For those who haven't seen or heard it, Michael Richards, [Seinfeld's Kramer & UHF's (one of the funniest comedies ever made) Stanley Spadowsky,] screamed racial epithets (nigger) and threatened two black men who had been heckling him. Check it out here, if you'd like. Finding himself neck-deep in shit, he later apologized on Letterman - see it here.
Personally, I don't see what the big deal is. Honestly. Richards is just another celebrity in Hollyweird, and my rent is due in two weeks. Should or shouldn't he have done that? I couldn't care less. (Career-wise, it probably wasn't a good idea.) I think that that was a fantastic show- because he got completely naked, all the way down to the rage that was inside him. If I was there, I would have been more pissed because he left the stage. (Personally, my favorite stand-up comic is Emo Phillips.) I'm not saying that the recipients of his ire don't have the right to be upset- though I think the WHOLE video should be circling the internet- let's see what the hecklers were saying that made him snap- (yes, I know the person who caught this on the cell phone only started recording once the tirade had started- I'm just saying I'd like to know the whole picture.) I'm guessing Richards has felt nervous, angry and upset for quite some time. Here he is, trying to make some sort of a comeback, feeling desperate because nothing he's done since Seinfeld has worked, and he just snapped. The people who were heckling him were black, so he exploded with racist comments and threats.
Again, the targets of his wrath and anyone else offended in the club had a right to be upset. Is Richards a racist? Maybe- who cares? Publicly screaming racial slurs and threatening people is defiantly crossing the line, but there's a difference between words and actions. I once asked someone who was offended by this point of view to explain his own POV to me. He said that words come from thoughts and we have to change the way people think. He wouldn't agree that the idea telling people what they can and cannot think is a hundred times more frightening than telling people what they can and cannot do.
(Note to self on the apology: Does Jerry Seinfeld really give a rat's ass about any of this? Is he as shocked and offended as he pretends to be, or his he just doing damage control to keep the sales of the Seinfeld Season 7 DVD's from tanking? Who would buy Seinfeld DVDs anyway?)
There still are some magic words- words that daren't be uttered unless society says you're genetically allowed to utter them- seven words you can't say in polite company (or on television) though it's quite all right to say their less-charged counterparts. Magic words- don't tell me sorcery doesn't exist.