Friday, November 24, 2006

Kramer On Kramer (Corrected)

[Posted by reader_iam]

The "real" Kramer says people should able to separate Michael Richards from the character Kramer on Seinfeld.

Yeah, well, "people should" doesn't mean "people can." As the Volokh poster put it in his comments section, "I only know Richards from Seinfeld, and, thus, viscerally, Richards is Kramer and vice versa." Althouse suggests: "Come on, Jerry. You like to push the envelope. Do a reunion show where we discover Kramer is a racist!"

This isn't what Kenny Kramer--who lived across from Seinfeld co-creator Larry David for a decade and is the model for the Cosmo character--wants to hear:
But Richards' repeated use of a racial epithet in shouting down two hecklers had the genuine Kramer gently reminding folks of the difference between inspiration and imitation — even after the phony Kramer apologized during a television appearance with the real
Jerry Seinfeld.

"The things that really annoys me is that The Drudge Report, Michael Savage, are saying Kramer's a racist,'" the real Kramer said on a real phone from a real location in Manhattan. "Kramer is a fictitious character. Michael Richards is an actor who played that character."

That's the crux of it for me. Generally, I don't have much problem separating art from artist--but perhaps I have an advantage in having been raised among musicians, artists and so forth. It was sort of a survival skill. In any case, if I were to start down that path, I would have to substantially reduce the amount of music, literature, art, and so forth that I could enjoy. I'm not going to stop admiring Gaugain's paintings because he arguably exploited underaged native girls, for example. I can still watch Woody Allen's movies (the older ones, anyway; I've been notably underwhelmed with his later work, for entirely unrelated reasons). And so on.

But that's just me. I can understand how and why others react and feel differently.
Kramer said he wasn't too worried that people would confuse Kramer, the character, with Kramer, the person.

Just in case, however, he issued a two-sentence statement drawing the distinction: "I know the public is smart enough to realize that Michael Richards' personal actions in no way reflect on the character he portrayed on television or me, Kenny Kramer, the real person that the character was based on."

Maybe yes, maybe no. "Smart" isn't the issue, but rather the visceral reactions that people are having.

This brings up an interesting question, though. Since 1996, Kenny Kramer has been conducting "Kramer Reality Tours," featuring Seinfeld locales in NYC. Will this flap hurt or help his business? How far down will Richard's dreck drip?

Despite saying he doesn't think Richards' is a racist, Kenny Kramer doesn't mind making a joke at his expense:
"You know what the good news is?" he asked. "Judith Regan is now on a plane to California, trying to sign Michael Richards to a book deal: `If I Were a Racist, Here's What I Would Have Said.'"

Oh, c'mon now: No editor would ever sign on to publish a book like that!