This is a transcription of an e-mail that a friend of mine sent back as a reply to a forward he received that contained a partial transcription of Michael Richard's court defense. I think he made an excellent point. Opinions?
A big Amen from me. I have always appreciated Michael Richards. I was never a big fan of Jerry Seinfield, with his haughty and patronizing sense of humor. I merely tolerated his style after it became tedious. Sure, he could make me chuckle from time to time; but there was always something lacking. He struck gold, however, when he & Larry David hired Richards to fill the role of "Kramer." He was the main reason I watched that show. Seinfield's comedy method employs observational candor to exaggerate the ironies of human interaction. While a refreshingly original style (for that particular media at that particular time, at any rate: prime- time tv in the early '90's); it falls short of brilliance in that it is consistently and necessarily a reactionary posture. Richards goes a step further, and actually satirizes these dispositions. His comedy is situational, like Seinfield's- but it occupies the delicate balance of being downright dependant on a situation and actually manipulating it; while never compromising his critical vantage point, or letting on that he is secretly in control of said situation. This requires true genius. He forces us to reexamine a very dangerous human tendency: taking ourselves too seriously! Seinfield points this out- but Richards teaches us to overcome it.
Referencing his comments that proved the source of his troubles:
The defense for him that most of his apologists utilize is the argument from his Jewry. "How can he be racist when his people have been persecuted for years?".. or something to that effect. This is a weak argument, because it is irrelevant here. Being bullied does not justify later becoming a bully. It is the same as saying that an African- American is justified in hating me (a white American) because one of my remote ancestors may or may not have owned one of his at some arbitrary point in time. It, in fact, makes even less sense because (besides limited "Islam vs. Judaism" examples in northern Africa and Jesse Jackson's infamous Freudian slip, to use a charitable assumptive term) there has never been a systematic persecution of Jews by blacks. The only reason I even mention this argument here is that it ultimately led to his court- room defense, as exemplified in the letter you sent me. He proves the futility and hypocrisy innate in this line of reasoning. The odd thing about this argument's prevalence is that he is not even a Jew! He only played one on television!
I prefer to argue by virtue of context.
Richards was responding to heckling. Period. Maybe he had had a bad day, as he later stated. Perhaps it was an over- reaction. This is, again, irrelevant! A stand- up comedy routine is a form of drama and, as such, always has been and remains OBJECTIVE WITHIN A SUBJECTIVE FRAME!!! This has always been the classical position, from Aristotle's discourse regarding dramatic unities, all the way down to contemporary traditions of parliamentary procedure. One can infer from the following quote from the Poetics of Aristotle, that even 2,300 years ago this position was assumed: "Now, according to our definition, Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude." The man said "imitation." This is applicable in all dramatic frames: from a Shakepearian actor down to a street mime. An actor may convey his opinion in his work; but his work is not always reflective of his opinion! I, personally, was interested to see Obama & McCain cracking jokes back & forth at the Al Smith dinner. I think the reason this was so prominently featured on the news was that the media, somewhere along the line, realized that overplaying all the muck- raking & yellow- dogging was making the American public forget that (after all) it's only a debate! It seems that some analyst on some board realized that emphasizing their cordial exchange might help diffuse some of the ignorance- based partisan hostility that has recently manifested at rallies and in public. There is much danger in forgetting simple civility, en masse. It's historically reported that, at least on one occasion during World War II, even the Allies and the Germans stopped shooting at each other on Christmas eve to sing O Tannenbaum! together and talk about home. Even war was formerly subject to this popularly abandoned etiquette! I digress. My point is that grudges are immature. Rivalry will always be there; but you lay down your weapons once you step off the battlefield. Richards was on stage. That used to be a haven of immunity. Let it be emphasized that I am no apologist! I will be the first to admit that he handled the situation tactlessly. But he never actually crossed a line. He was fighting negativity with negativity. It did not, for whatever reason, work on that crowd that night. He became frustrated, and forgot his subtlety. Anger took him: this is apparent. Here enters yet another superfluous argument that his caustic behavior was obviously the “truth coming out” because he “lost control!” I can quickly debunk this by merely contrasting his enthusiastic display with such past examples as Sam Kinison or Andy Kaufman; who frequently employed the illusion of madness to indubitably logical comedic ends. I propose that the incident was merely an example of Richard's typical comedic device gone awry. He was antagonizing his heckler in a way that could not fail to strike a nerve. What went wrong is that he lost his aforementioned characteristic control of the situation. He forgot that he- being the entertainer- must be at all times in control of the situation. I do not believe that he ever ventured outside the realm of dramatic representation. His mistake was allowing his audience to errantly perceive that he had. We have obviously learned nothing from his prior contributions. Let alone that it is our civic responsibility to forgive our benefactors an occasional misstep! And Michael Richards is, indeed, a social benefactor via his implied imperative of self directed criticism. We take ourselves too seriously, and we took this situation too seriously. I think now that I shall watch UHF again and reminisce on this tragic hero!