No Seinfeld for You?
Jerry, Elaine and George could end up paying for Michael Richards’ rant.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson called for a boycott Monday of the latest Seinfeld DVD, a way of exacting economic punishment for Richards’ racist meltdown.
In a bit of bad timing for Jerry Seinfeld, et al., the seventh season of Seinfeld was released as a four-disc set last week, just as Richards’ caught-on-video, Nov. 17 Los Angeles comedy club raving was made public.
The new Seinfeld package, featuring much quoted episodes such as “The Soup Nazi” (“No soup for you!”), was Amazon.com’s 11th-biggest-selling DVD on Monday and was expected to be a big stocking-stuffer for Christmas.
Richards, 57, won three Emmys for playing the wired Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld, which ran from 1990-98 on NBC.
In the last week, Richards has become better known for hurling the N-word at black hecklers after attempting a lynching joke during the same riff and, later, for apologizingóor trying to, anyway.
“My best friends were African-Americans,” Richards said Sunday on Jackson’s Premiere Radio Network show.
The Jackson gig was the latest in Richards’ reaching-out effort to African-American men who have run for president. Before the radio appearance, the actor was said to have placed contrite phone calls to Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton. There was no word if Alan Keyes, a 1996 and 2000 Republican presidential candidate, was sought out.
On his show, Jackson said he hoped the Richards “crisis” would create an opportunity.
On Monday, the civil-rights leader joined others in calling on everyoneóblacks, whites, Seinfeld players, presumably includedóto refrain from using the N-word, on stage and off.
“Its roots are rooted in hatred and pain and degradation,” Jackson told a Los Angeles press conference. “And whether it’s hatred toward African-Americans or whether it’s self-hatred, a concession toward it is still wrong.”
At the Laugh Factory, the Sunset Boulevard scene of Richards’ off-the-rails routine, owner Jamie Masada announced Monday that the N-word would be banned at the club.
Masada called on Richards to donate millions to charities serving black neighborhoods and reiterated that the actor would remain barred from the Laugh Factory until he personally apologized to the patrons who bore the brunt of his racial epithets.
Last week, Frank McBride and Kyle Doss, the two men whose observations of Richards’ act sent the performer into a racist rage, teamed up with camera-ready attorney Gloria Allred to seek out their own formal apologyóand perhaps some judge-ordered financial compensation.
“It’s not enough to say ‘I’m sorry’ on Letterman,” Allred said.
Richards appeared on Letterman’s Late Show on Nov. 20 to offer his first public apology. The mea culpa, which drew laughs from a confused studio audience, was criticized as not being enough.
In the Los Angeles Daily News, Najee Ali of Los Angeles’ Project Islamic H.O.P.E. slammed the Letterman apology, which came on the same night as an appearance by scheduled guest Jerry Seinfeld, as “damage control in light of the DVD of the seventh season of Seinfeld.”
Even Kenny Kramer, Seinfeld cocreator Larry David’s former neighbor and inspiration for Cosmo Kramer, moved to distance himself from the actor who made his surname famous.
“In no way do I condone or endorse what Michael Richards said or did,” Kramer said on his official Website. “It is really annoying, and sad, that people are saying that Kramer is a racist.”
“Michael Richards ceased being Kramer eight years ago.”
Richards has appeared infrequently on camera since Seinfeld ended. Per his new PR guru, the actor is now appearing regularly in a psychiatrist’s office for counseling.
“I have been trying to get to the source of where that anger comes from,” Richards said on Jackson’s radio show.
According to Richards, he grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and never attempted to find the fun in lynching until the infamous Laugh Factory routine.
“That’s not an image I carry around every day, [that] every time I look at an African-American I think he should be upside down and hung from a tree,” Richards told Jackson. “I have too much love for the African-American.”
Richards also denied previously dropping the N-bomb.
“I haven’t spoken like this to an African-American before,” Richards said. “It’s a first time for me to talk to an African-American like this.”
In an entry on the Huffington Post, blogger Trey Ellis, who is black, advised Richards to stop apologizing, especially to the likes of Jackson and Sharpton.
“Calling up Jesse and Al as if they were the co-Popes of black folks is almost as dumb as your lame, racist onstage repartee,” wrote Ellis.
According to Ellis, Richards should just wait for another celebrity to star in an embarrassing videotape.
“There is nothing you can do to win back black fans,” Ellis wrote. “That ship has sailed.”
No Seinfeld for You?