Monday, November 20, 2006

BREAKING AGAIN: Transcript of Michael Richards on Letterman

CBS just sent out their press release from the taping of Letterman this afternoon (the actual interview will air on CBS tonight). Fresh from my inbox:

Richards was featured via satellite from Los Angeles during an interview with scheduled guest Jerry Seinfeld, who asked Richards, his former “Seinfeld” co-star, to appear on the CBS late night broadcast. The following is an excerpt from Richards’ interview:

Letterman: “Why don’t you explain exactly what happened for the folks who may not know.”

Richards: “I lost my temper on stage. I was at a comedy club trying to do my act and I got heckled and I took it badly and went into a rage and said some pretty nasty things to some Afro-Americans, a lot of trash talk, and uh…”

Letterman: “And you were actually being heckled or were they just talking and disturbing the act?”

Richards: “That was going on too.”

* * *

Richards: “…You know, I’m really busted up over this and I’m very, very sorry to those people in the audience, the blacks, the Hispanics, whites – everyone that was there that took the brunt of that anger and hate and rage and how it came through, and I’m concerned about more hate and more rage and more anger coming through, not just towards me but towards a black/white conflict. There’s a great deal of disturbance in this country and how black feel about what happened in Katrina, and, you know, many of the comics, many of performers are in Las Vegas and New Orleans trying to raise money for what happened there, and for this to happen, for me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, you know, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. And I’ll get to the force field of this hostility, why it’s there, why the rage is in any of us, why the trash takes place, whether or not it’s between me and a couple of hecklers in the audience or between this country and another nation, the rage – “

Letterman: “But Michael, let me interrupt here for a second and ask a question about had the people doing the heckling or the people who were not paying attention, had they been white or Caucasian or any other race, what would have been the nature of your response then?”

Richards: “It may have happened. It may have happened. You know, I’m a performer. I push the envelope, I work in a very uncontrolled manner onstage. I do a lot of free association, it’s spontaneous, I go into character. I don’t know, in view of the situation and the act going where it was going, I don’t know, the rage did go all over the place. It went to everybody in the room. But you can’t – you know it’s, I don’t – I know people could, blacks could feel – I’m not a racist, that’s what so insane about this, and yet it’s said, it comes through, it fires out of me and even now in the passion that’s here as I confront myself.”

Brian said...

What gets me about this is that no one involved (Richards, audience, the public) is *truly* shocked, angered, offended or sorry. The truth of the matter is that Michael Richards is sorry that in a fit of rage, he went public with some private feelings and fucked up his career. After all, had no one come with a recording device, he could have just as easily denied saying the worst of it and maybe made it go away.

And what about the rest of us who find it so easy to jump on a public figure's disgrace while secretly relishing the opportunity to watch it unfold on youtube or wherever the fuck else it's been linked. We're certainly not shocked or saddened when friends and family let the racial epithets fly, regardless of their sincerity. Our secret prejudices and feelings are perfectly okay as long as they're *kept* secret and not spat at some hapless audience via ill-advised tirade.

It's pretty fucking easy indeed for all of us to mount our soapboxes and make sarcastic remarks about what a dipshit Michael Richards is. It doesn't matter, though, because most people who watched the clip probably laughed. It's a good thing no one was there to capture that on camera phone!

J. Scott said...

Well Said Brian. I am a young black man of 28 years. In the past year, I have been on the receiving end of more racism on internet forums, internet video games, youtube, etc. than I have encountered in the real world during my entire life. That has made something very clear to me that I had once had a hard time believing. Racist sentiments towards blacks are strong, well distributed, and well disguised until someone believes that they have enough anonymity to express them, or accidently makes a slip of the tongue like Michael Richards. Disappointing, but my parents taught me as a young man to do the best I could against this evil and to never, EVER, start hating all white people because of it. Bless the White Men who challenge bigotry wherever they see it.

Anonymous said...

It goes both ways. I submit one New York City Councilman, Charles Barron. This guy is as racisit as they come.

In August 2002, while speaking before a crowd at the Millions for Reparations March in Washington, D.C., Barron made the case for a Democratic bill providing reparations for black slavery in the following terms: "I want to go up to the closest white person and say: 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing' and then slap him, just for my mental health.”

The following month, Barron once again caused a stir when -- in what he now calls one the “highlights” of his political career -- he invited Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to deliver a speech at City Hall. Mugabe is not the only dictator embraced by Barron. Of Fidel Castro, Barron has said: "He is a true champion of human rights worldwide." Less charitable is Barron's assessment of his own country. "If you're looking for the Axis of Evil, look inside the belly of the beast," Barron has said of the United States.

At a 2003 International ANSWER anti-war rally in Washington, D.C., Barron denounced U.S. capitalist interests as the real "axis of evil." (full text)

If any individual of any color is a respectful law abiding human being, I respect them. These kind of folks need to be shunned, not embraced.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is a lot of people of my generation (and even more so Michael Richards') grew up with racism - in many cases our parents taught us that crap as we were growing up. Some of us have had parents who told us racism isn't acceptable but some of us had to figure out on our own that what we've been taught was all bullshit and people are people. But I imagine that there are many people out there like me who have to make a conscious effort not to be abusive, and that's not always easy. So I have no problem believing Richards isn't racist - but sometimes people make really stupid mistakes, especially when stressed. Even Barbra Streisand had a short outburst when heckled in one recent performance - but they're just people and they'll make their share of mistakes.

Anonymous said...

i find his "apology" more iritating than the actual outburst. what set richards off was a few african americans talking (or not paying attention as letterman suggests) during his performance. the "heckling" only came after richards' racist remarks. during this appearance richards ducks lettermans' point blank question as to whether heckling set him off or talking, by cleverly responding that there was talking too. poor baby, posing as the victim. he goes on to suggest that there are these nasty social forces, leading to wars among nations and such, that just inhabited him for a moment, pretty much ducking any individual responsibility. this slickness is even more naseating than the actual, kind of loony and over the top, rant in my book.

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Good for Richards, I'M sick of blacks and immigrants getting away with everything. It's time a white person stood up for American, Those niggers were looking for trouble and they found it. said...

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