LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comic actor Michael Richards, famed for playing the quirky character Kramer on television’s “Seinfeld,” drew anger, not laughter, when he unleashed a torrent of racial slurs at hecklers while performing a stand-up act in Hollywood.
The incident, captured in digital-camera video footage obtained by the celebrity Web site TMZ.com and circulated over the Internet on Monday, took place during Richards’ live performance on Friday night at the Laugh Factory comedy club.
Eyewitnesses interviewed by TMZ and cable news outlet CNN said Richards’ act took an ugly turn when members of the audience began heckling him.
In the video, the performer appears to lose his cool, shouts “Shut up!” and makes a racially offensive statement.
As nervous laughter gives way to groans and boos from the audience, Richards lets loose a barrage of racial slurs and epithets and points to someone in the crowd.
Richards continues to rant as people in the crowd are heard shouting back at him, “that was uncalled for,” and the comic yells: “Well, you interrupted me pal, that’s what happens when you interrupt the white man.”
After several minutes, during which many members of the audience can be seen leaving their seats, Richards abruptly drops the microphone and steps down from the stage.
Richards’ manager and agent were not immediately available for comment on Monday.
CNN, which reported that Richards returned to the club for a performance on Saturday night, said the comedian declined to comment on camera when asked about the incident but said he was sorry and had made amends.
But a member of the audience from Friday night’s show, Darryl Pitts said he felt Richards should make a public apology “to everyone.”
“He offended everyone that was in the club that night,” Pitts told CNN. “He offended every African American in this country.”
News of the incident also drew a denunciation from Richards’ former co-star, Jerry Seinfeld, who released a statement calling Richards’ tirade “so extremely offensive.”
“I am sick over this,” Seinfeld said. “I’m sure Michael is also sick over this horrible, horrible mistake. ... I feel terrible for all the people who have been hurt.”
Richards idiosyncratic Kramer persona was a favorite on “Seinfeld” during its nine-year run on NBC, but his first stab at a sitcom of his own in 2000 was short-lived.
“The Michael Richards Show,” in which he starred as bumbling private detective Vic Nardozza, was canceled due to low ratings after several episodes. The series was widely panned by critics.