Kramer vs Karma

The Complete Seinfeld, a 33-disc box set of every episode of the iconic nineties' show-about-nothing is now available for pre-order. As the owner of the complete Monty Python's Flying Circus, Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister and Fawlty Towers, I would have been the first to place an order for a comedy whose reruns have provided me hours of entertainment, and whose laughtracks supplemented my dinner for years.

However, what is holding me back is the racist outburst by Michael Richards, ingrained in popular culture as Cosmo Kramer, at a comedy club last year. I don't mean this to be a platform for ranting against racism, as race is a very complex issue, especially in the United States where it is conveniently swept under the rug of political correctness. However, Richards' tirade of taunting epithets revealed a soul that was darker than the colour of his heckler's skin.

Kramer is best remembered as Jerry Seinfeld's wacky neighbor with an absurdish inventive streak (oil tanker bladder system to contain maritime oil spills, a coffee-table book about coffee-tables that becomes a coffee-table) as well as for donning different colourful persona (Dr Martin Van Nostrand the proctologist, and H E Pennypacker, "a wealthy industrialist, philanthropist and bicyclist"). Despite his clownish antics and outlandish schemes, Kramer was often portrayed as the group's moral compass in a sitcom that did not hesitate to confront cultural tensions and stereotypes.

Unfortunately, unlike Kramer-the-character's apology to a monkey in the Central Park Zoo ("I lost my temper and I probably shouldn't have. I took it out on you and, look, if I've caused you any problems as a result of my behavior, well then, I'm sorry."), real life is not so forgiving. His public apologies on various talk-show programmes, probably done in an attempt to salvage DVD sales, do not endear his character, nor do they remove the bitter after-taste of his remarks. In my mind, it is very difficult to reconcile the image of Kramer the loveable "hipster doofus", with the expletive-laden talk of an ageing performer who, despite his years of experience in the comedy circuit, fell prey to the oldest challenge faced by any public speaker-- learning to accept criticism, especially when it hits home.

Look to the black and white cookie! Two races of flavour living side by side in harmony. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet, still, somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.

Jerry Seinfeld, The Dinner Party

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