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Michael Anthony Richards (born July 24, 1949) is an Americanmarker actor and comedian, best known for his portrayal of the eccentric Cosmo Kramer on the television sitcom Seinfeld.

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 and UHF. 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 his series was canceled, he returned to his roots in stand up comedy.

In November 2006, controversy arose concerning racial epithets Richards shouted at black hecklers during a live comedy show. He publicly apologized for his statements a few days after the show.He retired from stand-up in 2007, and appeared as himself in the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2009, at one point parodying his racial epithet episode of three years before.

Early life

Richards was born in Culver City, Californiamarker, the son of Phyllis (née Nardozzi), a medical records librarian, and William Richards, an electrical engineer. Richards was brought up with no specific religious tradition. He attended the California Institute of the Artsmarker but received a BA degree in drama from The Evergreen State Collegemarker in 1975. He also had a short-lived improv act with Ed Begley, Jr. during this period. Enrolled at Los Angeles Valley Collegemarker, he continued to dominate student productions. He later said: "I am grateful that the public schools introduced me to the performing arts." He was drafted during the Vietnam War, was in the U.S. Army for two years, and stationed in Germanymarker as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. "This was a successful, educational operation, boosting the morale of our men and incorporating the arts into the service." He then spent two years in the Army developing educational skits, and a couple more years "finding himself" at a commune in the Santa Clara Mountains. In 1979, he drove a bus and developed his own nightclub act.

Television and film career

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, including 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' face, before a small riot ensued (Richards later claimed he was in on the joke). 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 strong supporting role in "Weird Al" Yankovic's comedy film UHF. 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

Seinfeld

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. He continued to provide interviews.

The Michael Richards Show

In 2000, after the end of Seinfeld, Richards began work on a new series for NBC, his first major project since Seinfeld's high-profile 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 eye. 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.

Cameo roles, guest appearances, and film roles

Richards played himself in Episode 6 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". 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 Jerry Seinfeld. In 2009, Richards and the other main Seinfeld cast members appeared in the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Theater

In 2003, Richards appeared in Arsenic and Old Lace at the Strand Theatre in London, playing mobster Jonathan Brewster. Giving a 'beautifully menacing performance', according to the Financial Times.

Controversy

On November 17, 2006, during a performance at the Laugh Factorymarker in West Hollywood, Californiamarker, a cell phone video captured Richards shouting "Shut up" to a heckler in the audience, followed by repeated shouts of "He's a nigger!" to the rest of the audience (using the word six times altogether), and also making a reference to lynching. He was addressing a pair of black hecklers. Richards made a public apology for his remarks, during a satellite appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, when Jerry Seinfeld was the guest. He described going into a rage and said, "For me to be at a comedy club and to flip out and say this crap, I'm deeply, deeply sorry." He 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 in order to apologize. He also appeared as a guest on Jackson's syndicated radio show.

Kyle Doss, one of the members of the group that Richards had addressed, gave his explanation to CNN of the events prior to the cell phone video. He said that they had arrived in the middle of the performance and that, "I guess we're being a little loud, because there was 20 of us ordering drinks. And Richards said, 'Look at the stupid Mexicansmarker and blacks being loud up there.'" Richards then continued with his routine. Doss added, "And, then, after a while, I told him, my friend doesn't think you're funny," which triggered Richards' outburst.

The incident was later parodied on the season seven episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm titled "The Table Read". Richards, who plays himself in the episode, yells at Leon Black (J.B. Smoove), an African American, saying, "If only there were a horrible name that I could call you that would make you as angry as I am!". The entire time, bystanders record the incident on their cell phones, mirroring the events of the Laugh Factory incident.

Personal life

During the 1970s Richards attended, and graduated from, The Evergreen State Collegemarker in Olympia, Washingtonmarker.

Richards married former casting director Cathleen Lyons and had a daughter, Sophia. The two were divorced in 1992. He resides in Glendale, California, specifically the Rossmoyne/Mountain area in the Northwest part of the city.

In 2007, Richards became engaged to actress Beth Skipp.

In July 2007, partly due to the incident at the Laugh Factory club in November 2006, Richards announced that he has retired from stand-up comedy for "spiritual healing" purposes and would be traveling with his fiancée to Cambodiamarker, where they would visit Angkor Watmarker, as well as more remote temples, on a tour sponsored by the Los Angeles-based Nithyananda Foundation.

Richards is a Freemason and also a 33° member of the Scottish Rite. He has been very active in preservation of Masonic research.

TV



Filmography



References

  1. Michael Richards Biography (1949?-)
  2. Michael Richards: Jewish Or Not?
  3. IMDB Biography
  4. Michael Richards 'Speaking Freely' transcript via First Amendment Center, Recorded February 28, 2002, in Aspen, Colorado
  5. Washingtonpost.com "Seinfeld" Comic Richards Apologizes for Racial Rant
  6. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0804344/bio
  7. Brother Michael A. Richards: Renaissance Man, not "Kramer" The Scottish Rite Journal, September 2000, accessed 10 February 2006.
  8. "The Scottish Rite Journal of Freemasonry", Southern Jurisdiction USA, August 2003, accessed 7 August 2006


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