Saturday, July 14, 2007

Michael Richards, Re-visted

The newspapers were revisiting Michael Richards the other day; an article about the 57 year old ex-Seinfeld actor visiting the Far East, chilling out on eastern philosophy. He of course needed chilling out after his You Tube widely disseminated rant on blacks during a stand-up comedy routine in a nightclub a few months ago.

I felt obliged to revisit the rant. There it was. He was out of control; obviously. Art, including the art of comedy, demands a little aesthetic distance; both between artist and himself, and between artist and audience. Discipline, structure, form is required in art; and a bit of 'chill', no matter how heated the topic, is required to achieve the most effective comedic goal of focused passion, disciplined chaos, controlled hysteria. Instead, there, on You Tube for all the world to see, Michael Richards lost his 'cool' or chill, or form, or discipline, and for that he was properly castigated.

But racism? Come on! Point one: Most of the jokes in comedy stores are racist, or sexist, or blah-blah-blah-ist. Comedy seeks comedy relief; and relief demands tension; and "ist" topics (along with mother in laws and gender and George Bush) are inherently tension-filled, hence the necessary and proper stuff of comedy.

But to tar Richards as racist simply because he went after some black members of the audience with the "n" word...and only after they went after him with the "h-b" word, or the "o-t-h" word ("has been" and "over the hill" words). They implicitly called him an "old man" (some might say he deserved it; what the hell is he, a millionaire I'm sure, doing stand-up at 57 for?); a strong example of age-ism. Richards could no more control or change his being old than they could control or change their being black. Both groups were trading sword blows in "ist" stereotyping.

Point two: what the hell do you think you aim for in a fight: some one's muscularity or some one's vulnerabilities? So when they went after his age; he went after their race. If someone punched me in the nose, I would not punch them back on the shoulder. If I had any sense I would aim for their balls...their vulnerability, no? One you start a fight, hecklers, protect your soft parts or don't start the fight. Especially with an experienced fighter...or didn't anyone know that a comic is a socially-approved dealer in hostility. Nice people don't puncture other people's balloons.

Richards was out of control...but even if it had been a disciplined artful comedy fight, which this one was go for the testicles first. With style, and grace, and 'chill'...but you do it.

Maybe he'll learn how the Buddhists deal with hecklers on his swing through the Far East.


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