Michael Richards

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

What was the Accusation?

On November 20, 2006, actor Michael Richards (known for his role as Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld apologized for a racist rant at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Hollywood.  After being heckled during his act, Richards went into a rage, saying at one point to some African-American audience members, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass” and “You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a ni**er! He’s a ni**er! A ni**er, look, there’s a ni**er!” At the request of his Seinfeld co-star Jerry Seinfeld, who was already scheduled to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, Richards joined the interview via satellite and offered the explanation that he “got heckled and took it badly,” that he was “really busted up over this,” and that he was “very very sorry.”

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Provocation, Defeasibility



Michael Richards Appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman:

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. 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 blacks 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.


Farhi, P. (2006, November 21). ‘Seinfeld’ comic Richards apologizes for racial rant. Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/21/AR2006112100242.html

‘Kramer’s’ racist tirade caught on tape (2006, November 20). TMZ. Retrieved from: http://www.tmz.com/2006/11/20/kramers-racist-tirade-caught-on-tape/

‘Seinfeld’ star Michael Richards apologizes on ‘Letterman’ for racial slurs (2006, November 21). Fox News. Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2006/11/21/seinfeld-star-michael-richards-apologizes-on-letterman-for-racial-slurs.html