Michael Richards achieved lasting fame with his portrayal of Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld, the 1990 sitcom about nothing. He also secured a deal of infamy with his racist comments during a 2006 stand-up comedy performance. Still struggling to move past the incident, let’s look at what Michael Richards has been up to lately.
Michael Richards Before Seinfeld
Michael Richards was born in Culver City, California, in 1949. After graduating high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970. After being stationed in West Germany as a medic, Richards was honorably discharged and enrolled in the California Institute of the Arts under the G.I. Bill.
- Michael Richards as a senior in high school
Richards switched to the more experimental Evergreen State College, graduating in 1975 with a BA in drama. While enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College, he appeared in multiple student productions, making his way to TV in 1979 with Billy Crystal’s first cable TV special.
Michael Richards first worked with Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld) in 1980, on the ABC late-night comedy show Fridays. His time there is most known for an incident later re-enacted in the movie Man on the Moon, where Andy Kaufman threw his drink into Michael Richards’ face.
Through the 80s, Richards would make several appearances on Miami Vice, Night Court, and Cheers. He also would appear as an accident-prone fitness guru on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
On film, Michael Richards had multiple cameos and minor roles in the 80s and 90s. He was in UHF, directed by Weird Al Yankovic, and Coneheads, the sci-fi cult classic. In 1995, he was in Unstrung Heroes, where he was nominated for an American Comedy Award for “Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.”
Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer
In 1989, former Fridays cast member and writer Larry David created, with Jerry Seinfeld, a sitcom for NBC. Seinfeld was pointedly about nothing, though often focused on the interactions of four friends living in Manhattan. Michael Richards played Cosmo Kramer (usually just called Kramer,) who lived across the hall from Jerry.
- Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer
During the show’s tenure, Richards took home more Emmys than any other cast member; including the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1993, 94, and 97. The show did spectacularly well, and even today most people, if they know who Michael Richards is, think of him as Kramer.
And it’s easy to see why. Richards had some of the most memorable gags of the show; even how he entered the scene was a running bit. (There are 180 episodes of Seinfeld featuring Kramer entering Jerry’s apartment almost 400 times.)
After the show’s end in 1999, Michael Richards began work on a new NBC series, The Michael Richards Show. While the pilot was about a clumsy private investigator, it did so poorly in screenings that the show itself was reformatted to be a more typical office lifestyle comedy. When the show was cancelled after only a few episodes, tabloids began to refer to the Seinfeld curse. It seemed as though no one who rose to fame through the show would have another successful project. Julia Louis-Dreyfus saw her first post-Seinfeld sitcom flop, as did Jason Alexander, twice, with Bob Patterson and Listen Up!
Michael Richards’ Return to Stand-up
After the failure of The Michael Richards Show, Michael Richards returned to stand-up, which had sustained him through most of his career before Seinfeld. On November 17, 2006, while performing at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, Richards shouted at a group of black audience members who were loudly ordering drinks. The shouting degraded quickly into racial slurs and “jokes” about lynching.
- An innocuous photo of Michael Richards doing standup.
The verbally assaulted group quickly went to the press, leading to Michael Richards making a public apology on the Late Show with David Letterman, arranged by Jerry Seinfeld. At one point, Seinfeld scolded the audience, who were laughing at Richards’ awkward apology, “Stop laughing, it’s not funny,” which just shows how seriously Seinfeld and others viewed the incident. Michael Richards also apologized directly to many of those that he heckled, as well as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, thought by white people to represent, as Richards put it, the “Afro-American community.”
The incident caused Richards to quickly withdrawal from the public eye. Parodied on multiple occasions (the relevant South Park is fantastic,) Richards’ comments redefined his career for the worse.
Michael Richards After 2006
Since his outburst at the Laugh Factory, most of Michael Richards’ performances have been with Jerry Seinfeld. In 2007, he was in the Bee Movie, which was Seinfeld’s first motion picture script. On the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Richards and the rest of the Seinfeld gang appeared in several episodes, where he at one point pokes fun at his racist outburst.
In 2012, Richards was interviewed by Jerry Seinfeld for his Crackle web-series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. In fact, since the outburst, the only project Michael Richards has worked on that wasn’t led by Jerry Seinfeld was his role as Frank in the sitcom Kirstie, starring Kirstie Alley. Airing on TVLand in December 2013, the show was cancelled after one season.
Michael Richards Now in 2018 – What’s He Doing?
Though Michael Richards might be very far from the public eye these days, his contributions to television comedies continue to live on. Cosmo Kramer was, in an era of situation comedies, one of the first to implement social obliviousness as a running gag. With the sitcom falling out of primetime favor, characters like Kramer continue to live. Look at anything featuring Ricky Gervais. Watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, it’s easy to imagine The Gang as four facets of Cosmo Kramer, relocated geographically and socioeconomically. Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation seems very much like a swag Cosmo Kramer. BoJack Horseman character blends the neurotic aspirations of Kramer with classic depression for the titular character.
- Michael Richards with his son Antonio Baz Richards in January 2016
In his personal life, Michael Richards lives with his wife Beth Skipp and their son, Antonio Baz (born in 2011.)