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One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld is the one where Kramer finagles his way into working at a company where he's not actually employed. He goes to the office every day, attends meetings, and writes business reports. But he's not on the payroll. Kramer's "boss" ultimately fires him, citing his lousy performance. "There's just no way we could keep you on," he tells him.

Truly distraught, Kramer says, "But I don't even work here."

"That's what makes this so difficult," laments his boss.

I laugh out loud every time I watch that scene. But it's hard to laugh at Kramer's antics these days.

By now you've probably seen the incriminating video of actor Michael Richards onstage at a Los Angeles comedy club. After being heckled by a couple of black men in the audience, Richards snaps, cutting loose with a lengthy rant that features not only a generous helping of the N-word but also a vicious reference to lynching ("Fifty years ago, we'd have you upside down … "). One woman in the stunned audience can be heard uttering, "Oh my God!"

Richards was great as Jerry Seinfeld's zany neighbor Cosmo Kramer. He imbued the character with just the right mix of lunacy, earnestness, and desperation. His nervous twitches and nonsensical outbursts made him a loveable nutcase—certifiably crazy, yet somehow charming in his madness.

That's why it was so shocking to see him erupting into hateful rage during his standup routine. Everyone expects Kramer to be "out of control," but not like this.

Seeing Richards's explode was like learning that a favorite performer has died. No one wants to believe a guy whose talents you've enjoyed for so long is actually a bigot. Yet there it was; the cell-phone video doesn't lie.

Days later, while appearing on David ...

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November 2006

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