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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cosmo, we hardly knew ye

(updated below)

There's no way of knowing what actors are really like, no matter how long we've been watching them or how many roles we've seen them play. But still, it's always a shock to find out someone is a virulent racist. Especially when it's Cosmo Kramer.

Watch Michael Richards go insane:

As Salon commented, it makes scenes like this one a lot less funny in retrospect.


Over at Steve Gilliard's blog, one of his commenters weighs in with some industry experience and really breaks down Richards' outburst.


Blogger Matthew said...

The racism in the standup clip is distrubing indeed, but nothing can make the pimp clip anything less than hilarious.

Anonymous Mookie Blaylock said...

Maybe he meant it like "whats up my nigga" and not like "i sure wish i would have killed that nigger"

Blogger Chance-86 said...

This whole incident has evoked some odd emotions in me (and those of you who know me, know that it's sometimes tough to get ANY emotion out of me...much less multiple emotions).
A part of me wants to scream, "but you don't know what it's like to be heckled like that" AND, none of us have seen what the heckling was really like. The hecklers are saying that all they said was "you're not funny." I somehow doubt that. But the fact of the matter is that they could have said that they had sex with his recently dead grandmother's rotting doesn't excuse the response. But at the same time...why do you heckle someone? well, to get a response. I once interviewed a guy who had multiple facial piercings and tatoos all over his body, including his neck and hands. Because I was interviewing the man for a professional, customer service type job, it made me leary. The astout man made mention of his appearance and told me how mad it made him that people pre-judged him as soon as they see him. Sounded good. But wait: Why did he do this to his body? He makes permanent and extreme alterations to his body and then gets mad because people notice them? If you didn't want people to notice them, then why the hell did you do this?? what a cop-out.
These 2 men were looking for a response, and boy did they get one. And now that they have filed a lawsuit, I imagine that they'll get a lot more.... Which is a WHOLE different subject. If they sue him for calling them "niggers," I hope that he countersues for them calling him a bad comedian. Then I hope that the rest of the crowd sues the 2 for ruining the night with their about a refund on the tickets?
Am I defending him? No, not really. I'm just saying that when we get frustrated beyond our comfort level, we sometimes do and say things that are out of character (yet not excusable). Is he a racist? Well, on some level I guess that is now an undeniable fact. But when under a great amounts of pressure, I think its natural to resort to the lowest level of attack that you can find. (look at political ads) When my neice was 3, she got really mad at me over nap-time. With all her anger, she squinted her eyes and shook as she blurted out, "you're...NAUGHTY!" It was the worst insult that she could muster out of her emotions. It was a raw and real expression of her anger. At 18, she might have said (out of the same anger) "you're a faggot." The attack is the same, why do we focus on the word choice instead of the real issue: the anger. BTW, I responded to her anger. I sued her....
Another part of me thinks that this whole thing is blown out of proportion by our ridiculous obsession with political correctness. We really have gone overboard. Bad words shouldn't be used by anyone. Or, the use of them by anyone should make them free game to everyone. As we skirt the issues, I personally believe that we perpetuate the problem. If I call another gay man a fag, as a term of salutation, how can I get offended by the use of it by someone else? and who has caused the problem? If I'm offended by the word, then why do I use it? If it has a bad connotation, the connotation is instilled in ME as well as the accusor. They use the word because they are hoping for the reaction that I inevitably give them. I respond the way that they want, which reinforces the bahaviour. I'm as guilty as they are. I hate situation ethics with a passion (at least when it suits my purposes). If I don't like the word, then why do I use it freely, but judge others for using it? Its the people who TAKE issue that perpetuate the issue. Shut up and ignore it and it loses its bite. A perfect example is the word "bitch." Used to be solely something bad, now it's used more as playful slang than anything.
We need to stop wearing our feelings on our shirt cuffs. We get offended far too easily. If a white man has to call a black man an African American, then why doesn't the black man have to call a white man a European American? What? 'white' is acceptable, but 'black' isn't? Who the hell decided that? It's stupid.
Should Cosmo have said it? No. But he shouldn't have said ANYTHING in an ugly, personal tone. His offenses are against humanity as a whole, or they are against these two as individuals. It's America who makes it a racial issue. And just for the record (let the crucifixion commence), as long as we're on racism: I know far more black people who hate white people (just because they're white), than I know white people who hate black people (just because they're black).
Martin Luther once said: "The ultimate weakness of violence
is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth.
Through violence you murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate...
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

The anger isn't the answer. Suing isn't the answer. Looking at ourselves as humans rather than as blacks or whites, or gays or straights, or (you can fill in the blank) is the only answer.
And before I get tossed into a racial/political/lifestyle-correct prison, answer this question for me: Have you (personally) ever told a pollock joke? A Jewish joke? Have you ever used the work 'Fag' in a derogatory way?
Face facts, we probably all have...but then we hang this guy up to dry. Clean up your own damn yard before you bitch about the neighbors'.

Blogger Len said...

Plain and simple he totally lost his control and composure. When you become a stand up comic you better be ready for the hecklers. It's part of the business. I've seen comics put hecklers in their place and be funny doing it.

We all hear black comics use the N word continuously through out their acts I hear it so much from them I sometimes miss the joke. So it's really ironic how if a white comic uses the word its the end of the world. I don't know why this is the case but is is. I don't understand why its ok for blacks to say it but not for whites.

One other comparison is with Sasha Cohen, you know borat? He can insult the Jews and it's funny. Though it wouldn't be funny if he wasn't a Jew himself. So I guess it falls into the same category.

Though the way his comments are heard in every area of the media I feel that the blacks themselves should take some responsibility for the this word still being used. The black comics must stop using the word if not this word will be used more and more instead of less and less.

Blogger Buck B. said...

Like anything else, it's a matter of context. I don't have a problem with the word "nigger" in and of itself. I have used it myself in a non-racial way, and it's pretty damn funny when Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy use it. I can't really imagine a context in which a white comic could say "nigger" and be funny, but I won't rule it out.

Here, though, there's no denying what Richards is doing. His outburst had nothing to do with stand up — he just happened to be on stage when he said it. His words would have been equally at home kicking a black guy out of a diner 50 years ago or lynching him 100 years ago. It wasn't comedy, it was pure racial hatred bubbling up from some dark recess of Richards psyche. I can believe that he's not a racist in his everyday interactions with people of other races, but what he said and did is inexcusable and he deserves whatever he gets. What would happen to you or I if we responded to stress in this way? Yeah, hecklers suck, but we all have to deal with assholes at our jobs from time to time.

I don't really see what grounds the audience members have to sue, though. Everyone's looking for their lottery ticket.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

Personally, if we're going to really look at the word and the context, then maybe we need to redefine our terms. There is a difference between a German and a Nazi, there is a difference between a homosexual and a fag, and yes, there is a difference between a black guy and a nigger...and that is a direct quote from an African American friend of mine....

If I'm acting like a fag, please feel free to call me a fag. So, what were these guys acting like...?

There, someone had to say it.

Blogger Buck B. said...

Think it, don't say it. Especially if you're an enormously famous multi-millionaire renowned for playing a lovable character.

Besides, there's nothing inherently wrong with heckling, especially if the guy sucks — and by all accounts, Richards sucked monkey balls. A professional comic accepts hecklers as a occupational hazard, and had ready-made ways to handle them.

Here's some example responses from the piece I linked to above:

Comedians have lines they use for hecklers. Richard Pryor destroyed many a heckler--in character often. Robin Williams fucking verbally drowns his antagonizers. I heard Chris Rock years ago stun a heckler into silence with a forlorn look heavenward while asking "WHY didn't I wear a scumbag when I fucked this dude's mama twenty years ago? Damn!"

Or you trot out the old stand-by, "Hey, take it easy...little respect. I don't come down to your job and:

a.) Slap the dick outta your mouth in the bus station bathroom when you're givin' blowjobs.

b.) Interrupt you and your mom's live sex act at the peep show.

Or some such variation thereof. What so-called professional comedian or person familiar with stand-up comedy doesn't have an idea of how to deal with something as common to the game as hecklers?

Blogger Chance-86 said...

Does thinking it without saying it make it a smaller cancer on our society??

I'd rather be thought a racist publically, than to be a closeted hypocrit.

If you laugh at a racist joke but won't repeat the same joke because you're of the wrong race, then I have zero respect for you. Thats what MAKES you a differentiate based on colour. My straight friends can tell me all the Fag jokes that they want. I'm not offended because I don't possess the characteristics that make a homosexual a faggot.

Again, I'm not condoning his behaviour, I'm just saying that we are spending all of our time focussing on an ugly word instead of the deeper problems of anger and society.

Blogger Buck B. said...

But that's how our culture works to remove its cancers — by making certain views and words no longer socially acceptable.

I don't give a shit if someone hates blacks or Jews or gays. It's a free country, and I don't want the thought police telling people what they can or cannot think. Behavior is what matters, what you say and what you do, whether it's denying someone a job or telling your daughter no Mexicans are allowed in the house. Calling for some audience members to be lynched because you can't handle a few mild heckles is not acceptable.

It used to be OK to go around publicly calling people niggers and faggots. It's not anymore, and thank God for it. That language is used to demean people and perpetuate a hierarchy in which the person saying the word is clearly above the person being insulted.

When we make it no longer OK to use that language, we take away away one of the most powerful tools of cultural domination. Why do you think the word "nigger" has such power? Because it was used for so many years as a way of subjugating blacks. And that's why it's OK for blacks themselves to say it — you can't racially subjugate your own people.

When you tell a racial joke, Chance, it's because you find it funny. In that context, yes, it's hard to argue that you should have to censor yourself based on the audience. But traditionally, racial jokes were told primarily to demean people and only secondarily because they're funny. A lot of racial jokes, especially when they're told by ignorant redneck fuckwads, have barely a hint of actual humor to them — they're mostly savage racism dressed up with a half-ass punchline.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

Wow, Buck, I'm surprised that you are such a biggot that you would demean our hard-working farmers by calling someone that you disagree with an "ignorant redneck fuckwad." Do you think that's any less demeaning than the word 'nigger' or 'faggot'? I happen to be a farmboy raised in farm country and I find it a social outrage that you would assume that, in order to be a racist, that you must be an "ignorant redneck fuckwad." Are you elevating yourself as someone who is NOT a redneck and, therefore, NOT ignorant? Does that not "perpetuate a hierarchy in which the person saying the word is clearly above the person being insulted"?
As I said before, to me a racist is one who changes their normal behaviour depending on who they are with. That is one who bases his actions on race instead of individuality.
You make a call for all to change their behaviour, but behaviour is only a reflection of what is going on inside. Change the thought process and the behaviour will change with it. Pretending to not be racist when you are, or just not caring if somone is racist is the fuel that will keep this fire burning well into the next generation.

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Blogger Matthew said...

"a racist is one who changes their normal behaviour depending on who they are with. That is one who bases his actions on race instead of individuality."

I would tend to disagree here. Changing your normal behavior is not racism, it is prejudice. They are not the same thing. What is normal behavior anyway? We treat every single person on earth differently from everyone else. We all are prejudiced, I don't care how enlightened you believe you might be, everyone forms an opinion of everyone they meet before speaking or interacting with them, be it their color, their sex, their dress, whatever. It is a fact of life.

Racism is refusing to admit to the record evidence to the contrary of your initial prejudged opinion of someone, or to be hateful in response to another's racical background.

Blogger Buck B. said...

Yeah, Matthew, the difference between racism and prejudice is widely misunderstood. Everyone has prejudices, both good and bad. The problem is when people confuse their own personal prejudices with some sort of universal truth.

Blogger Chance-86 said...

Matthew, I may ponder your words for a few moment, because I may tend to agree with that...but at the same time, in this argument, The question is specifically racism (which is a specific form of prejudice). I think the definitions might be splitting hairs.
There is a fine line between stereotype, prejudice, and racism. The problem is that the lines sometimes blur.
Jokes based on stereotypes are what most comedians rely on: How do you starve a black guy? hide his welfare check under his workboots. We all laugh because we understand the stereotype. blondes are another perfect example. How do you drown a blonde? put a scratch and sniff sticker at the bottom of a swimming pool. If we laugh at the stereotype, it is not really being prejudiced or racist, it is simply acknowledging that certain people and types of people seem to have some similar traits in common. When we get ourselves into trouble is when we start to prejudge people based on the stereotype rather than on their individuality. That is prejudice. They have been pre-judged based on the actions of others. The line to racism is only differentiated because it is a race issue rather than a lifestyle issue. And that is what i was fumbling to elude to earlier. I think this issue goes beyond race. It goes deeper. The man may not be a true racist...he just lashed out at the lowest level that he could muster. If you look at his contributory efforts during Katrina, you have to question if he is a true racist. He is, however, obviously prejudiced. I guess the difference is the display.

Either way, I find the entire incident sad, and no apology will ever take away the visual that we all have.

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