UPDATE: I’m told arrangements were made by none other than Jerry Seinfeld himself for Michael Richards to go on Letterman via satellite tonight. Video here. “Kramer” made a major apology on Dave’s Late Show which had Seinfeld scheduled as a guest already. Richard’s appearance during Seinfeld’s interview was treated as a surprise. Kramer made a mea culpa, and sources at the taping told me that both Letterman and Seinfeld seemed to accept what he was saying as remorseful. At times angry, at times frustrated, Richards mostly looked embarrassed. I’m told the Hollywood people around him jumped into action “to avoid a Mel Gibson delay” whereby that apology was not fast or complete enough. Richards said he lost his cool and flew into “a rage” while being heckled and not because he’s a bigot. “For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I’m not a racist.”
In my opinion, the real news behind Seinfeld’s Michael Richards spewing “n”-word racial epithets after being heckled during his Friday night stand-up routine at the Laugh Factory (see video here) is this: many of today’s comedy clubs have become a cesspool of hatred. Inside them, racism, ethnic prejudice, religious bigotry, homophobia and sexism all masquerade as humor. Anyone who’s been to the clubs and heard the acts knows this to be true. Yet, in most cases, the audiences or the club owners/managers rarely react badly. (Oh, c’mon: At a news conference a short time later, club owner Jamie Masada expressed remorse and said Richards will not be back at the club until he says he’s sorry. “This is one thing we don’t tolerate. … I personally apologize. I apologize from my heart,” Masada said today. Big deal.) And not just in the clubs: MTV’s Yo Momma celebrates jokes about how “yo Momma” is so fat, so stupid, so poor, so ugly, so nasty, so lazy, and whatever other disgusting stuff its contestants can think up. I’m not saying humor in the clubs should be as sanitized as the stand-up pablum on Leno or Letterman or Kimmel. Though it’s a fact that, because of the ubiquitousness of profanity-peppered acts with distasteful subject matter, some clubs outside LA and NY are rating their shows G, PG, and R as a marketing tool. (A new trend is the niche market labeled Christian comedy.) Still, in the top clubs, an atmosphere exists where anything goes, so no one should feign surprise that those comedians, much less a network character actor like Richards, could cross the line between what’s acceptable and offensive. Jerry Seinfeld has announced he’s “sick over this.” When it comes to the comedy clubs, too many of them are just sick, period. Heal thyself.