Kramer's Racist Remarks Not Funny

Michael Richards, best known as Seinfeld's Kramer, entertained sitcom audiences for ten years as a zany, outspoken character who would do or say pretty much anything. This weekend at a famous Los Angeles comedy club, fans were shocked at his ability to do just that. During his show, Richards launched into a racist rant, confronting black members of the Laugh Factory audience with repeated use of the N-word and various other epithets.

Richards said he was prompted by the heckling of audience members who were disrespectfully loud and told him he wasn’t funny. He called black hecklers the N-word and told them that 50 years ago, they would have been "hung upside down" for such comments. A tape of his tirade can be found on TMZ.com.

Last night on the Late Show with David Letterman, Richards issued an apology stating that his outburst was a result of anger, not bigotry.

Check out the tapes. Is Richards sincere, and did he just let anger get the best of him? Or is he really racist? What about his career? Will it suffer?

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24 Comments

  • Anthrese

    He was way out of line and should not be able to do a show again if he has to act like that. He is not more important than any other black person that is on this earth, it doesn't matter if thery are rich or poor. He was real ugly with the way he carried out thats why he hasn't done any other show besides Seinfields because he sucks as an actor he really is not a good comedian.

  • tigger

    all the comments here ring true, Michael Richards obviously has some underlying racism issues and most definitely an extreme rage problem. Fact remains though that in comparison to the rest of the world, this whole issue is just about as important as what you had for dinner. People get so freaking boiled up about stuff like this when, if you turned the situation around nothing would be said otherwise. There are so many comedians of different backgrounds that use race as material in their work -- and granted while most of it is in good jest, i feel that if anyone caucasian tried to use a racial stereotype as part of a skit they would be condemned for it. I'm not making excuses --Richards' outburst is still despicable, but i honestly think that he was already in a state of his life where everything was falling apart, and i'm sure that those "hecklers" were giving him a much harder time than portrayed. The only difference is that no one expected he would blow up the way he did. It's a mental illness, and his outburst could have been anything from massive violence to self harm -- he chose verbal assault. People just need to acknowledge he's unstable and is really trying to apologize and get on with their lives. Richards is ruined now and he can be as racist as he wants to be when he's alone in a run down apartment with barely enough money to make rent. Funny how there are actually consequences for actions -- us getting all heated about it doesn't change much aside from putting a new headline in the paper.

  • Andrew

    Ok, we've learned that Michael Richards has some racial issues he keeps bottled up. Sounds like he's a prick if you catch him at the wrong time.

    How about the other guys? "Playful heckling?" What does that even mean? Sounds like a group of assholes made him blow his stack. It doesn't matter what colour their skin is - they're still douchebags.

  • Dan

    His tirad was very disappointing to me as I really enjoy his character on the Seinfeld show. That being said I will still enjoy him on the show as the character. He is good at what he does. It sucks that he's a racist but that's his burden to bear. He is feeling the pain of his mistakes and will for quite some time. I would personally be surprised to see his career pull out of this.

    He used to be someone I would like to meet and converse with for a minute or two...say thanks for all the laughs he'd given me...now he is not.

    There really are more important things to be worrying about than him.

  • Karin

    Wow. How screwed up are our priorities? Yes, what he did was wrong, really wrong. But it was not life altering to anyone except perhaps himself. He ruined his career pretty much, I figure that's a huge punishment for him, plus now everyone thinks he's a racist, hothead. I'm in no way defending him, but in these troubled times, we should be focusing on more important things, not celebrities. How many people were murdered in Darfur while the media was over covering this story? How many people were killed in Iraq? How many children were molested? Let's put things in perspective people. Celebrities are NOT important.

  • Joey Ricardo

    I think that there's no doubt that he is racist. Even if you're angry, those aren't things that you say to people. And Hal, it's not just "a little name-calling," it's a word that represents an era of bigotry, racism, and hatred, and I'm shocked that Kramer would use that word. Besides, if a common person had said it, it wouldn't have made that much of a difference. The thing is that a famous actor said it, and one who has shown no record (at least to my knowledge) of being racist. That makes it clear that it's not just a little name-calling, it's a person's integrity and reputation being stained.

    I don't think that he'll ever recover from this, because people won't ever look at him the same way, just like Mel Gibson's carreer will always suffer from his actions which the world will not forgive.

    That's my two cents.

  • Erin

    A lot of the injustices that are occurring in our world is directly related to race, gender, class divisions. Kramer's comments had opened a gateway for a discussion on these biases and the necessity for them to be checked. The inherent disregard for the negative impact of those comments gives much revelation as to why inequalities and racism in this society still exists; why there are ghettos, wars, a widening gap between rich/poor, violence, starving children etc. This addresses relevant issues between those who have a penchant for control and power-over and for those who are against it. Although knowledge is a tool that can be used to bring about equality, it's a crime that education is becoming less and less accessible for the masses; which deter effective critical analyses into these subjects.

  • Hal

    What a bunch of liberal cry babies, Is the world becoming so thin skin, that it cant take a little name calling, wa, wa, wa, They started it by not letting him do his show, and now are crying because they were called a name. GROW UP PEOPLE AND WALK ON YOU 2 HIND LEGS.

  • Jim Burrows

    My daughter had purchased season 1& 2 of Seinfeld a few months ago, the box shows the 4 of them hugging. The box was sitting at the top of our stairs for the last week, everytime I walked up or down the stairs I would look at the box with no reaction, since watching & hearing the tirade, I walked by the box and each time a strange uncomfortable feeling comes over me. I probably wont continue buying the series for obvious reasons, his character is too diferent in a negative way. What adds fuel to the fire was that David Letterman show with Jerry Seinfeld obviously doing damage control for the moral reasons and I'm sure for Monetary reasons as well, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and others stand to get nicked pretty good on future sales and TV viewing. Then Rosie O'Donnell sticks up for him. The follow-up activity by his supporters make me equally sick.
    Jim Burrows, Leonia NJ

  • bill

    I'm not sure he's a racist, but he does have some off the charts anger management issues. When a person is raging, they use words as weapons. Whatever they say on impulse is used to hurt the people in the deepest possible way without resorting to violence. Most of us have said things we don't actually mean because of this. It's unfortunate for his career that he flipped out so bad.

  • Lou

    There are some things that can be said out of anger which can be forgiven. Saying things like "50 years ago you would be hanged" is not one of them.

  • phil

    I am a Filipino who have lived outside of the Philippines for more than half of my life; I have been called a "chink" by Westerners, because of my eyes, a "little brown brother" by an American professor, a "flip" by Singaporeans. These are OK - the 'perpetrators' were friends who were saying so in jest.

    But had they said the same thing in a derogatory context - say, in a heated debate or an argument over some mundane thing - the same words would mean different. They would elicit anger.

    My point is that, whether we like it or not, we are racist - we have no choice. We are conditioned by our own culture and societies to think that way.

    But we have to be conscious of that.

    Richards said he said those words because of anger, and not because of bigotry.

    Sorry - but anger is not an excuse because we need to be always aware of the things that we say and sensitive to the situations we are in.

    Are there situations when we are allowed to use 'certain' words without sounding racist? I guess there are - but we need sensibility and judgment to know when those right times are.

  • Blaze

    Yes Richards may be racist but I'm not sure he actually meant to say what he said. It appears that he quite simply couldn't think of what to say next, so decided to start yelling crazy to make people laugh. And people did laugh a bit when he first started talking but he really ended up digging himself into a hole. I don't support what he said but I do think it's one of those things you can accidentally dig yourself into and then realise later how stupid it actually sounded. It was a stupid mistake on his part and obviously rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way. It was stupid but the damage has been done and he's not ever going to be popular in the future.

  • Don Pollitt

    On one level, I know that racism exists in our culture, but I never expected to hear the comments of a person who clearly has a self-esteem problem, getting some much 'air time'. There are those on both sides of the racial divide trying to bridge that gulf with caring and understanding. Can we give them at least as much 'air time'.

  • Andre

    He also used the term "afro american" in his apology on Letterman. Who uses that term anymore? That's another reason why this guy is finished. He probably does not freely associate with people of differing races. First Mel Gibson, now him. Money and fame do not cover up who people are and sooner or later it all comes out. I definitely agree with Al's points.

  • david

    Have you guys seen the aristocrats? this is not as big a deal as everybody is making it.

    Move on - people are starving, countries are killing each other. Get some perspective.

  • Vance Dubberly

    Umm this is relevant to the Fast Company readership, how? Leave it to E! where it belongs.

  • Steve W.

    Yes, I think Michael Richards crossed the line. I like that he recognized he screwed up and apologized. He is an actor and comedian and chose to make an apology where other actors and comedians call home, a comedy/variety show, Late Night with David Letterman. I think our society is too sensitive. Do we really need to discuss the veracity of his apology and whether or not where he chose to deliver his apology is good enough because it was not on CNN? Come on. I am tired of the, "Was he contrite, was it truthful, as it enough?" discussion. He has some demons, he is now faced with his own personal reckoning day. Why is it Ok for Chris Rock to go off on Caucasions in a ranting attack, get away with it and call it comedy, but not ok for others.

  • Marisa

    At Dinner with an old friend a week ago, the subject of race came up. My friend commented that though we've been friends for close to 30 years, we'd never discussed race. My Friend is white & I am black. We never had this conversation because in this day & age it was not required. I have'nt seen a "Restricted" Sign since 1966 so maybe I have become complacent with the polite Bias that lies beneath today's society.
    The young black men who out for the evening with thier friends ( Latinos, Asians & Whites), never thought that they'd have to have that conversation either. Evidently, "the content of our character" & the strides we have made as a people will never erase the inner bias in insecure beings like Michael Richards. That's sad.
    Michael Richards, in his apology, said that he was'nt a racist. Obviously, he'd never checked his own Bias. Its more subtle & insidious than Racism. It's what black Americans ignore every day in our business dealings & Personal lives.

    Sadder still is that bias can never be erased. So I train my son to prepare to meet it head on, as members our family have for generations,
    with intelligence, Strength & God Willing, grace.