Saturday, November 25, 2006

That's a Bad Joke, Right?

Like Richards', but funnier? An apology is appropriate. But asking for money smacks of opportunism, unless it's a joke playing on all sorts of crass stereotypes.

[The "victims'" lawyer] Allred, speaking by phone from Colorado, said Richards should meet McBride and Doss in front of a retired judge to "acknowledge his behavior and to apologize to them" and allow the judge to decide on monetary compensation.

"It's not enough to say 'I'm sorry' on 'David Letterman,'" she said.

No argument, there, although one wonders: "not enough" what? "Not enough" for what? Sure, if he wants to restore his reputation, he needs to do something more than that, as Sharpton pointed out. I actually liked what I heard from Sharpton about this being an opportunity to open a dialogue about lingering and deep-seated racism in the US. But if we don't know the answer to "not enough what for what?", how do we decide what would be "enough"? What is the measure of "enough"?

She did not mention a specific figure, but pitched the idea as a way for the comic to avoid a lawsuit.

Ah, there we have it. "Not enough" means "not enough money for my clients." If you drop some cash on people, all is forgiven and you're not a racist, any more. Well, if that's not the logic, then what is? Here the "victims" essentially suggest that they will participate with Richards in a lie about how he's really not racist if he just pays them enough money. But if a public apology to Letterman, Jackson, and Sharpton isn't "enough" to make it plain that he understands the problem with what he did, or if those things are not enough to demonstrate that Richards is in some meaningful sense not racist, then neither is a million dollars. That would just make him a rich racist.

"Our clients were vulnerable," Allred said. "He went after them. He singled them out and he taunted them, and he did it in a closed room where they were captive."

"Captive"? They sure didn't seem like captives when they walked out. I hate to break it to you guys, but you went to a comedy club. Comedians often single out audience members and taunt them, especially when you heckle them. Richards' behavior was appalling, and I can imagine being disturbed and distressed by it, but anyone who says he was genuinely scared in that moment, as one of the guys claims he was, is completely detached from reality. What was going to happen? Richards was going to jump off the stage and lead a lynch mob? That's bullshit, and so is the hint of a lawsuit if Richards doesn't cough up some dough. The response to someone like Richards losing control and taking the low road is to take the high road, accept an apology, and suggest the guy get some help controlling himself, not ask for money like a cheap Sharpton knock-off.

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