Monday, December 04, 2006

Holy Mackarel, Kingfish!

Air Force interviewer: What did you major in at college?
Interviewee: Chinese. Well, actually, my degree was in 'Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literature.'
Air Force interviewer: Oh, that's so cool. So, you speak Asian?
Interviewee: Um, yes.

Overheard at the Office

The Daily Show touches on Michael Richard's recent career-ending moment, as always, from a unique perspective. (Apologies in advance for what that freaking link is going to do to your browser. Nothing I can do about it.) And you may need this, too.

Here are all the n-bombs, in case you haven't seen it. (You will have to register to see this video, but you do you not have to give a working email address.)

The first problem, of course, is that Michael Richards has racist thoughts. It's not that he is racist in that, oh, he thumbs through the KKK "Livin' White" newsletter on the weekends. He doesn't think of himself as hating someone for their color. Instead, like everyone in this country or this world, he's been exposed to organized sets of ideas about race. He didn't realize how ingrained those ideas are, how steeped in this culture he has become, and how "sophistication" can mask ideas that are the most rudimentary and primitive that exist in our species. You have to actively work against racism. It is in everyone.

His apology the next day shows a man making the most harrowing personal discovery: he's not a nice guy, he's actually kind of an asshole. Now people hate him. Now, because this one moment, he will be tarred for the rest of his life as a bigot. It can never be undone. The infinitely more talented Elvis Costello discovered this in the 1980s when he used the n-word to refer to Ray Charles, in another private, drunken moment made indelibly public. Elvis said with admirable shame many years later, "I have also found that guilt is a burden without any statute of limitations."

The second problem is more of a professional nature: Michael Richards is not funny. Dealing with hecklers is a learned skill on the comedian circuit. The public, savage evisceration of a drunken idiot is par for the course, and would have been gleefully received by the crowd. It was a terrible reversal. You had an actor who was used to years of adulation for his comedic talents, but he discovered in a brake-screeching moment that he doesn't have what it takes for stand-up. He was able to convert his twitchy, physical gifts into TV history. Seinfeld was great, a classic; but Richards' movies suck, and, oopsie, he just flame-torched his stand-up future. The best he can hope for now is a VH1 "Behind the Fuck-up" TV special.

updated: for clarity


Anonymous wrd said...

Points well taken.

As for Richards, he'll always have the Seinfeld reruns (and the dough that comes with 'em).

Wednesday, 06 December, 2006  

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