By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, November 23, 2006
On this day in which we pause to give thanks for this and that, be thankful you are not an African American, Jew or woman who has crossed Michael Richards at a comedy club.
Yes, Michael Richards, who recently clocked David Letterman's biggest number since Oprah showed up last December, when he appeared on CBS's "Late Show" to apologize to "Afro-Americans" for Friday's shocking caught-on-camera rant against African Americans at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.
The man heretofore best known as Cosmo Kramer, Jerry Seinfeld's lovable weirdsmobile made-for-TV neighbor -- seventh-season DVD boxed set out this week -- appears to have cut a much wider swath in his comedy-club slurring, also taking in Jews and women.
TMZ -- the AOL Time Warner gossip Web site that brought us Richards's N-word marathon -- yesterday introduced a video interview it conducted with two people who say Richards went on a similar room-silencing screamfest about Jews during an appearance at another Hollywood comedy club last spring.
And an L.A. comic named Jeremy Beth Michaels has written for the Web about the time she says Richards tried to break the world record for most uses by a misogynist of the C-word in one conversation at a comedy club when she may or may not have accidentally knocked over a recorder he was using to tape his performance.
Yesterday on TMZ, you could watch Carol Oschin and J.P. Fillett as they described their visit to the Improv on April 22. As with Richards's meltdown last week, the incident appears to have been triggered by an audience member.
Oschin said the comic "said something derogatory to a man sitting close to the stage" and when the man retorted, Richards said, " 'You [expletive] Jew! You people are the cause of Jesus dying!' And he just kept on blurting out derogatory statements about the Jews. And the entire club got very, very quiet. We didn't know if it was part of the act or did this guy lose his mind. He got very violent and very agitated."
She says Richards's tirade about Jews went on for several minutes, after which he stormed offstage -- just like last Friday after his tirade about African Americans.
"We thought at the beginning it was part of the act, but very quickly the club turned out to be silent and we realized that it was not part of the act, that it was really an attack on people at the club," Fillett added.
TMZ Managing Editor Harvey Levin told The TV Column that Oschin and Fillett contacted the Web site after seeing the video of Richards's verbal attack. The two had a receipt for the April performance and had "great detail" but, Levin said, TMZ folk were wary because "people come out of the woodwork and make claims" when stories like this break.
But when TMZ called the Improv and "they were very cagey" and gave a "no comment" on the date of Richards's gig, "we started realizing there might be something to this," Levin said.
Then they called Howard Rubenstein.
Rubenstein, Richards's spokesman, is the go-to guy for celebrities who have really stepped in it. Clients have included Benz-as-crowd-disperser publicist Lizzie Grubman, Michael Jackson, Denise Rich, George Steinbrenner, Marv Albert -- it's a long list.
Rubenstein told The TV Column yesterday that Richards acknowledged having made the derogatory comments about Jews at the Improv.
Richards told him it was all an act.
Rubinstein says Richards told him, "I'm not anti-Semitic. I was playing a role and poking fun at the rednecks."
And besides, Rubenstein said, Richards "himself is Jewish."
"He was poking fun at rough-and-tumble people," Rubenstein continued.
"He also says 'I'm a hothead' and he acknowledges he says inappropriate things from time to time. But he's certainly not anti-Semitic."
Okay -- how about misogynistic?
According to comedian Michaels's ramblings on the Web site Moron Life, she and Richards both performed at an L.A. club in October. As she was picking up his tape recorder, which had somehow fallen and come apart at the end of his performance, she writes, he came up to her and said, "You're a [expletive], [same expletive], [still the same expletive], dirty little [sticking with that expletive], on and on, and I started thinking to myself, you know, I only accept those kinds of terms of endearment from my Dad or Grandma . . . not from some [expletive] who is using his fame to be a [expletive]!!"
I didn't say she was a great comic.
Anyway, she writes that after about an hour of "Kramer" talking to the manager, "Kramer and I ended up talking outside."
"He asks me, 'Are we Ok'?
"I kind of stared at him and after a brief, what the [expletive] is wrong with you pause, said, 'Yeah, we're ok.' "
At the end of this blog is an addition from Michaels, written Tuesday, in which she says the piece was in the works for two weeks and "the editors at MoronLife.com chose to post it when they did for their own reasons" and she chooses not to go on record with a comment on "the current situation."
We called Rubenstein again.
"I talked to him about that," Rubenstein said. "He got into a verbal argument with her and they had it out . . . both used some harsh language and he thinks he made peace with her. They were quite friendly the next day.
"He says 'I'm a hothead,' " Rubenstein added, again.
He says he got "100 media calls" yesterday about Richards.
"To me it's amazing. I've been through a number of different crises and I understand the interest. . . . It's quite amazing to see," he said, adding that the Richards story has "really exposed a very deep and festering wound in American society. And . . . on the heels of all the other things happening in our country, that's probably the reason."
Rubenstein added, "Hopefully this can be put to rest and he can continue -- he intends to long-term show by his actions that this apology is real."
Yes, but that apology was to "Afro-Americans." Jews and women are still waiting.