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Author Topic: Cosmo Kramer hates black people
Baron Samedi
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I like Seinfeld, and I own all the previously released seasons on DVD. As I have watched all the special features and interviews with the cast, I've always been quite irritated with the Michael Richards segments.

Of course, all of the main four cast members come across as a little arrogant out of character. I don't know if it's possible to command a million dollars an episode without having it inflate your ego a bit. But of the four, Richards always struck me as the biggest ass, and the person I'd have the least desire to meet in real life.

There are elements of the incident that I can sort of understand from his point of view. I can't imagine how terrifying it must be to get heckled during a stand-up show, especially when you have so little experience with it. There's a great deal of pressure on the person on stage to put the heckler in his place, even though there's pretty much no way to win an exchange like that, especially if you have to keep the comic persona intact to make the rest of the show work.

There's a long history of people crossing boundaries and defying social standards from the comic's stage with great success. And, although the people that get away with it do so because of a massive amount of experience and a well-honed expertese in communications, it can sometimes seem to a person without so much experience that you can just say whatever you want from the stage and you'll be received as a hero of free speech.

So, between the giant adrenaline surge, the heart racing and the pulse pounding, and the memories of people like George Carlin and Chris Rock who have violated taboos with great success, I'm sure he just started clutching at straws and it got way out of control before he realized what was happening.

This isn't to say that he's not an ass. I've long been of the opinion that, while he did a good job of portraying a certain character on television, outside of that he's a fairly loathsome human being. And it's not to say that he isn't a racist. I have no opinion on that either way. But this tape was clearly taken during a type and level of stress that most of us will rarely, if ever, experience. I have no idea how I would handle a situation like that. I like to think I could get through it without throwing out the "n" word. But whatever I said, I know I wouldn't want to have my character judged by the entire world based solely upon what happened at that moment.

In other words, yes, I dislike the man. But not because of this tape.

[ November 21, 2006, 06:56 AM: Message edited by: Baron Samedi ]

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Euripides
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I was never able to laugh at Seinfeld either.

Or Everybody Loves Raymond, for that matter. Is it just me?

Edit: Whoops, it's 'Everybody' not 'Anybody'

[ November 21, 2006, 02:49 PM: Message edited by: Euripides ]

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Synesthesia
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quote:
Originally posted by Euripides:
I was never able to laugh at Seinfeld either.

Or Anybody Loves Raymond, for that matter. Is it just me?

No, it's not just you. I loathe about 90% of all the sitcoms everyone likes.
They irratate me.

Also, now that I think of it, poor dude. He probably was just mad, but he shouldn't say the n word. The n word is worse than cussing I think.

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
bíkoso ubíkiso ubíkaso
I like that. Is the literal translation, "through one's cup, through one's pocket, through one's anger"?
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Baron Samedi
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
quote:
bíkoso ubíkiso ubíkaso
I like that. Is the literal translation, "through one's cup, through one's pocket, through one's anger"?
I think that's where my interpretation of the event differs from most peoples'. When I look at this tape, I don't see anger. I see blind terror.

You have to remember that this isn't a comedian we're watching. It's an actor. In fact, it's a reputedly extremely anal and controlling actor. Someone who, from what I've heard, didn't even like being on a TV show because it was more spontaneous than a movie. Not only does he need to be on script to make his craft work, but he obsessively sets in stone every inflection in his voice and every twitch in his muscles, and can't tolerate any deviation from his routine.

Why a person like that would even try stand-up comedy, especially when he must have tens of millions of dollars in the bank, is a complete mystery to me. But he tried it, and got caught in a situation he couldn't handle.

Watching that tape, I see a man petrified with fear, wanting desperately to make this heckler shut his mouth so that he can get back on script. I don't know what he tried first, but by the time the tape was rolling he was probably dizzy, nauseated and so terrified that he was willing to say or do anything just to shut this idiot up.

And yes, the guy he was shouting at was probably a drunken moron, and by the terms of "bíkoso ubíkiso ubíkaso", likely every bit the jackass Richards is in real life.

Again, that's no excuse for his behavior, and if you missed my last post, I still think he's a punk. But if there's any part of this that reflects on his true character, I think the apology he gave on Letterman last night shows what an ass he is far more than the incident itself.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by Altáriël of Dorthonion:
Oh, Lord.

I never really liked Seinfeld anyway, it just never made me laugh...

It made me laugh a lot the very few times I saw it. But I always felt guilty about the laughter.
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IanO
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I'm gonna have to agree with Baron. Not specifically on Richard's rant or the reasons why (though I think Baron has a pretty good take on why Richard's stress levels would have reached the point where his brain completely shut off and perhaps why he started spouting offensive slurs), but rather on my take on the Seinfeld cast in general, with the exception of Jerry Seinfeld himself. For the most part, they seem quite arrogant, or at least defensive, probably because their careers since then have not equaled what it was.

Richards, however, also seems quite anal and a control freak. The outtakes show clips of him and the other cast members, who were breaking character cause he was so very funny. And he got irritated with them. At one point, he even (somewhat playfully and quite softly, but still) slapped Julia Louis Dreyfus in the face to get her to focus. Of course she kneed him in the groin, so, you know, he got his just deserts for it. The other members even commented (obliquely around the subject) on how controlling Michael was and how focused he was (read: closed off, unfriendly, in his own world) to create the character. He never went out to eat with the cast and crew after the taping. He's not funny in the interviews, though interesting.

With all that in mind, I can see him flipping out exactly as Baron described. Where the racist comments came from (his personal feelings that were revealed, or perhaps an irrational desire to shut these specific hecklers up), I don't know. In the end, it doesn't matter. He did what he did and has to live with it.

That said, his apology was painful to watch. For the most part, he offered no excuses (though he came close to doing so, I thought) and I was deeply embarrassed for him (and Kudos to Jerry for what he did on Letterman. He made no apologies, but simply said he knew and loved Michael, that he was a friend, and that he wanted to help him fix it. And he did help him, the way a real friend does, buy supporting him has he goes to face the music. In the end, he said to Dave, "thank you for helping my friend.") But Richards did it. And if he's truly sorry, he will be willing to live with the consequences (the accusations, the perhaps loss of career opportunities, etc) without complaining. If he goes through it apologetically, never excusing, never getting upset at people's reactions, then I believe he is sincere. But if not, not.

Not that it really matters in my life. I don't have any kind of relationship with him. He never touches my life except for work he did that ENDED nearly 10 years ago (can you believe it was that long ago?). And I loved it and still love it. Better believe I'm buying Season 7.

my 2 cents.

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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by erosomniac:
quote:
the video of his rant is almost impossible to understand. And even the subtitles are unreadable.
Search "kramer" + "racist" on youtube, there are several better quality videos.

What's as sad as Michael Richards' little tirade is how many people kept laughing.

You haven't seen Borat? The people he got to show themselves as racist weren't such exceptions.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
quote:
bíkoso ubíkiso ubíkaso
I like that. Is the literal translation, "through one's cup, through one's pocket, through one's anger"?
"By his cup, by his pocket, and by his anger." And uv'ka'aso is probably better than ub'kaso. There's an extra syllable in there.
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erosomniac
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quote:
You haven't seen Borat? The people he got to show themselves as racist weren't such exceptions.
I haven't, and I'm not sure I will be.
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rivka
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KarlEd, I don't think those of us who dislike Seinfeld (the show, not the comedian) were saying this is a reflection on it. To me, they were two separate questions: Michael Richards was a jerk; and I never did like that show he used to be on. I do like some other things he did, but nobody had mentioned those. [Wink]
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Baron Samedi
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by erosomniac:
quote:
the video of his rant is almost impossible to understand. And even the subtitles are unreadable.
Search "kramer" + "racist" on youtube, there are several better quality videos.

What's as sad as Michael Richards' little tirade is how many people kept laughing.

You haven't seen Borat? The people he got to show themselves as racist weren't such exceptions.
I think the people in the club were in a slightly more defensible position than most of the people in Borat sketches. Comedians in America have a long history of saying offensive things, and turning them around to prove a point. When Richards started his rant, these people were probably just giving him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he was going to make something out of it. By the time it was clear that it was never going to happen, it was too late.

Even comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was apparently there, said he kept waiting for the punch line, and only later realized that it wasn't coming. I'm sure most of these people would have had a different immediate reaction if they knew how it was going to play out.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
quote:
bíkoso ubíkiso ubíkaso
I like that. Is the literal translation, "through one's cup, through one's pocket, through one's anger"?
"By his cup, by his pocket, and by his anger." And uv'ka'aso is probably better than ub'kaso. There's an extra syllable in there.
Yeah, there is. I just copy-and-pasted someone else's transliteration. And if we're going to be real sticklers for translation, "b" is in . . . or by, or through, or by means of.

And, yeah JT, it's a clever little word play. But I can never get the order right! (which is why I checked it elsewhere)

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katharina
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I think he did it deliberately and for attention. Before this, when was the last time you heard about him at all?
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Pelegius
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All I know is that I have said stupid things when angry, but only done stupid things when drunk. Like think about climbing from one six-storey balcony to another over a busy street in Athens.

Edited for spelling and also to point out that I was not very drunk, so I may not be the best example.

As for Mel Gibson, I think a large part of the problem was that he had been accused of anti-Semitism many times before. As far as I know, this was Mr. Richard's first discretion.

[ November 21, 2006, 11:06 AM: Message edited by: Pelegius ]

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camus
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I think he was trying to get control of the situation while also trying to be shocking and funny. After all, Chris Rock saying the same thing, but perhaps in a different context, probably would have been greeted with laughter instead of disgust. And that's something I've never completely understood about racial stereotypes and comedy. A black person making fun of white stereotypes is regarded as funny. A white person making fun of black stereotypes is racist.
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Tresopax
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Please note that things said in the following states should not be considered to necessarily reflect actual beliefs:

-When person is very angry
-When person is very drunk
-When person is being tricked into saying something by Borat and/or other documentary-maker trying to get that person to do something stupid

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Tarrsk
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Please note that things said in the following states should not be considered to necessarily reflect actual beliefs:

-When person is very angry
-When person is very drunk
-When person is being tricked into saying something by Borat and/or other documentary-maker trying to get that person to do something stupid

On the contrary, I'd say that, under any of those three conditions, people are far more likely to reveal beliefs that they would normally not share. In each case, a person's usual inhibitions against doing and saying things frowned upon by society (even if he or she is always thinking them) are reduced.
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katharina
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What about when a person is placed in a contrived situation? I'm thinking of the Milagre experiments - would you say that the students who were placed as guards and acted in ways that they were horrified at after merely revealed their true selves?
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Pelegius
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I remember, when watching film of the Milgram experiment in 8th grade philosophy, complaining that the environment lacked freedom from interfering variables. My teacher countered saying that life lacked freedom from interfering variables and that Prof. Milgram was simulating life. I don't recall being terribly convinced until I studied more about Arendt's theories of Banality.
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rivka
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Katie, an element thereof, yes. The entirety of their true selves, surely not.

Who one is under stress is surely not all they are. But it most assuredly IS a part of them, and not something one can dismiss as external to their true nature.

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pH
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Anyone who thinks you're more truthful when you're drunk has never had to ward off a creepy man at a bar in a non-confrontational manner.

-pH

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katharina
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Come on, Pel, tell us what specifically from Arendt's theories changed your mind. [Smile]
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rivka
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I don't think anyone was claiming that drunks don't lie. Rather that behavior while drunk is indicative of an inner self which may not otherwise be shown to the world.
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MrSquicky
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Pel,
If you're talking about Hannah Arendt, she didn't have a theory of banality. She popularized a phrasing and conception of "the banality of evil" with her book on Eichmann, but saying she had theories of Banality is wrong in at least two ways: 1) not theories and 2) not about banality.

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Tresopax
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quote:
On the contrary, I'd say that, under any of those three conditions, people are far more likely to reveal beliefs that they would normally not share.
Yes, but under those conditions, people are also far more likely to act in ways that don't reflect their actual beliefs. Since you can't tell whether someone is revealing a true hidden self or whether they are simply not themselves, you shouldn't jump to any conclusions based on that behavior.
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MrSquicky
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How could they not be themselves? Is someone else coming in and controlling their behavior?
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Tarrsk
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
I don't think anyone was claiming that drunks don't lie. Rather that behavior while drunk is indicative of an inner self which may not otherwise be shown to the world.

Yeah, that's exactly what I was trying to say, except not as well. [Smile]

pH: On the other hand, isn't it possible that the creepy guy might not have acted so creepy if he hadn't had his own inhibitions loosened by alcohol? Not that I'm excusing his behavior, but it seems like your example supports the opposite of what you're saying...

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maui babe
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I always think of Richards as Stanley Spudowski, not the Seinfeld guy.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
Yes, but under those conditions, people are also far more likely to act in ways that don't reflect their actual beliefs. Since you can't tell whether someone is revealing a true hidden self or whether they are simply not themselves, you shouldn't jump to any conclusions based on that behavior.

Whose beliefs are they? Have they been taken over by aliens? Was there a personality transplant included with their tequila?
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camus
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Poor judgment can easily give an inaccurate portrayal of one's beliefs, when in reality the person may have merely failed to make the correct assessment of the situation he was in.

For example, someone may try to make people laugh and so decides to use a racial joke that he heard some comedian say. That doesn't mean that there is some inner self that is racist, just that he may not have the best judgment.

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rivka
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It means there is some inner self that does not find the joke reprehensible.
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Lalo
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
It means there is some inner self that does not find the joke reprehensible.

So because I laugh long and heartily at Chris Rock's routines, I must be a closet racist? Or because I love Futurama's Dr. Zoidberg, I'm an anti-Semite?

Right...

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katharina
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quote:
It means there is some inner self that does not find the joke reprehensible.
I don't think I believe that.

Laughter can come from many things - shock, juxtaposition, nervousness, sympathetic. Laughter at a horrid joke does not automatically that on some deep level the laugher agrees with the rascist sentiments expressed in the joke. It just means that something made him laugh. It could be a deep agreement, or it could be many other things.

I was thinking about the time I worked at a blue-collar business. I am not around swearing very much, but I sure was that summer. The conversation I listened regularly contained phrases that I'd never want to say, but I didn't have control over my environment. Late in the summer I messed something up, and the phrase that popped into my head and could very easily have come out of my mouth was a phrase that I'd never want to think or say. But I did think it.

That doesn't mean that I secretly approve of swearing. It means our brains soak up what is around us and has an effect on us, whether we want it to or not.

Having said that, I still think Kramer's incident was staged for attention.

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pooka
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Oh no, I was taking a class about South Africa once and we watched "Master Harold and the boys" and I missed the it's-not-fair joke. Afterward I asked the instructor what the joke was, because I didn't understand it. When she told me...

... I laughed [Wall Bash]

I know I have racism still deep in me. I'm not proud of it, though. I think most people do on one level or another, against some race or other. If we pretend we don't have it, how can we cure it?

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
I think most people do on one level or another, against some race or other. If we pretend we don't have it, how can we cure it?

Agreed. On both counts.

I would also point out that there is a difference between laughing at a joke and retelling it. Regardless of whether it has any racial overtones or not. If you tell me a groan-inducing pun, protesting that it's not original to you is hardly a defense.

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camus
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quote:
I think most people do on one level or another, against some race or other. If we pretend we don't have it, how can we cure it?
I'm not sure I'd call that racism. I'd be more inclined to describe it as stereotypes, which I don't think is necessarily wrong or bad.
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Kasie H
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quote:
Note that anger is different than drunkeness. We say things we don't mean when we are angry, we generaly say what we mean when we are drunk.
Pel...aren't you 18? And a straight-as-an-arrow academic?

Or is this, as so many other things you post, not quite based on experience?

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Dagonee
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quote:
Regardless of whether it has any racial overtones or not. If you tell me a groan-inducing pun, protesting that it's not original to you is hardly a defense.
Defense? Groan-inducing puns are to be celebrated, not defended! [Razz]
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Friday
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Does laughing at a racist joke make you a racist?

I think that whether or not you find a particular crude joke funny is much less of an indicator of racism than how you actually interact with people. Racist jokes often are jokes about racism, rather than jokes about people of a different race, and in these instances I don't think that telling them is as indicator of personally held racist beliefs.

It's a similar situation with dead baby jokes. You might laugh at a dead baby joke because of its absurdity, but that doesn't make you a bad person if you treat real babies in an loving, caring way.

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Pelegius
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"Pel...aren't you 18? And a straight-as-an-arrow academic?

Or is this, as so many other things you post, not quite based on experience?"

Seventeen, but I was in Greece, where the drinking age is sixteen.

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Synesthesia
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
Oh no, I was taking a class about South Africa once and we watched "Master Harold and the boys" and I missed the it's-not-fair joke. Afterward I asked the instructor what the joke was, because I didn't understand it. When she told me...

... I laughed [Wall Bash]

I know I have racism still deep in me. I'm not proud of it, though. I think most people do on one level or another, against some race or other. If we pretend we don't have it, how can we cure it?

It's not fair?
I laugh at South Park and at some movie that had a line like: "Rap is by black people, they are really angry, but mostly they want to have sex."
I have a bizarre sense of humor. I should be offended byt hat, but it was funny.

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Juxtapose
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Shame on Richards.

Shame on the racist heckling him too.

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BlueWizard
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I'm somewhat of the opinion expressed by Baron on the first page of this thread. I think you have an inexperienced comic who as others have pointed out, doesn't like to 'break his stride' to put it mildly.

I also think in the heat of the moment he made a desperate attempt at turning the exchange back on the person who started it, but did a miserable job of it. Again, to some extent that is inexperience.

In know comedians hate it when the audience talks back to them or talks to them in any way. I've been to comedy club where over enthusiastic fans have ruined the evening unintentionally, because they couldn't shut up and enjoy the show. Comedy is very much about timing, about setting up a joke, pulling it off, and given the audience time to respond. When people in the audience continually talk back it throws everything off.

I was in a comedy club in Florida once when the host came out and specifically and emphatically told the audience NOT to talk to the comedians. When one of the comedians was on stage doing his act, some drunk girl in the audience kept making wise cracks to the comedian. I'm sure she didn't mean any harm, but it was messing everything up from the comedians perspective. Finally, he moved the microphone off to the side, away from his mouth, and very angrily told this girl to SHUT UP!

The room was tense and uncomfortable for a few
seconds, but he went on with his act, and soon everyone was laughing again. Everyone except the girl he told to shut up.

Again, that is certainly a milder response than Kramer, but it none the less shows that these people who inadvertantly interupt the act, can instill a lot of anger in the comedians.

As other have implied, I don't put this in the same catagory as Mel Gibson's drunken rant. I think in his mind Michael Richards was trying to regain control of the situation, but given his pesonal demeanor and his inexperience failed in the grandest and most miserable way possible.

I don't think from this one incident that Michael is a racist. As I said, I think in his own mind, in that moment, he was simply trying to regain control while make a social comment, and was failing miserably at it.

As others have implied, I think his apology was sincere and genuine. I think he was simply trapped in a situation he didn't know how to handle, and made the worst possible choices.

For what it's worth.

Steve/BlueWizard

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Samarkand
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Honestly, when I lose control of my temper I say very, very honest, incredibly cruel things. Like the worst things a person had ever thought about themselves repeated back to them. I would say that what I say while angry is absolutely a reflection of the unflattering and unkind ideas and conclusions I ALREADY have. Nothing new is created when I'm mad. Eg., I'm not racist, so I wouldn't yell at someone for being black (it would never occur to me that this would hurt them) but I might attack someone for stupid choices they made which they were mad at themselves about or being overly shy and not meeting people or something. I would probably go after a heckler in the audience for never getting laid or something.

Now, I personally don't think it's at all productive to push people's buttons on purpose or to be unkind, ever. I have never had an experience in life where my saying something mean and hurtful led to anything positive. It totally shuts down communication.

Anyway, my whole point is that if you're getting heckled onstage and freaking out and the first thing that occurs to you as something to attack is the color of the heckler's skin - then yeah, you're racist. This is not a new special thing that is happening just because you're panicked onstage - this is something you already think. And you think that calling someone a nigger is the worst thing you could say, because in your head, being black is bad.

I totally think the guy's racist.

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MightyCow
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I can see being under a lot of stress and very upset making people say crazy stuff. It's fight of flight reflex. You feel like someone's attacking you, and you attack back.

I think rational, day to day behavior is the yardstick by which we need to measure a person's integrity. If their day to day behavior involves a lot of anger and lashing out, then that needs to be considered. If someone flips out in the heat of the moment, we might want to give them a break.

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Astaril
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If you're brought up to be racist (or homophobic, or whatever), and you realize when you grow up that that's not right, and you don't want to be that way, so you spend your life thinking bad thoughts about a certain group of people without being able to help it, but you never put yourself in a situation where you do or say anything against them, and in fact go out of your way to defend them or give preference to them, but you still know deep inside that you're uncomfortable with those people, are you more or less racist than the guy who might think exactly the same way but happened to lose control of himself for a moment on national TV?

Just a thought.

Racism's so hard to define.

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Omega M.
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I cannot believe that the men that Michael Richards insulted want money from him. What did he do to them that money is going to fix? If anything, Richards threatened them with violence and deserves to go to jail, do community service, or pay a fine to the state.
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Baron Samedi
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Actually, they're the ones that threatened him with violence, along with using racial epithets of their own. And that's not to mention the fact that they started it all with their heckling. In fact, it could be argued that they were more in the wrong, because of the two examples of verbal abuse that took place: 1) the heckling was unprovoked and not done under any emotional distress, and 2) it directly interfered with Richards' livelihood, which seems like it would make a more compelling case for punitive damages.

That's not to say that what Richards did was anything approaching acceptable. But we live in a free country, and there are still a plethora of ways a person can be a complete a-hole without technically breaking any laws.

If those guys really are going to sue, I hope they can get Jackie Chiles to represent them.

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Tyler
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quote:
Originally posted by Astaril:
If you're brought up to be racist (or homophobic, or whatever), and you realize when you grow up that that's not right, and you don't want to be that way, so you spend your life thinking bad thoughts about a certain group of people without being able to help it, but you never put yourself in a situation where you do or say anything against them, and in fact go out of your way to defend them or give preference to them, but you still know deep inside that you're uncomfortable with those people, are you more or less racist than the guy who might think exactly the same way but happened to lose control of himself for a moment on national TV?

Just a thought.

Racism's so hard to define.

i have to agree with you. is the root of racism actually hating another race, or is racism just makeing differenciation between races? is yelling 'n*****' racist, or do you just have to think it?
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