Kramer loses it
OK, you’ve read about Michael Richards and his tirade of racist abuse at a Los Angeles comedy club a couple of days ago, which was being filmed and is now all-too-available on YouTube. It’s worth watching it, for blood sport, but we must remember, I guess, that it’s out of context of his freewheeling show. The reaction of the audience says it all though.
Notice how Seinfeld tries to stop the audience from laughing. It’s not funny, but they are in Letterman mode and faced with Kramer. It’s a sad spectacle, in some ways sadder than the tirade itself. Here’s a man, loved by millions, who seems not to be a racist, but who either “played” with racism without any grace or clear signal that he was doing so, or else has racism deep in his soul that came out in “the rage”. What do people make of it?
Richards clearly has an awful lot of goodwill in the bank, but he’s certainly pissed a lot of it up a wall. Remember when Billy Connolly made his Ken Bigley joke? It wasn’t filmed, but it got out, and he was a pariah for a few days. My guess is that he weathered it. But that was a planned, deliberately sick gag. This was an outburst, a seeming peek inside the recesses of the mind of a much-loved figure. Can he weather it? Does it matter? His good work is, after all, in the public domain, in box sets in so many homes. More to the point: should one of comedy’s jobs not be to shock to a degree, to operate outside polite restrictions? Richard Herring offends with some of his material, and deliberately (albeit not in a racist direction), and it’s the comedian’s right to fail in front of an audience. (This is a broader discussion, because in Richards’ case, it seems he just lost it.)