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Creator / Michael Richards

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Kramer or Stanley? You decide.

Michael Anthony Richards (born July 24, 1949 in Culver City, California) is an American actor, writer, television producer, and retired comedian best known for his three-time Emmy-winning role as Cosmo Kramer in the sitcom Seinfeld, which offered a pretty good idea of the types of characters he plays.

Richards began his career as a stand-up comedian, with a feature on Billy Crystal's first cable TV special providing his first big break. He then went on to become a series regular on Fridays and make guest appearances on numerous shows. Following the end of Seinfeld, he also starred in a sitcom of his own, The Michael Richards Show, although it was cancelled after two months due to poor ratings.

Richards' primary career venture after Seinfeld was returning to stand-up, although this would culminate in a night of infamy that, well over a decade later, has still proven inseparable from his reputation.

During a set on November 17, 2006 at the Laugh Factory, Richards received heckling and interruptions from a small group of black and Hispanic audience members. In his words after the fact, anger got the best of him and he tried to defuse the chatter by being as outrageously offensive as possible. But in a video recording of the event from the crowd that soon spread online, that strategy took the form of a racist rant including references to slavery and the Jim Crow era as well as Richards repeatedly shouting the N-word, shocking his audience.

Richards publicly apologized several days later on The Late Show with David Lettermannote , and reportedly issued private apologies to civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, but the damage was thoroughly done by that point. Both Sharpton and a member of the group that Richards had directed his rant at went on record refusing to accept his apology.

In the years since, Richards' screen work has been sparse but has included a voice role in the Seinfeld-starring Bee Movie, an appearance in Curb Your Enthusiasm as himself in which he poked fun at the incident, and a co-starring role on the sitcom Kirstie, which was cancelled after one season. He also appeared in a 2012 episode of Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, where he admitted that the incident still haunted him to that day and played a major role in his retirement from stand-up.

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Tropes associated with this actor:

  • Crosses the Line Twice: Richards claims his infamous Laugh Factory rant was an attempt to shock a group of hecklers into silence by being as deliberately offensive as possible, but he instead crossed the line into Dude, Not Funny! territory for many.
  • I Am Not Spock: He will forever be known as Cosmo Kramer.
  • Old Shame:
    • UHF is a touchy subject for him, though he was a good-enough sport to do the commentary for (part of) the film.
    • In a 2012 episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Richards said that the Laugh Factory incident was still haunting him. To this day, he has never returned to performing stand-up.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Between the incident itself and the subsequent media fallout, his Laugh Factory rant more or less destroyed his career.
  • Star-Derailing Role: Richards's first post-Seinfeld role in The Michael Richards Show flopped so hard, it established the "Seinfeld curse". Since then, he's mostly only done voice-over work until his Laugh Factory rant derailed his career. He later had one of the main roles on the sitcom Kirstie, but it was cancelled after one season. Since then, he has had very few acting roles.
  • Throw It In!: Kramer's signature entrance of hurriedly barging through Jerry's front door came about by accident. The first time it happened, Richards was at risk of missing his cue and was scrambling to get into the scene on time. The audience loved it, so Richards started doing it intentionally.