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Comedian Michael Richards is no longer funny. After his unbelievable tirade at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles November 17, in which he screamed the “N-word” and profanities at patrons for several minutes, his career is toast.

Most of us know Michael Richards as “Kramer” in the "Sienfeld” television series. In that role he was frequently funny and at times accomplished. But in that role he was scripted. He was in-character and not himself. Too bad we’ve finally gotten to know the real man.

Trying to do damage control for his rant last week, Richards apologized on “Late Night with David Letterman” and again on the Reverend Jessie Jackson’s radio program. His apologies have seemed lame, half-hearted, and vague. He keeps saying he’s not a racist, but what is a racist if it’s not a person capable of publicly shouting the racial epithets he let rip on audience members at the Laugh Factory?

One thing has been heartening about this episode. Some Black leaders have finally stood up and said they find the “N-word” unacceptable not only when it is used derisively by non-Black individuals but also when it is used by Black comedians, rap singers, and others. It’s about time. I agree with them.

In days gone by, people like Don Rickles and Buddy Hackett made a cottage industry out of racial, ethnic, and every other kind of slur one could imagine. Today it’s people like Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg. Add to this comedians’, particularly comediennes, insistence upon using the “F-Word” and you almost cannot find a “clean comedian” left. Interestingly, Bill Cosby has weighed in on the bad-language-comedians, saying they are using the “F-Word” as a crutch for not being funny. I agree with him.

I salute Black comedian Paul Mooney for announcing this week that he will no longer use the “N-Word” in his acts. Good for him. It’s a step in the right direction.

I do not support Rev. Jessie Jackson’s call to Congress to make laws prohibiting the use of “hate language” in mass media. While I find the “N-Word,” and for that matter a host of other commonly heard words on television, offensive, passing laws to make them illegal smacks of political correctness and over-reaction. The best judge is a public moral consciousness and accountability. Michael Richards is being judged by that court as I write, and he may find its sentence a very long and difficult one to bear.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

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