Michael Richards On Racist Meltdown: It Was “Like Being Possessed By A Demon”
Michael Richards opens up about his infamous racist meltdown on stage in a new interview with TIME. The actor blew up at hecklers during a Laugh Factory comedy set in 2006, using the N-word in an outburst that made him a pariah and effectively ended his standup career.
He tells TIME, “I wasn’t getting much work before the incident, which was one of the reasons I was ding-donging around in those clubs late at night, unannounced — coming in and working on material. I thought I would try to reinvent myself.” Of course, it ended in disaster. Asked if he’s afraid of it happening again, Richards replies, “What happened in the club? Oh, that’ll never happen again. I know how to behave, to consciously behave.”
He explains, “When something like that comes up, I don’t let the heat of anger burn me up as it did. When you’re under the helm of anger, watch out, ’cause it’ll take you down. It’s like being possessed by a demon.”
So what was he angry about? “Oh, angry at the act, angry that it wasn’t funny, angry that I was being interrupted, angry that I’m not as good as I would like to be,” says Richards. “You know, I was frustrated that night, and so I turned on everybody.”
In the wake of the incident, Richards did “personal work.” “I wanted to see more about the man I am, and that meant being apart again from show business,” he tells the magazine. “I took a deep look at this and thought, Yes, we all make mistakes, but let’s go further and see more about me.”
He recalls, “I moved away from Los Angeles. I took up photography, a lot of reading, a lot of writing. I traveled a bit. I got more in tune with my family. I began to take care of my mother, and still do, and that was helpful.” He doesn’t know if others forgive him, but says, “I know I’ve forgiven myself. That’s where it really starts for me.”