The Lesson Michael Richards Learned from His Racist Tirade 6 Years Ago Has Nothing to Do with Racism

Jerry Seinfeld’s old costar Michael Richards was his guest on the season finale of his web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” this week. The video’s a whopping 17 minutes long, but Richards ends up addressing his horrifying racist outburst at the Comedy Store from six years ago right around the 14-minute mark. Richards seems to genuinely feel disturbed and guilty over what happened (he hasn’t performed comedy since), but when he reflects on what he learned from the incident, it oddly has nothing to do with racism:

“I think I worked selfishly, and not selflessly… It’s not about me, it’s about them (the audience). That’s the lesson I learned seven years ago when I blew it in the comedy club and lost my temper because somebody interrupted my act and said some things that hurt me and I lashed out in anger. I should have been working selflessly at that time… I busted up after that event seven years ago. It broke me down. It was a selfish response. I took it too personally and I should have just said, ‘Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m not funny. I think I’ll go home and work on my material, and I’ll see you tomorrow night [silly noise] and split! Something. Anything.”

Richards calls himself out for having been selfish, angry, and “not funny” during that disastrous Comedy Store set, but the fact that he was all those things wasn’t really the controversial part. The guy’s apologized enough for a shitty thing that happened a long time ago, but none of his mistakes from that night that he points out here really account for him screaming the n-word at a black audience member seven times in less than a minute, expressing nostalgia for old-timey racial violence, and just treating the guy diminutively for having a different skin color than him. Maybe the lesson Michael Richards should have walked away from that incident with isn’t “I shouldn’t be selfish, angry, and unfunny,” it’s “I shouldn’t think/say/scream slurs and terrible violent things about people of other races.”

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