‘He Was Dropping the N-Bomb Like a Space Bar’: A Fellow Comic Remembers the Night ‘Seinfeld’s Michael Richards Imploded Onstage
Remember that November 2005 night when Michael Richards lost his damn mind on a Laugh Factory stage? His spectacular meltdown not only launched several n-bombs, but also detonated a career that had been one of the most decorated in comedy thanks to his performance as Kramer on Seinfeld. Don’t recall exactly how one of the worst nights in stand-up history went down? Here’s an ugly reminder.
But you know what’s really crazy? After this epic racist meltdown, Richards went across town to the Comedy Store and performed again! Comic Freddy Lockhart had the distinction of introducing Richards for that follow-up set, yet another bomb that Lockhart recently described on the Comedy History 101 podcast.
Richards was set to go on after Lockhart, which gave him the job of bringing TV’s Kramer to the stage. “He was running a little late, but he finally gets in and he's like, ‘Oh, you’re never gonna believe it. I had some trouble at the Laugh Factory.”
That news didn’t faze Lockhart. What could have gone wrong, a little heckling?
“Oh, it was real bad, real bad.”
So Lockhart gave Richards the old baseball pep talk. Comedy is baseball! If we’re hitting 30 percent, we’re going to the Hall of Fame. There’s nothing to worry about. Richards knew better, but he wasn’t telling Lockhart the reason for his dread — possibly because Lockhart is half-Black. “The last thing I said to him is, ‘If nobody got it on video, there's nothing to worry about.’”
After Lockhart’s set, he introduced Richards, who took the stage and tanked big-time. Given the circumstances, that’s completely understandable, but Lockhart says it wasn’t Richards’ anxiety that caused the lousy performance: “He bombed because he was a terrible comedian.” It was the last time Richards would ever do stand-up.
Of course, someone did record Richards’ Laugh Factory performance, and “it was him dropping the N-bomb like a space bar.” It was all over the news the next morning, making it crystal clear why Richards hadn’t told Lockhart exactly what had gone wrong the night before. “Thank God somebody got that on video.”
While Lockhart gives the Seinfeld star props for being reasonably nice and “a great comedic-timing, pratfall artist,” those skills didn’t make him a good stand-up comic. “He was bad,” Lockhart says bluntly. “(Stand-up) comedy, it’s a very humbling thing and if you don’t get it, you don’t got it.”
Richards’ lack of stand-up experience doomed him that night, according to Lockhart. “He was so bad at comedy that he hadn’t taken those licks of a heckler before. So he tried to answer back with the worst, most disgusting, vile thing he could think of. And that’s Amateur Comedy 101,” he said. “You couldn’t be funny in the moment, so you went for hateful. And whether you mean those things or not, the fact that you said them and said them on tape? You know, I don’t feel sorry for you. If anything, I just saw a really bad comic go to a really bad place because he just didn’t have the skills to deal with people shitting on him.”