20 November 2006

Oh That Kramer

Michael Richards is in trouble. I can't say he's a racist. He did use the "n-word" as an insult during a performance at the Laugh Factory.

That's bad. It's offensive and was completely unnecessary. Still, I don't think that's enough to qualify him as a racist, not to say that he's not but all I know is what I saw. And what I saw was the tirade of a man seemingly out of control. What I heard was someone trying to be hurtful. But I think being a racist includes actions and feelings along with those words.

So on Friday, Richards made the statements. Paul Rodriguez was also there. At a news conference today, Rodriguez said Richards asked to come back Saturday night and make amends. Club owner Jamie Masada allowed it, but Richards never apologized.

But I ask: why should he?

During the newser, Paul Rodriguez said the Laugh Factory does not censor or pre-screen. No one knew what Richards was going to say and he has the right to say it. The Laugh Factory did not apologize because it did nothing wrong. People who were at the club that night were also there for the statement. They started talking back and interrupting (as my people are unfortunately wont to do) demanding all sorts of things.

So here's what made me shake my head and mute the television;

The people in the audience demanded an apology from the Laugh Factory. Paul Rodriguez told them the club had done nothing wrong. Rodriguez apologized for the situation, and said they would refund admission for people who were there. I agree. The venue did nothing wrong. Maybe giving Richards a chance to apologize wasn't the best idea but it was a trusting effort. The club has now banned him and really, that's the extent of its power.

Then the people wanted the club to ban the "n-word." Rodriguez refused and they were all in an uproar about verbal abuse. He reminded them about what he said about free speech. The club's owner talked about Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney, who were both there when the club first opened and who used the "n-word." The owner said it gave him goose bumps and he didn't know what to do but audiences obviously loved it. And the two of them had successful careers.

But the absolute worst thing (in my humblest of opinions) is that both Rodriguez and the people there asked Richards to apologize. And he did. According to Wikipedia:

During a satellite appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman, Richards apologized, saying, "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. That's what's so insane about this." He described his outburst as one of rage.
So he said it and he's sorry. Weak. I'd prefer he make a statement and stand by it. He was not forced to say what he said. It was not an accident. So the apology is insulting. I say a lot of things. I think people have to stand by what they say. Seinfeld said he was "sick over it" and called it a "mistake." Let's kick him in the nuts too. Where's the mistake? It wasn't a slip, it was a statement. In fact it was a repeated statement.

I guess my point is two fold: don't confuse an ignorant statement with actual racism. And don't apologize for a deliberate statement that you chose to make. It's weak. And there's nothing I can stand less than weakness.

But whatever. I've never watched Sienfeld anyway.