Monday, November 20, 2006

Where was Richards' Heckler Contingency Plan?

Michael Richards racist outburst was not only vile and disgusting, but it was also puzzling.

Hecklers are an occupational hazard in standup comedy and experienced standups arm themselves with some kind of contingency plan for dealing before stepping onstage. The strategy for dealing with heckling will vary with the persona and temperament of the comic, the tone of the audience, and the nature of the heckler. It's bizarrely unprofessional for someone who has been at this as long as Richards to be so vulnerable to hecklers.

Put your comedy seat-belt on or stay off the stage.

Thing is, Richards (unless he's been prodigiously reckless about handling his money) has the best possible defence against heckling: He didn't need to be there. Did he?

Some meta questions: Is Michael Richards actually a nobody whose name recognition is so low that headline writers have to refer to him as Seinfeld's Kramer? Look how many headlines refer to Seinfeld's Kramer. Did this incident tarnish the Seinfeld rerun and DVD brand? Are we going to be able to watch that program any more without echoes of the n-word ringing through our ears?

By cosmic coincidence, Seinfeld is booked on Letterman tonight--and Richards appears by satellite to apologize. (Secret of Comedy is, indeed, timing.) The taping happened earlier. TMZ has video of Seinfeld esacping to his Limo.

Mickeleh's Take: Last week: groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King monument. By the weekend: More evidence that MLK's dream is still far from our reality. But now we're living in macaca time. Cameras are everywhere and uploading is easy.

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Anonymous said...

Well, there's no real excuse for how he handled hisself on the stage, but why can't ALL people shut the fuck up and BEHAVE themselves when they go out? Ever try going to a freakin' movie... it's the SAME shit only a comedy ticket costs a hell of a lot more.
ALL I want to "hear" is the comic I "PAID" to see and the management should throw ALL "hecklers" out on their asses "bouncer" style (only "face" down) like they do in a bar when you had a little too much to drink. About 5 BIG dudes pick you up by the back of your pants, the back of your collar and your pants cuffs and the landing AIN'T gonna be pretty as you're thrown out and up and your face slides across the sidewalk. THAT'S how you handle hecklers.

Mickeleh said...

I'd love to see management get tough on hecklers. If you're in the audience and the management won't keep order, then you should demand a refund and walk out. The audience has the power. If you paid to see the act, make sure the club owner honors your ticket.

But, sometimes, the heckler has what George Costanza called, "hand."

On Letterman last night, Seinfeld told a story about a time early on in his career when he was onstage at Catch a Rising Star in NY. His usual approach is to stop his act and stare at the heckler... inviting the audience to put some social pressure on the offender. On this night, it didn't work. In fact, the heckler through a glass at Jerry. So Jerry says, "I'm just going to stand here and wait and enjoy watching you get thrown out." After a long wait, the manager comes on stage and asks Jerry to leave. Turns out the heckler was a minor Mafia boss.

BTW... I started shushing audience members in movies since I was twelve. I remember my first time vividly. The credits were rolling, and someone behind me started to explain to a companion what the picture was about. I turned around and asked, "Did they hire you to narrate this picture? No? Well, then keep quiet." Fortunately, it wasn't a Mafia boss.