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November 25, 2006
Racists And Buttheads And Lawyers, Oh My

One of the most embarrassing spectacles in American pop culture just got a little more despicable. After Michael Richards shouted a series of racial epithets in response to hecklers at his comedy routine, we hoped Richards and the story would both disappear as soon as possible. Unfortunately, once Gloria Allred enters the picture, naked greed usually follows close behind, and this case is no exception. The hecklers now want "some money" from Richards in return for their pain and suffering:

Two men who say they were insulted by actor-comedian Michael Richards during his racist rant at a comedy club want a personal apology and maybe some money, their lawyer said Friday.

The men, Frank McBride and Kyle Doss, said they were part of a group of about 20 people who had gathered at West Hollywood's Laugh Factory to celebrate a friend's birthday. According to their attorney, Gloria Allred, they were ordering drinks when Richards berated them for interrupting his act.

When one of their group replied that he wasn't funny, Richards launched into a string of obscenities and repeatedly used the n-word. A video cell phone captured the outburst. ...

Allred, speaking by phone from Colorado, said Richards should meet McBride and Doss in front of a retired judge to "acknowledge his behavior and to apologize to them" and allow the judge to decide on monetary compensation.

"It's not enough to say 'I'm sorry,'" she said. She did not mention a specific figure, but pitched the idea as a way for the comic to avoid a lawsuit. "Our clients were vulnerable," Allred said. "He went after them. He singled them out and he taunted them, and he did it in a closed room where they were captive."

Perhaps I missed this in the never-ending press coverage that accompanies the legal profession, but when did extortion become legal? Allred has publicly threatened Richards, telling him to bring his checkbook or she will file a lawsuit against him. For all intents and purposes, this is extortion, and Allred should be facing an ethics investigation for her bald-faced threats.

Don't get me wrong; Richards disgusted me with his racist rant. He claimed in his rambling and unconvincing apology on Letterman not to be a racist, but anyone who screams "N****r!" several times at the top of his voice while reacting to adverse reaction on stage pretty much qualifies himself as such. He's embarrassed and humiliated himself and his community of performers, and deserves the ostracization that will undoubtedly come soon.

However, let's not forget that these two guys aren't exactly peaches, either. For far too long, audience members at comedy clubs have believed themselves to be part of the act. It's annoying and self-absorbed, and while professional performers know how to handle themselves when they interrupt, hecklers are about as necessary to comedy as tire-slashers are to elections.

Now these two self-absorbed idiots think that being called names in public grants them the right to some monetary compensation. They think Richards owes them money as well as an apology. In order to claim that, they have to believe themselves damaged financially in some manner -- while giving a series of interviews to national media in order to wallow in their victimhood. It's ludicrous on the face of it, but entirely predictable given their association with the Queen of Victimhood as their attorney.

Richards will have no career after this debacle, unless he shows some significant atonement, and that's the appropriate remedy for this kind of racist rant. Joe Gandelman has more on this story; be sure to read his entire series of posts on the Richards meltdown.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 25, 2006 6:21 AM

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By now, most people in the civilized world are aware that former Seinfeld actor Michael Richards made some racially insensitive remarks while performing a stand-up routine at a comedy club. While his remarks were rightly met with derision and scorn, I ... [Read More]

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