Michael Richards

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For other people named Michael Richards, see Michael Richards (disambiguation).
Michael Richards
Michael Richards (1993)-flipped.jpg
Born Michael Anthony Richards
(1949-07-24) July 24, 1949 (age 65)
Culver City, California, US
Occupation Actor/Comedian
Years active 1979–present
Spouse(s) Beth Skip

Michael Anthony Richards (born July 24, 1949) is an American actor, comedian, writer and television producer, best known for his portrayal of Cosmo Kramer on the television sitcom Seinfeld, for which he received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times.

Richards began his career as a stand-up comedian, first entering the national spotlight when he was featured on Billy Crystal's first cable TV special. He went on to become a series regular on ABC's Fridays. Prior to Seinfeld, he made numerous guest appearances on a variety of television shows including Cheers, Night Court, Miami Vice and St. Elsewhere. His film credits include So I Married an Axe Murderer, Airheads, Young Doctors in Love, Problem Child, Coneheads, UHF, and Trial and Error, one of his few starring roles. During the run of Seinfeld, he made a guest appearance in Mad About You. After Seinfeld, Richards starred in his own sitcom, The Michael Richards Show, which lasted less than one full season.

When Seinfeld ended, Richards returned to stand-up comedy. Inciting media furor for losing his temper and repeatedly shouting "nigger" at an African American heckler in late 2006,[1] he announced his retirement from stand-up in 2007. He appeared as himself in the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2009, acting alongside his fellow cast members for the first time since Seinfeld's finale.

In 2013, Richards played the role of Frank in the sitcom Kirstie, costarring Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman.[2]

Early life[edit]

Richards was born in Culver City, California, the son of Phyllis (née Nardozzi), a medical records librarian, and William Richards, an electrical engineer.[3] His father died in a car crash when Michael was two and his mother never remarried.[4]

He attended the California Institute of the Arts, and received a BA degree in drama from The Evergreen State College in 1975.[5] He also had a short-lived improv act with Ed Begley, Jr. during this period. Enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College, he continued to appear in student productions.

Career[edit]

Richards got his big TV break in 1979, appearing in Billy Crystal's first cable TV special. In 1980, he began as one of the cast members on ABC's Fridays television show, where Larry David was a writer. This included a famous instance in which guest Andy Kaufman refused to deliver his scripted lines, leading Richards to bring the cue cards on screen to Kaufman, causing him to throw his drink into Richards's face before a small riot ensued (Richards later claimed he was in on the joke).[6] The film Man on the Moon featured a re-enactment of the Andy Kaufman incident in which Richards was portrayed by actor Norm Macdonald (although he is never referred to by name so he could be seen as a composite character taking the place of Richards).[7][8]

In 1989, Richards had a supporting role in "Weird Al" Yankovic's comedy film UHF as janitor Stanley Spadowski. On television, Richards also appeared in Miami Vice (as an unscrupulous bookie), Cheers (as a character trying to collect on an old bet with Sam Malone), and made several guest appearances with Jay Leno as an accident-prone fitness expert.

According to an interview with executive producer David Hoberman, ABC first conceived the series Monk as a procedural police comedy with an Inspector Clouseau-like character suffering from obsessive–compulsive disorder. Hoberman said that ABC wanted Richards to play Adrian Monk, but he turned it down.[9]

Seinfeld[edit]

In 1989, he was cast as Cosmo Kramer in the NBC television series Seinfeld, which was created by fellow Fridays cast member Larry David and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Although it got off to a slow start, by the mid-1990s, the show had become one of the most popular sitcoms in television history. The series ended its nine-year run in 1998 at #1 in the Nielsen ratings. In the setting of Seinfeld, Kramer is usually referred to by his last name only and is the neighbor of the show's eponymous character. Kramer's first name, Cosmo, was revealed in the sixth-season episode "The Switch".

Richards won more Emmys than any other cast member on Seinfeld. He took home the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1993, 1994 and 1997.

Starting in 2004, he and his fellow Seinfeld cast members provided interviews and audio commentaries for the Seinfeld DVDs, but Richards stopped providing audio commentary after Season 5 though he continued to provide interviews.

The Michael Richards Show[edit]

In 2000, after the end of Seinfeld, Richards began work on a new series for NBC, his first major project since Seinfeld's finale. The Michael Richards Show, for which the actor received co-writer and co-executive producer credits, was originally conceived as a comedy/mystery starring Richards as a bumbling private investigator. However, after the first pilot failed with test audiences, NBC ordered that the show be retooled into a more conventional, office-based sitcom before its premiere. After a few weeks of poor ratings and negative reviews, it was cancelled.

Laugh Factory incident[edit]

During a November 17, 2006 performance at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, California, Richards shouted a racially charged response to black hecklers in the audience, shouting "He's a nigger!" several times and referring to lynching.[1][10][11][12][13] Kyle Doss, a member of the group Richards addressed, said that the group had arrived in the middle of the performance, going on to explain:

[H]ere's what happened. As we walked in, we sat down and started ordering drinks. And, as we ordered drinks, I guess we're being a little loud, because there was 20 of us ordering drinks. And he said, "Look at the stupid Mexicans and blacks being loud up there." That's the first thing he said. And then he kept on with his bit. And, then, after a while, I told him, "My friend doesn't think you're funny." And then when I told him that, that's when he flipped me off and said, "F-you N-word." And that's how it all started.

—Kyle Doss, Interview on The Situation Room[14]

Richards made a public apology on the Late Show with David Letterman, when Jerry Seinfeld was the guest, saying, "For me to be at a comedy club and to flip out and say this crap, I'm deeply, deeply sorry. I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."[15] The audience initially laughed during uncomfortable pauses in Richards' explanation and apology, unable to decide if the interview was a bit; at one point Seinfeld chided the audience, "Stop laughing, it's not funny." Richards said that he had been trying to defuse heckling by being even more outrageous, but that it had backfired. Richards later called civil rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to apologize.[14][16] He also appeared as a guest on Jackson's syndicated radio show.[17]

The incident was later parodied on several TV shows, including MadTV, Family Guy, South Park, and Extras. In an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Richards appeared as himself and poked fun at the incident. In a 2012 episode of Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Richards admitted that the outburst still haunted him, and was a major reason for his withdrawal from performing stand-up.[18]

Cameo roles, guest appearances, and film roles[edit]

Richards played himself in Episode 2 of Season 1 "The Flirt Episode" (1992) of the HBO series, The Larry Sanders Show. Richards also played a cameo role in So I Married an Axe Murderer where he was an "insensitive man". Richards played radio station employee Doug Beech in Airheads. He also made guest appearances on Miami Vice, Night Court and Cheers. In 2007, Richards voiced character Bud Ditchwater in the animated film Bee Movie, which starred, and was produced by, Jerry Seinfeld. In 2009, Richards and the other main Seinfeld cast members appeared in the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.[19] In 2012, Richards appeared in comedy web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld.[20]

Richards played the role of Frank in the sitcom Kirstie, costarring Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman, premiering on TV Land on December 4, 2013.[2] The show was canceled after airing one season.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Richards was married for 18 years to Cathleen Lyons, a family therapist. They have one daughter, Sophia, and divorced in 1992.[4]

In July 2007, Richards announced his retirement from stand-up comedy.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1982 Young Doctors in Love Malamud Callahan
1984 The House of God Dr. Pinkus
1985 Transylvania 6-5000 Fejos
1986 Whoops Apocalypse Lacrobat
1989 UHF Stanley Spadowski
1990 Problem Child Martin Beck
1993 Coneheads Motel clerk
1993 So I Married an Axe Murderer Insensitive Man
1994 Airheads Doug Beech
1995 Unstrung Heroes Danny Lidz Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
1997 Redux Riding Hood The Wolf
1997 Trial and Error Richard 'Ricky' Rietti
2007 Bee Movie Bud Ditchwater Voice

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1980-82 Fridays Various 54 episodes
1982 Faerie Tale Theatre King Geoffeey Episode: "The Tale of the Frog Prince"
1983 Herndon Dr. Herndon P. Stool Television movie
1984 Faerie Tale Theatre Vince Episode: "Pinocchio"
1984 At Your Service Rick the gardener Television movie
1984 Night Court Eugene Sleighbough Episode: "Take My Wife, Please"
1984 The Ratings Game Sal Television movie
1985 Tall Tales & Legends Sneaky Pete Episode: "My Darlin' Clementine"
1984-1985 St. Elsewhere Bill Wolf 5 episodes
1985 Cheers Eddie Gordon Episode: "Bar Bet"
1985 Scarecrow and Mrs. King Petronus Episode: "Car Wars"
1985 Slickers Mike Blade Television movie
1985 It's a Living Hager Episode: "Desperate Hours"
1985 Hill Street Blues Special Agent Durpe Episode: "An Oy for an Oy"
1986 Miami Vice Pagone Episode: "The Fix"
1986 Fresno 2nd henchman Television movie
1987 Jonathan Winters: On the Ledge Various Television movie
1987-88 Marblehead Manor Rick 10 episodes
1989 Camp MTV Stanley Spadowski Television movie
1989-1998 Seinfeld Cosmo Kramer 178 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1993-94, 1997)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (1995, 1997–98)
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male in a Television Series
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male in a Television Series (shared with Jason Alexander)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1995–96)
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series (1996–98)
1992 Dinosaurs Director Episode: "Wesayso Knows Best"
1992 Mad About You Kramer Episode: "The Apartment"
1996 Ellen's Energy Adventure Caveman Television movie
1996 London Suite Mark Ferris Television movie
2000 David Copperfield Mr. Wilkins Micawber Television movie
2000 The Michael Richards Show Vic Nardozza 7 episodes
2009 Curb Your Enthusiasm Michael Richards 3 episodes
2012 Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Michael Richards 1 episode
2013-2014 Kirstie Frank 12 episodes

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b TMZ Staff (2006). ""Kramer's" Racist Tirade -- Caught on Tape". In The Zone. TMZ.com. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  2. ^ a b Goldberg, Lesely (February 15, 2013). "TV Land Orders Kirstie Alley-Michael Richards Comedy to Series". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  3. ^ "Michael Richards Biography (1949?-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  4. ^ a b "Michael Richards Tv's Top Jive-talking Hipster-doofus Fell for His Audience, and Vice Versa. Farewell, Cosmo, and Giddyup!". People. 1998-05-14. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  5. ^ "NewsLibrary.com - newspaper archive, clipping service - newspapers and other news sources". 1995-04-30. 
  6. ^ Michael Richards 'Speaking Freely' transcript[dead link] via First Amendment Center, Recorded February 28, 2002, in Aspen, Colorado
  7. ^ Andy Kaufman on Fridays from FridaysFan. Funnyordie.com. February 11, 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  8. ^ "Michael Richards 'Speaking Freely' transcript", Recorded Feb. 28, 2002, in Aspen, Colorado
  9. ^ from "Mr Monk and His Origins," a special feature packaged with the Season One DVDs.
  10. ^ Mariel Concepción (2006). "Comedian Michael "Kramer" Richards Goes Into Racial Tirade, Banned From Laugh Factory". News wire. Vibe.com. Archived from the original on 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  11. ^ Post Store (2006-11-21). ""Seinfeld" Comic Richards Apologizes for Racial Rant". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  12. ^ "Richards 'deeply, deeply sorry' for racial slurs". CBC arts (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  13. ^ ""Seinfeld" Star Richards Under Fire For Racial Outburst". News wire (Reuters). 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2013-06-28. 
  14. ^ a b "The Situation Room transcript". The Situation Room (CNN). 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
  15. ^ "CNN Newsroom". CNN.com. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  16. ^ "Sharpton: Comedian's apology not enough". CNN. November 23, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  17. ^ "Jesse Jackson Talks To Michael Richards: Jackson Says Apology For Actor's Racist Rant Is Only A Beginning Before Healing". News wire (CBS). 2006-11-25. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  18. ^ "Michael Richards It's Bubbly Time, Jerry - Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld". Comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  19. ^ "'Curb Your Enthusiasm' hosts a 'Seinfeld' reunion". Zap2It.com. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-07-23. [dead link]
  20. ^ "Richards appears on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  21. ^ "TV Land cancels 'Kirstie'". Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]