Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When Celebs Lose Their Shit

After returning home from another brilliant Monkey's Uncle improv show last night, I was hungry for more hijinks and flipped on "Seinfeld." There are few shows I never tire of ("I Love Lucy", "Sex in the City", etc.) and this is one of them. Doesn't matter how many times I have seen the episode, I still laugh uproariously.

There I was, marveling at the collective genius, when I had an impulse to switch channels. By sheer chance, I stumbled across Jerry Seinfeld guesting on David Letterman, discussing Michael Richards' very public display of racist rage in the middle of his stand-up act last weekend. To my surprise, Seinfeld was quite serious and trying to make amends for his friend. Next thing I know, they've got Richards on satellite, looking older and visibly distraught, struggling to explain his reprehensible actions.

Just seeing Richards face brings visions of Kramer famously whizzing into Jerry's apartment and so the audience began to laugh, as did I. Then, Seinfeld uncharacteristically tried his hand at seriousness and chastised the audience, "Don't laugh. It's not funny." That alone, was surreal – like Madeline Albright launching into a striptease or Dick Cheney doing a guest voice on 'The Simpsons.' Awk-ward.

But not half as awkward as Richards himself. While he sputtered and fidgeted, it took a while to sink in that the man was deadly serious. I had to get up and brush my teeth in the middle - it was that hard to watch. I picked up some nervous laughter in the audience and again, they were called on it. "I hear some of your audience members laughing," Richards said to Letterman, "and this is no laughing matter." After that, you coulda heard a pin drop. This was television at its weirdest.

So, what is the deal lately with celebs going bonkers these days? Tom Cruise is beyond repair in my book – the three-minute "I'm really not gay – see look!" kiss at his own wedding is just another example of his inner struggles. Can't exactly blame the media – it's not like Mel Gibson was being trampled by paparazzi when he went drinking with his inner anti-Semite and trotted him out for all the world to see.

It's not so much the meltdowns that I am tiring of – because those can be really fun – it's the barrage of earnest apologies that are starting to chafe. I'm not saying that Celebs Gone Postal should not make amends but it's starting to feel like the soup of the day.

I feel like some enterprising broadcast executive could start an "All Apologies" network (theme music by Nirvana) and just run them 24/7. You think I'm joking but remember, folks laughed at Ted Turner – "Who wants to watch news all the time?" (I also had the same idea for car chases but I think "Cops" now has that covered.)

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for celebs who do not apologize for every mistake. Despite going barefoot in a public restroom, driving with her infant in her lap or chomping gum through a major interview, Britney Spears' best quality may be that she just doesn't give a shit, hence, the fascination. Instead of Richards' promise to "take some time off, do some personal work," Britney just shrugs, snaps her gum and says in her Louisiana twang, "We're country, that's just how it is."

Obviously, Richards is mortified by his actions, as he should be, and seems as shocked as anyone that he's actually an angry racist. Admittedly, targeted members of the audience had found his weak spot - his failure to succeed post-Seinfeld - and were taunting him about it.

We all have angry buttons and apparently, mine is watching the morning express bus driver casually forget to stop and pick up me and my fellow shivering commuters. In San Francisco, I completely snapped during one occasion and attacked just such a bus. Crazed and frothing, I nearly got run over as I tried to board it at 35 mph. I'm pretty sure I even beat my fists on a passenger window in a full-blown rage as people grabbed their children away from the raging psychotic that I was. Nope, it wasn't my finest hour and you know what?

I'm not sorry.


Fang Bastardson said...

I feel sorry for Jerry Seinfeld.

By all accounts a decent, if not especially warm fellow, a couple days before he hits the promotional trail to hawk his latest DVD season set, this dumbass “Kramer” has his Mel Gibson moment and Seinfeld has to give over half his Letterman appearance for a bizarre, manic, creepy apology from his former cast-mate.

I also want to add this about Michael Richards – he’s not a very funny guy. I’ve seen him in interview situations on chat shows, and he’s unfailingly awkward and unfunny. He’s one of those guys, like Dana Carvey, who without writers and a character to hide behind, is not a natural comedian. What the hell Richards was doing stand-up for is a mystery to me, it really is.

Anyhow, I’m always grateful when one of these assholes “out” themselves. The difference between Richards and Mel Gibson is, Gibson is a wickedly talented filmmaker and I will definitely go see “Apocalypto” opening weekend. Richards is a no-talent has-been who didn’t even need liquor to loosen his tongue.

The shame is that this is going to taint the “Seinfeld” series in perpetuity. How are we supposed to watch Kramer burst into a room goggle-eyed and fidgety and not think, “Stupid fucking cracker-ass racist. Wonder which minority’s got him worked up this time?” CLICK.

Like I said, I feel sorry for Jerry Seinfeld. And I can not wait for Apocalypto to open!

Tamburlaine said...

Richards HAS to apologize, right? Not because he's sorry but because he's afraid he just flushed his career down the toilet (he did).

But I'm not sure whether Richards is actually a racist or whether he just blew a gasket. When one of these racist celebrity outbursts makes news (Jimmy the Greek, anyone?), the perpetretor is swiftly vilified -- esp. by self-congratulatory liberals. While this is understandable, it also serves to support the delusion that we are not a racist country, that the bigots are the exception.

They are not. Spend a little time on the message boards of professional sports teams or in other bottom feeder realms like the boards on AOL, and you'll quickly see how many angry little white men think the world is out to get them. They seem overwhelmed with a desire to say "nigger," and are furious that only blacks get to say that word. The outrage! The double standard! Goddamn political correctedness!

I'm not surprised that many famous people also share such views. But, again, it's quite possible that Richards, after having been called a "cracker" for 10 minutes, just lost his shit. This is what was so ugly about that incident. It could happen to anyone in a fit of rage. It's quite possible that Richards was as shocked by what he said as everyone else was.

Nothing of this excuses him. He fucked up. And what he said was painful to hear. It was like he channeled the dark ugly Faulknerian spectre of White America. But lest I pile on him too much, I'm gonna tend to the mote in my own eye.