21 November 2006

The Kramer Reality Tour

Well, somehow, I managed to miss all of yesterday's hysteria over Michael Richards' excruciating, racially-incendiary meltdown onstage at "The Laugh Resort", and only realized what had happened when I turned on "The Late Show With David Letterman" as part of my nightly ritual and came upon Dave (and guest Jerry Seinfeld) in what could be the show's first ever "Larry King" style satellite interview--with the hipster doofus of the hour.

I share none of this revelry in knocking over celebrities--as someone who has long aspired to a career in "show business" and has eeked out an existence in the Toronto trenches with merely adequate (but wholly satisfying) success, I harbour an utmost respect for anyone who can make it through the rejection and the ridicule and the non-payment to a position where their name and image mean something to an audience and thus commands an entirely deserved large heap of cash (remember, folks, consumption of art and entertainment is a voluntary process), no matter how short-lived that success may be. I was old enough to catch Richards on the SNL rip-off "Fridays", and thought he was hilarious in one of my favorite comedies while in high school: Gary Marshall's "Young Doctors In Love"--he's been around for a good long time and has paid his dues. And of course, he was consistently brilliant during the nine seasons of the "Seinfeld" series--so it was painful to watch the YouTube stream of his outburst and realize that, yes, it really was that bad.

As a long-time fan of "Seinfeld" from episode one (Lidia and I were at Jerry's Toronto show at the DuMaurier Dance Theatre when he made the announcement that the sitcom had been picked up for its first full season), I detected a darkness about Richards that I would have rather not perceived--if anything, the man may now have a future as a thug on "The Sopranos" now that his comedy career--if you believe the outcry for his total abolishment from the mirth factory--is pretty much over.

In my heart, I suppose I want to believe Richards' own explanation that this was nothing more than a bit-gone-bad--no, make that thermonuclear apesh*t--in which a less-than-experienced standup comedian thought he'd get the upper hand on some hecklers by pushing the encounter into outrageousness and just kept falling deeper and deeper into his own feeble construct, to the point where his frustration at his inability to elicit the desired reaction collided with his bad-boy impulse to go- where-no-white-man-should and produced a pile of molten slag ill-timed to be photographed by a camera phone.

Is Richards' career over? He never really had one as a stand-up act--I've seen his Montreal Comedy Fest shtick on reruns and it was pretty bad, so no loss there. Ditto his failed detective sitcom, which was deservedly axed. Maybe he should take some of that darkness and re-fashion himself as a character actor--after all, we're expected to believe that what we saw on stage was just a character...