Michael Richards

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Michael Richards
Michael Richards (1993)-flipped.jpg
Richards at the 1993 Emmy awards
Born(1949-07-24) July 24, 1949 (age 64)
Culver City, California, US
OccupationActor/Comedian
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Cathleen Lyons (1974–1992; 1 child)
 
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Michael Richards
Michael Richards (1993)-flipped.jpg
Richards at the 1993 Emmy awards
Born(1949-07-24) July 24, 1949 (age 64)
Culver City, California, US
OccupationActor/Comedian
Years active1979–present
Spouse(s)Cathleen Lyons (1974–1992; 1 child)

Michael Anthony Richards (born July 24, 1949) is an American actor, comedian, writer and television producer, known for his portrayal of Cosmo Kramer on the television sitcom Seinfeld. During the show's run, 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 stepping into a 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 season.

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

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.[2] He has British and Italian ancestry.[3] His father died in a car crash when Michael was two and his mother never remarried.[4] He was drafted during the Vietnam War, served in the U.S. Army for two years,[5] and was stationed in West Germany as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show.

He attended the California Institute of the Arts, and received a BA degree in drama from The Evergreen State College in 1975.[6] 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. He also spent a few years "finding himself" at a commune in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[citation needed] In 1979, he drove a bus and also developed his own nightclub act.[citation needed]

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).[7] 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).

He was also famous for a brief sketch that he did on the show, during which he simply improvised with a large pile of dirt and some army toys. 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 Richards turned it down.[8]

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][9][10][10][11][12] Kyle Doss, a member of the group Richards addressed, said they had arrived in the middle of the performance, being disruptive and continued to heckle Richards's performance, adding, "I guess we were being a little loud, because there was 20 of us ordering drinks and they continued to be loud, infuriating Richards who said, 'Look at the stupid Mexicans and blacks being loud up there.' And, then, after a while, I told him, "my friend doesn't think you're funny," which triggered Richards's outburst.[13]

Richards made a public apology via satellite 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."[14] The audience seemed confused and were laughing during his explanation because he appeared to be in his Kramer character. At one point Jerry Seinfeld actually had to tell the audience to "Stop laughing, it's not funny." Richards said he was 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.[13][15] He also appeared as a guest on Jackson's syndicated radio show.[16] 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 Jerry 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.[17]

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.[18] In 2012, Richards appeared in comedy web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, hosted by Jerry Seinfeld.[19]

Richards plays the role of Frank in the sitcom Kirstie, costarring Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman. It is slated to premiere on TV Land in December 2013.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Richards was married for 18 years to Cathleen Lyons, a family therapist. They have one daughter, Sophia, and divorced in 1993.[4]

In July 2007, Richards announced his retirement from stand-up comedy. He further announced plans to travel to Cambodia with his fiancée and visit Angkor Wat for "spiritual healing" purposes on a tour sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Nithyananda Foundation.[21]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1982Young Doctors in LoveMalamud Callahan
1984The House of GodDr. Pinkus
1985Transylvania 6-5000Fejos
1986Whoops ApocalypseLacrobat
1989UHFStanley Spadowski
1990Problem ChildMartin Beck
1993ConeheadsMotel clerk
1994AirheadsDoug Beech
1995Unstrung HeroesDanny LidzNominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
1997Redux Riding HoodThe Wolf
1997Trial and ErrorRichard 'Ricky' Rietti
2007Bee MovieBud Ditchwater

Television[edit]

YearTitleRoleNotes
1980-1982FridaysVarious54 episodes
1982Faerie Tale TheatreKing GeoffeeyEpisode: "The Tale of the Frog Prince"
1983HerndonDr. Herndon P. StoolTelevision movie
1984Faerie Tale TheatreVinceEpisode: "Pinocchio"
1984At Your ServiceRick the gardenerTelevision movie
1984Night CourtEugene SleighboughEpisode: "Take My Wife, Please"
1984The Ratings GameSalTelevision movie
1985Tall Tales & LegendsSneaky PeteEpisode: "My Darlin' Clementine"
1984-1985St. ElsewhereBill Wolf5 episodes
1985CheersEddie GordonEpisode: "Bar Bet"
1985Scarecrow and Mrs. KingPetronusEpisode: "Car Wars"
1985SlickersMike BladeTelevision movie
1985It's a LivingHagerEpisode: "Desperate Hours"
1985Hill Street BluesSpecial Agent DurpeEpisode: "An Oy for an Oy"
1986Miami VicePagoneEpisode: "The Fix"
1986Fresno2nd henchmanTelevision movie
1987Jonathan Winters: On the LedgeVariousTelevision movie
1987-1988Marblehead ManorRick10 episodes
1989Camp MTVStanley SpadowskiTelevision movie
1989-1998SeinfeldKramer177 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)
1992DinosaursDirectorEpisode: "Wesayso Knows Best"
1992Mad About YouKramerEpisode: "The Apartment"
1996Ellen's Energy AdventureCavemanTelevision movie
1996London SuiteMark FerrisTelevision movie
2000David Copperfield 2000Mr. Wilkins MicawberTelevision movie
2000The Michael Richards ShowVic Nardozza7 episodes
2009Curb Your EnthusiasmMichael Richards3 episodes
2013KirstieFrank4 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. ^ "Michael Richards Biography (1949?-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  3. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0724245/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
  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. ^ IMDB Biography
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Michael Richards 'Speaking Freely' transcript via First Amendment Center, Recorded February 28, 2002, in Aspen, Colorado
  8. ^ from "Mr Monk and His Origins," a special feature packaged with the Season One DVDs.
  9. ^ Mariel Concepción (2006). "Comedian Michael "Kramer" Richards Goes Into Racial Tirade, Banned From Laugh Factory". News wire. Vibe.com. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 
  10. ^ a b Post Store (2006-11-21). ""Seinfeld" Comic Richards Apologizes for Racial Rant". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  11. ^ "Seinfeld's Richards utters racial taunts during routine". CBC arts (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 2006-11-20. Retrieved 2006-11-20. 
  12. ^ ""Seinfeld" Star Richards Under Fire For Racial Outburst". News wire. Reuters. 2006. Retrieved 2013-06-28. 
  13. ^ a b "The Situation Room transcript". The Situation Room (CNN). 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-04. 
  14. ^ "CNN Newsroom". CNN.com. 2006. Retrieved 2007-02-16. 
  15. ^ "Sharpton: Comedian's apology not enough". CNN. November 23, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-22. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/michael-richards-its-bubbly-time-jerry
  18. ^ "'Curb Your Enthusiasm' hosts a 'Seinfeld' reunion". Zap2It.com. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  19. ^ "Richards appears on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee". Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  20. ^ Goldberg, Lesely (February 15, 2013). "TV Land Orders Kirstie Alley-Michael Richards Comedy to Series". The Hollywood Reporter.
  21. ^ McDermid, Charles (2007-07-13). "Michael Richards finds inner solace in Cambodia". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-08-12. 

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