See what race-baiting does? You get caught on a cell-phone camera yelling the N-word at audience members, and suddenly your DVD sales are up 75%. That's the deal with season seven of Seinfeld post Kramer freak-out, and it's one reason why Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada thinks Jerry Seinfeld should fork over some of that sweet scrilla. After all, if Kramer's N-word controversy's boosted sales for Seinfeld--Season 7, now #17 on Amazon.com, then certainly the smarmy Seinfeld himself could part with a few greenbacks for the black community.
That's at least what Masada indicated to me when I spoke to him the other day while researching an item for this week's Bird column, "White Stepin Fetchit." Masada's already called for Richards to fork over half a mil for each time he uttered the racial epithet. But this is the first time I'd heard him calling for Seinfeld himself to part with ducats.
"Jerry Seinfeld went on David Letterman, and he brought Michael Richards on, and he said, 'Michael Richards, and-this-and-this-and-that, and by the way, I'm selling my DVD,'" explained Masada via phone from La-la Land. "Jerry Seinfeld, he's worth about a couple of billion dollars. If he really cares, and he knows Michael is not really prejudiced, Jerry Seinfeld should give all of the profits of the 7th DVD which they say is 75% more over profit than any other (Seinfeld) DVD that's come out because of this negative publicity. He should take some of the profit and give it to underprivileged kids."
Masada went on to question how one could know that celebs like Richards or Mel Gibson are really sorry for their statements when they pay big bucks to publicists for damage control. The comedy impresario thinks that moolah would be better spent on some charity.
"These are icons, they have more obligation than an ordinary person saying that kind of stuff," insisted Masada. "Ordinary person saying that kind of stuff, nobody's going to repeat that. But they're icons, they have a tremendous influence on the public. Even Jerry Seinfeld went on the Letterman show, he said, 'Well, I don't think he's prejudiced.' Well if you don't think he's prejudiced, why don't you put some money out there. "
Masada said the Kramer meltdown's the worst incident that's ever occurred at the Sunset Strip club since he founded it 28 years ago, and that he feels a special need to address the incident because he's part Israeli and part Iranian. (He noted that he refunded the patrons who were on hand that night.) As for the use of the N-word, which he's banned on his stage, he recalled discussing its use with both Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney back in the day:
"28 years ago, Richard Pryor was my best comic on the stage. Richard Pryor used the N-word," related Masada. "I said Richard, why do you use that word? This is painful, a really painful word. He said , 'Jamie, you don't understand, the reason I'm saying it so much is because I'm trying to take poison out of it, to take pain out of it.'"
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Masada continued: "Then he went to Africa and came back, a few years after, and he said to me, 'Jamie, I'm not going to use it (the N-word) any more.' I said why aren't you using it, and he said, 'Because a lot of people they get pain from this, and they're never going to lose that, we're never going to get the poison out of it.'"
Now the "kids" coming up are spouting the N-word onstage for no reason, complained Masada. Chris Rock is one thing, but too many are just using it to use it, he said. And it's not worth it.
"Comedy's supposed to be bringing people together," concluded Masada. "It's not supposed to be hateful. I don't want no hate speeches on my stage. I do not promote hatred. I promote comedy. I promote laughter. "
Maybe Richards should've done his Klansman impersonation as Kramer. Can you imagine the hipster doofus doing a racist monologue? Surely, no one'd take seriously anything "Kramer" had to say. Not even Jesse Jackson.