The Michael Richards Turning Point
October 12th, 2017 – The original Laugh Factory opened its doors in 1979 and has brought countless memorable sets to the stage over the years. Its Sunset Boulevard location has also brought plenty of controversial scandals to the limelight. While comedians pushing the boundaries doesn’t always make headlines, a few stand-ups have said things that actually changed policies. Michael Richards, who was once most well known for portraying Kramer on Seinfeld, sparked outrage in 2006 after a video of him screaming the n-word at a group of African American fans during a set went viral.
Following the incident, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada instituted a ban on the n-word leaving those who said it with a $20 fine for each use. Fast forward a month and welcome Damon Wayans to the stage. Wayans, the comedian/actor/writer/producer, began the show by saying “Give yourselves a big round of applause for coming down and supporting Ni**** Night.”
He went on to explain that the producers tried to warn him backstage about the fine for saying the n-word. The cautionary words didn’t take. Wayans began dropping folded bills and green confetti onto the stage.
“How much you want,” he asked boldly. “I’ll be damned if the white man uses that word last.”
“This is part of our culture now,” Wayans said directing much of his commentary at Masada. “Don’t take that from us.”
This show was the first “Chocolate Sundaes” performance since the ban had been put into place. Chocolate Sundaes is a weekly show still performed today which showcases mostly African American comics. Wayans ended up using the n-word 15 more times during his opening act bringing his fine total to $320. He also received a 3 month performance ban.
For his part, at the time, Masada stood by his decision saying that the word had become more poisonous than ever. He spoke with news outlets explaining that the venue received phone calls applauding what Richards had done and that the New York and California locations had incidents where white people yelled racial slurs and gave Nazi salutes.
IsItFOO spoke with an employee at the Laugh Factory on Sunset Boulevard about current fines regarding use of the word. She wasn’t sure if the ban and fines were still in place but stated that while she has been working there the n-word hasn’t been used.
At the end of the Michael Richards video from 2006, he says “You see? There’s still these words, these words, these words.” Even if the Laugh Factory has had fewer instances of this word recently, the debate over the n-word is still prevalent today. Bill Maher was blasted just this past summer for using it during an interview with Senator Ben Sasse.