in the US.
Soon after, Richards leaves the stage.
Seinfeld, who was previously scheduled to appear on The David Letterman Show yesterday, arranged for Richards to join him by video link.
"I am sick over this," Seinfeld said. "I'm sure Michael is also sick over this horrible, horrible mistake. It is so extremely offensive. I feel terrible for all the people who have been hurt."
Richards, who is a high-ranking freemason, said he was "really busted up over this".
"I'm very, very sorry to those people in the audience, the blacks, the Hispanics, whites - everyone that was there that took the brunt of that anger and hate and rage and how it came through," he said.
Richards then grandly began drawing parallels to world politics. "I'm concerned about more hate and more rage and more anger coming through, not just towards me but towards a black-white conflict," he said.
"I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."
Richards, whose career has stagnated since Seinfeld finished, said the spontaneous nature of stand-up work was partially responsible. "I'm a performer. I push the envelope," he said. "I work in a very uncontrolled manner onstage."
The owner of the comedy club has banned the comedian permanently because he said Richards told him he would apologise during a second show, but didn't.