'Seinfeld' star Michael Richards reflects on aftermath of racism scandal: 'It hasn't been easy'

Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer during "Seinfeld's" nine-season run, is apologetic about the racial slur incident that stymied his career nearly 20 years ago. But he's not expecting a comeback story.

Richards, 74, reflected on the 2006 incident in an interview with People magazine, which published Wednesday, ahead of the release of his upcoming memoir, "Entrances and Exits."

"I was immediately sorry the moment I said it onstage," Richards said. "My anger was all over the place, and it came through hard and fast. Anger is quite a force. But it happened. Rather than run from it, I dove into the deep end and tried to learn from it. It hasn’t been easy."

He added: "Crisis managers wanted me to do damage control. But as far as I was concerned, the damage was inside of me."

During a stand-up show at West Hollywood's Laugh Factory in November 2006, Richards went on a tirade and hurled racial slurs at several hecklers, who were reportedly Black.

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"I'm not racist," he told People. "I have nothing against Black people. The man who told me I wasn’t funny had just said what I’d been saying to myself for a while. I felt put down. I wanted to put him down."

During co-star Jerry Seinfeld's interview on the "Late Show with David Letterman" several days after the incident, Richards made an appearance via satellite.

"I'm really busted up over this and I'm very, very sorry to those people in the audience," he told Letterman at the time. "For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I'm deeply, deeply sorry."

Richards, who played Seinfeld's over-the-top neighbor alongside Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, won three Primetime Emmys for his role during the show's run from 1989 to 1998.

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"I was a good character actor, but I was comfortable being the character, not in being me," he told People, adding that he's "learning and healing. Healing and learning."

After the 2006 incident, Richards appeared in several episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Kirstie." But the father of two mostly spent his time reading and studying religion and philosophy.

Michael Richards, right, and Jerry Seinfeld attend the premiere of "Unfrosted" at The Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on April 30, 2024.
Michael Richards, right, and Jerry Seinfeld attend the premiere of "Unfrosted" at The Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on April 30, 2024.

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On April 30, Richards made a rare public appearance at the Los Angeles premiere of buddy Seinfeld's Netflix film, "Unfrosted." His longtime friend also wrote the foreword for his memoir, out June 4.

"This book is a hymn to the irrational, the senseless spirit that breaks the whole into pieces, a reflection on the seemingly absurd difficulties that intrude upon us all," a blurb from the book reads. "Upset and turmoil is with us all the time. It’s at the basis of comedy. It’s the pratfall we all take.

"It’s the unavoidable mistake we didn’t expect. It’s everywhere I go. It’s in the way that I am, both light and dark, good and not-so-good. It’s my life.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael Richards, Kramer on 'Seinfeld,' reflects on racism scandal