Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mind your own business, Al.

Michael Richards, who played "Kramer" on the popular television program "Seinfeld", went on a racist rant at a recent comedy club appearance in response to hecklers. This has generated quite a bit of discussion, and Richards has profusely apologized for his outburst.

What Richards did was clearly inappropriate and unprofessional. A stand-up comedian can expect to be heckled from time to time, and he needs to be able to work around it without losing his cool. He should make reasonable amends for what he said, including sending a personal hand-signed letter of apology to everyone at the show and either refunding the cost of the tickets or purchasing a new ticket for everyone in the audience.

Some of the people in the audience are considering a lawsuit against Richards in the aftermath of the incident. This is laughable. Stand-up comedians have pushed the envelope for decades. The profanity-filled acts of Eddie Murphy and Sam Kinison have offended many, or at least made audiences uncomfortable. When Gallagher came to Bloomington last year, he picked on one member of the audience for his attire and suggested the man might be a homosexual.

As Clarence Page said in his opinion column on the subject, "if abusive speech without physical damage is grounds for a lawsuit, the biggest laughs will be coming from lawyers."

Instead of groveling before shameless race-baiters like Al Sharpton, Richards should tell him to mind his own business. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Sharpton refused to accept an apology from Richards, saying Richards needs to do more. Who exactly does Al Sharpton think he is? Doers anyone really think that this is a pressing national issue that a former Presidential candidate needs to be involved with?

Sharpton was not at the comedy club and was not subjected to Richards' rant. Sharpton has no right to reject any apology. He does not even deserve to get an apology for what Richards said to someone else. Richards is not responsible to every black person in the United States for his racist outburst; he is responsible to the people who felt his wrath and the people at the show.

Now, Jesse Jackson is calling for a boycott of the DVD box set collecting the "Seinfeld" TV series. So Jackson is going to punish everyone who stands to gain from sales of the sets because of the actions of one actor on the show? While "Seinfeld" reruns are in heavy syndication, notes that the series itself ended in 1998.

Both Jackson and Sharpton should be ashamed of themselves for their race-baiting on this matter. Instead of engaging in shameless self-promotion and exploiting the Politically Correct atmosphere of Hollywood for their latest extortion scheme, Sharpton and Jackson should look for constructive ways to improve the lives of black people in America. I do not advise holding your breath waiting for that to happen.