I’m very much a behind-the-scenes-guy on this blog, but with Jerry on vacation, we thought it might be fun for me to write up a post. I’ve been casually blogging –read: infrequently posting without conviction– over at my own site, and I recently did a week dedicated to my favorite meltdown clips.
One of the clips I passed over was Michael Richard’s racial tirade at the Laugh Factory. Bear with me if you have no idea what I’m talking about, and resist the urge to use the Google and find the clip on the YouTubes!
I feel that it’s a comedian’s job to push boundaries and entice reactions. These reactions do not always need to be laughter, and there’s times where they’re extremely distasteful and provocative to garner responses. Kramer went way over the line, and it’s more sad than funny. When I think of great meltdowns I want ones that I can laugh at and quote, and I can’t really quote this one. I decided to pass on it.
So why this lead-up and talk of a clip I passed over?
Seven of the most brutally uncomfortable moments on network television were a result of this slip up. Jerry and I have very similar tastes in comedy, and we think the Kramer apology is absolutely fantastic. It’s easily his best work since Seinfeld ended, and we think everyone that knows us needs to see it.
It’s lengthy, so stick with it and hang around for some closing thoughts.
If I recall the circumstance correctly, Jerry Seinfeld was on a bit of a hiatus from being a public figure, and was doing promotional touring for DVDs or something. He just so happened to be scheduled on Letterman right around the time Kramer screwed up –it may have actually been the very next day— and he finagled Kramer on as a surprise satellite guest to explain himself.
I seem to remember some cooling-off time after Seinfeld, where Jerry just wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of the cast and crew. You can tell he’s pissed that he’s got to fend off questions about Mean Ol’ Uncle Kramer, and he’s really annoyed that Kramer’s eating up his Letterman spot. When the crowd can’t make heads or tails of what Kramer’s saying, Jerry spits out that super snarky, “Stop laughing. It’s not funny,” line and it slays me every time I watch this.
Kramer awkwardly dancing around phrases with racist connotation (while saying he’s not racist) is pretty spectacular, so this is a solid clip with just that element. When you take into account Jerry Seinfeld’s body language, and his apparent contempt at his former co-actor, this jumps from being a weird moment in TV history to an all-time-classic clip. Check out that body language! He just wants to crawl off stage and not speak to anyone for a very long time, and he’s furious at Kramer for putting him into that position.
Now, for those of you that had no idea this existed before reading the post, I need your input. My theory about this is that when humans are met with uneasy situations, they tend to sheepishly giggle to ease the tension. Going on Kramer’s awkwardness and probably only knowing him as a quirky character on Seinfeld, you can see how the crowd would giggle at this. It’s absurd, and it reeks of performance art. Did you start to laugh at this? Are you a terrible person like me?
Now you can watch the Kramer meltdown if you haven’t seen it before (or just want to watch it again). It’s insane. By which I mean that it’s littered with racial slurs and obscenity that would have made Richard Prior blush.