My take on "Kramer Gone Wild"
I think the most important fallout from what I will from this point forward call "the Kramer incident" is that Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory where the Kramer incident took place, has banned the N-Word from his club. A club owner has the right to ban any kind of speech he'd like from his stage (I've worked places where you had to be Disney-clean and places where every foul word on the planet was not only acceptable, but encouraged), but Masada's PR move is fear-driven and wrong.
You wonder what would happen if Richard Pryor or Lenny Bruce were to suddenly spring back to life and decide that they wanted to get back into stand-up (believe me, the pull of the stage really is that powerful!) Could Masada argue that Pryor's use of the word is similar to Richards'? In the former instance you have a man using dirty words to make a point about racism in this country and in the other you have ... well, a faded former TV star losing his mind on a heckler. Any sensible viewer is aware that there's a major difference between the two.
What's missing from Masada's move is context. Every word has the potential to be both insightful or inciting, depending on how the speaker uses it (for instance, I can construct a very offensive sentence using only the words hope, I, you, herpes, and get. In and of themselves, the words aren't offensive, but string them together in the right context and poof, I've lost my TV Squad job just as soon as I got it!) I sincerely hope that the Laugh Factory changes its policy to address language problems on an incident by incident basis.
Other observations from the Kramer incident:
- There's a difference between comedic actors and comedians. Studio 60 tried to make this point recently as well. Michael Richards is a phenomenal comedic actor. When someone is writing the words for him and he's got a director and time to rehearse, he'll floor any room. When he's forced to make up what he's saying himself, he's not nearly as funny.
- The Laugh Factory needs to update its roster! Did anybody else get a look at who was there that night? Sinbad? Paul Rodriguez? Paul Mooney? Funny guys, all of them, but if It wasn't for the fact that this scene was recorded with a camera-phone, I would have thought that it was a film from 1985.
- Whenever someone describes their act as "stream of consciousness" it means they have no act. Audiences are forgiving of a lot of things -- not being funny when you're Kramer and you're performing at a comedy club isn't one of them. I'll never support a heckler -- I'm a comedian, and it's my belief that all hecklers should be boiled in flop-sweat -- but I do understand why an audience might get antsy during a "stream of consciousness" rant.