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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Michael Richards and the Racism of Paul Rodriguez 

OK, now I know what happened. But this incident is telling (emphasis mine):

Comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was at the Laugh Factory on Friday during Richards' performance, said he was shocked.

“Once the word comes out of your mouth and you don't happen to be African-American, then you have a whole lot of explaining,” Rodriguez told CNN. “Freedom of speech has its limitations and I think Michael Richards found those limitations.”

If those are the rules, then this honky cracker will verbally denigrate anyone who isn't a honky cracker who refers to honky crackers.

But I digress. If you were living under a rock like me, here's what happened:

Michael Richards said Monday he spewed racial epithets during a stand-up comedy routine because he lost his cool 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,” the former Seinfeld co-star said during a satellite appearance for David Letterman's Late Show in New York.

“I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this,” Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself....

Richards described himself as going into “a rage” over the two audience members who interrupted his act Friday at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. Richards responded to the black hecklers with repeated use of the “n word” and profanities.

His Laugh Factory tirade began after the two club-goers shouted at him that he wasn't funny. A videotape of the incident was posted on TMZ.com.

Richards retorted: “Shut up! Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a [expletive] fork up your ass.”

He then paced across the stage taunting the men for interrupting his show, peppering his speech with racial slurs and profanities.

“You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now [expletive]. Throw his ass out. He's a nigger!” Richards shouted before repeating the racial epithet over and over again.

Moderating his tone at one point, Richards tells the audience, “It shocks you, it shocks you” and refers to “what lays buried.”

While there is some chuckling in the audience throughout the outburst, someone can be heard gasping “Oh my God” and people respond with “ooh” after Richards uses the n-word.

Eventually someone calls out: “It's not funny. That's why you're a reject, never had no shows, never had no movies. Seinfeld, that's it.”

So Richards went on Letterman to address the issue.

At one point, however, Richards expressed second thoughts about appearing on the Late Show when his use of the term “Afro-American” proved funny to some audience members.

“I'm hearing your audience laugh, and I'm not even sure that this is where I should be addressing the situation.”

Well, Mikey you honky cracker, you couldn't address this on Ted Koppel because he's retired. And, by the way, someone other than Koppel has been "retired":

Comedian Paul Rodriguez appeared at a press conference at the LA comedy venue The Laugh Factory Monday to say that the actor who played Kramer on Seinfeld, Michael Richards, would no longer be welcome on their stage.

Isn't it ironic, don't you think?

Late funnyman RICHARD PRYOR was sent off with a few laughs last night (11DEC05) when stars including CHRIS ROCK, DAMON WAYANS and EDDIE MURPHY joined a comedy tribute to the comedian.

The stars came out for the Chocolate Sundae show at Hollywood's Laugh Factory, where Pryor's manager paid tribute to the comedy legend, who died of a heart attack on Saturday (10DEC05).

The Laugh Factory's blogspot blog is silent on the Richards issue - it hasn't been updated in months. They've shifted to MySpace:

For 28 years the Laugh Factory has prided itself on being the only club that guaranteed laughter. On Friday night the club exercised that pledge and refunded money to its patrons for the first time. We are truly sorry for what happened. This is a comedy club and while we have always supported the comics¹ first amendment rights, we have done so with the understanding that they were exercising that right in an effort to be funny.

We do not support or condone the inappropriate, hurtful and offensive comments that Mr. Richards made on Friday night at the Laugh Factory.

Mr. Richards was scheduled to appear on Saturday night and had informed management of his intention to apologize for his hurtful and unprofessional outburst from the previous night. He failed to do so and disappointed us.

We have made it clear that Mr. Richards is no longer welcomed here. The Laugh Factory is a comedy club, not a forum for personal attacks.

Or is this just a case of political correctness gone haywire? There's a ton of speculation on that front. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson's take on the discussion is interesting:

The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder of the Brotherhood Organization of A New Destiny, issued a statement Wednesday calling for an end to racial double standards.

"If the word 'nigger' is so offensive and shocking to blacks, then why do black people themselves continue to use this word?" asked Peterson. "The word is kept alive by black comedians and rappers, and is a part of the everyday language and fabric of the pseudo 'black culture.' Yet, whites are forbidden from uttering this word."...

[Richards'] apology was not enough for Pentecostal minister the Rev. Al Sharpton and other blacks, according to a news release. Peterson, however, explained the difficult circumstances that whites face when addressing blacks.

"A growing number of white Americans feel as though they are forced to wear a politically correct muzzle when it comes to discussing race issues," he said. "Whites are growing increasingly frustrated about being labeled 'racist' whenever they disagree with blacks."

"Black people cannot continue using this word, yet label others as 'racists' when they do the same in a fit of anger, as Michael Richards did," he added. "By not allowing whites to express themselves, it only drives the problem underground and forces people to keep these emotions bottled up-in essence, the politically correct culture is helping to create people like Michael Richards!"

And there's a bit of a Paul Rodriguez backlash:

You know what's worst than going onstage and shouting horrifying racial slurs? Trying to squeeze a little much-needed pub out of it. During his completely unnecessary press conference (not this one, but the second one) outside of The Laugh Factory in the wake of this weekend's Kramergate fiasco, outraged comedian in a Hawaiian Shirt Paul Rodriguez simply could not resist the opportunity to pepper a few "Rodriguezingers" into his empassioned...condemnation of racism in stand-up comedy. In a dazzling display of comedic economy, P-Rod packs in references to Jews, Mel Gibson and (never failing to be timely) racist mid-90's police office Mark Fuhrman (hey, OJ's back!) in a funny-flurry lasting just under 30 seconds, desperately trying to prove that he was the authority on racial stereotype humor long before the very first lazy "lazy beaner" hilarity-nugget trickled into the Mind of Mencia. This is, of course, the most press attention Paul Rodriguez has ever enjoyed....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

When I first read the news reports about the incident, I assumed Richards had a bad slip of the tongue. A horrible slip, but nothing more. Then I watched the actual video on You Tube, and was revolted. I was stunned speechless. I've never seen anything so vile. I also saw his "apology" on Letterman, and it made me wonder what kind of crack the guy is on. It was no apology at all. And for the first time in my life, I actually agree with what Rev. Al said. Richards' career is over, and rightfully so.
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