N-word furor may affect his life, concedes 'Seinfeld' namesake
NEW YORK - The real Kramer imagines it's all about nothing.
"Every comic can have a bad night," Kenny Kramer said Monday.
Kramer had just seen an online video clip of comedian Michael Richards exploding into racist invective at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles over the weekend, at one point using the N-word five times in a single poisonous breath.
Richards has until now been known for playing Cosmo Kramer, the character on the "Seinfeld" show based on the real-life Kenny Kramer, who continues to reside here in New York.
Richards will now also be known as the standup comic who hurled the N-word repeatedly against some African-American patrons who had the temerity to heckle him during his show.
He employed the dreaded epithet too many times and too clearly to even try to say he was merely using a little hip-hop lingo, as some have done in recent months. He was using that word as unmistakably and as hatefully as a Klansman.
Even the television Kramer would have understood that this was a moment that will forever change how people look at Richards. That surely includes "Seinfeld" reruns.
But the real-life Kramer remains convinced that the incident will not affect the Kramer Reality Tours he conducts, allowing him to continue to cash in on his association with the "Seinfeld" show.
The weekend bus tours of "Seinfeld" landmarks embark from West 44th Street, cost $37.50 a head and routinely sell out. Kramer does not expect that to change.
"I'm sure nobody associates me with what he did," Kramer said.
"At least I hope not."
He then was all confidence again.
"Art imitates life imitating art imitating life," Kramer said. "But he's not Kramer."
Kramer was speaking of the TV character, not himself.
"I don't think his actions reflect on Kramer in the least," Kramer went on. "He's Michael Richards. Kramer is a television character."
The real-life Kramer allowed that several people had asked if he thought the remarks would cause him trouble.
"I'm thinking no," Kramer said. "I don't see how it could hurt me. I didn't say any of these things."
Then the real-life Kramer suddenly sounded like Kramer the TV character.
"I think it's going to help," he said. "I'm getting all this publicity!"
Kramer did allow that the incident is sure to have professional repercussions for Richards. Kramer compared it with Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade.
"Rehab could be a career move at this point, even if he doesn't need it," Kramer said. "But obviously Michael is not as big a star as Gibson."
In fact, Richards has ceased to be much of a star at all, which explains his fury at those who accorded him less than their complete attention at the Laugh Factory on Friday night.
The real-life Kramer was himself a standup comic for years, and he allowed that any experienced comedian should have known to respond to hecklers with some quick wit.
"Then the audience is on your side," Kramer said.
Kramer insists Richards is no racist, but the words came from somewhere. Richards could have attacked his adversaries' physiognomy or attire, but in choosing their race, he was a racist by its very definition.
His adversaries responded by calling him "cracker" and "white boy," but those words do not carry any real hurt. One adversary got personal, noting that Richards had done nothing of note since he ceased playing Kramer.
"'Seinfeld,' that's it," the man said.
Richards tried to play it off like he was not bothered.
"Oh, I guess you got me there," he said. "You're absolutely right. I'm a washup."
If he was not washed up then, he almost certainly is now, despite Monday's apology and declaration he is not a racist. One question is whether fans will continue to pack the tour run by the real-life Kramer who inspired the TV character in the show about nothing, a character you had to love - until now.