We wanted Kramer, but we got Michael Richards…a few really uncomfortable moments on Letterman

I was watching Letterman tonight because Seinfeld was on, and I figured that there HAD to be some convo about the Michael Richards meltdown, and I was really curious what Seinfeld had to say about the whole deal.

Little did I know..Michael appeared via satellite with Jerry on the show. Along with the audience, I really wasn’t sure if he (Richards) was going for funny or really wanted to apologize seriously. There were long pauses and nervous laughter and Jerry telling the audience that it really wasn’t funny and Kramer Richards being offended by the audience laughing and Jerry trying to explain to Richards that the audience was seeing KRAMER, and man, was it really really uncomfortable.

Richards is clearly distraught. I kept waiting for him to do one of those Kramer shimmies and fall over backwards in his chair symbolically pratfalling into the arms of forgiving fans. I still don’t totally understand what happened that night, and I really don’t know if he’ll ever recover his career.

It was mesmerizing to watch, even if painful and discomforting. I kept wanting to forgive the hipster doofus..it’s gonna be a little harder to forget the verbal pratfalls of Richards.

Update: Here is a link to the video of Richards on Letterman. Despite much speculation, Richards did not blame his tirade on alcohol, upbringing or anyone else, other than a rather disjointed statement about race relations in America.

Update 2: Michael over at Chez Bez has some good words on this subject. I agree with his statement about the nervous laughter in the audience. I don’t think they were laughing at his apology. I think they desperately wanted to laugh at KRAMER.

Update 3: This guy (Good Copy blog) thinks the apology was a disaster and stage-managed by Seinfeld for economic reasons. I wanna think that Seinfeld was helping a friend, but this guy has some good points.

I understand the mindset of an actor who loses control on stage. I’ve studied acting, and I know how naked you feel when your act goes very, very wrong. I’ve bombed so badly in an audition that I wanted to hit random people in the throat. But you are responsible for your actions and must control yourself at all times!

Towards the end, Letterman says, preciently, “I certainly hope you don’t have regrets about being on the show.” I bet he does, and should.

As a black individual, I am offended by Richards’ words, and to a lesser degree, by Seinfeld’s (probably business-driven) attempt to stage-manage his apology. If the man can’t speak clearly for himself, I don’t need Seinfeld translating for him.

Update 4: Shakespeare’s Sister has some interesting observations on this story as well, including insights on passive vs. active racism.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “We wanted Kramer, but we got Michael Richards…a few really uncomfortable moments on Letterman

  1. Anonymous

    On Letterman, Richards was evidently persuasive in dramatizing HIS pain, HIS discomfort, HIS error, HIS out-of-character behavior. Poor (racist) baby. He hurt his OWN feelings with his racist remarks!!

    What about the pain and feelings of that mixed-race group of talkers whose black member got singled out for Kramer’s special treatment? What about the pain of the loss of revenue that he will definitely cause his fellow cast members, including Seinfeld, who went continued the conversation on Letterman trying to make “humor” about hecklers. And to remind us of Richards’ pain.

    How sad that apologists feel sorry for him. Why? Because he didn’t “mean it”, right?

    Racist. Racist. Racist. Why apologize for him except to smear yourself with the same sour-smelling brush?

  2. I’m not apologizing for him at all. I think what happened was horrible and very sad.

    This is a guy who is clearly distraught and it made for some ‘train-wreck’ compelling TV. Personally, I think his career is pretty much ruined. Maybe something good can come out of this, but I’m not smart enough to predict how that could happen.

    I miss Kramer.

  3. I got the same vibe from watching him on Letterman tonight. A sincere apology goes a long way with me and that’s what he delivered.

    But I did feel very self-conscious as a caucasian writing about how I “accept” his apology. Oh well.

  4. So weird, like the day before all of this went down, I was looking a picture of Abraham Lincoln and thinking how perfect Michael Richards would be to play “The Great Emancipator” in a movie. Now? Not so much!

  5. No, we are NOT all racist. We all have thoughts that may be racist. But we are not judged for our thoughts, only our actions. The degree to which we control those impulses, or rather, the degree to which we act on them, determine whether or not we are racist. You are only a racist if your actions or inactions are racist. You are not a racist for having a racist thought, recognizing it and squashing it, any more than someone who sees a cute high school girl but says to themselves, “No way, she’s 17,” is a pedophile. You are not what you think. You are what you do.

    Chez Bez, with all due respect, of course his apology wasn’t sincere. He didn’t have a choice but to apologize, which is why he looked so uncomfortable. He was basically apologizing under duress — he would’ve apologized the next day if he had really meant it, when he appeared again at the Laugh Factory. But he didn’t. He only apologized when the video became public. And by then, it was economically necessary for him to apologize, whether he meant it or not, or he wasn’t going to get good work in this industry for a good long while (the over/under being 200 years) if he didn’t. No studio exec in their right mind would touch him with a power line if he hadn’t apologized, which is why he’s on this contrition tour now.

    He may clearly be distraught, but it ain’t because of what he did. He’s distraught because he got caught. He’s like the fox who struggles after being caught in the trap. He knows he’s in trouble and he’s thrashing, trying to get lose.

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