So the man who played Kramer has now ruined the pleasant quietude and well-timed chuckles of the Seinfeld reruns for millions of shut-ins, er, fans. If nothing's on, Seinfeld's on. But does knowing that Michael Richards harbors some vile racial hatred destroy the experience? Is he our sitcom Ezra Pound? Well, it does take the edge off. And it may well diminish residuals along with reputation.
Everybody has something to say about this K-K-Kramer, but I liked Joe Gandelman's take the best. Joe's a working ventriloquist as well as the man behind The Moderate Voice, and he plays scores of gigs per year. And he knows from bombing:
I'm not on the same level as Richards or Seinfeld, but I can say that every performer has stories of bombing. There is even a book that deals with the highs and lows of stand up — a book called "I Killed" which I'm reading now. Check it out.
Read bios of comedians and they all have stories of performances that were Performance Hell. Clearly, Richards was not doing well in the minutes leading up to his poor choice of how to proceed. If a performer starts to "bomb" it is an excruciatingly lonely experience; the performer can't just say "Oh, well, you hate me tonight, so goodnight!" but they have to try to salvage the performance. That entails experience, fall-back performance strategies...and also a lot of LUCK. The phrase "flop sweat" reflects a performing reality in cases such as this.
I have my own share of horror stories. One was doing a show for an audience clearly composed of people associated with organized crime. They did not want a show at all (but I had been contracted to do one). Many years before I went into ventriloquism fulltime I did a song parody satire at the piano in New Delhi. And the wife of a high American official was very angry at jokes that poked fun at anyone. In my own case, in the these-days-rare cases where a "bad show" happens I shift to alternate strategies, move set segments around around, etc. If it doesn't work? I complete my show, smile graciously and leave when it is over. I would NEVER use name calling. Why? The comedian has to try to win over the audience. Just name calling turns the audience against the comedian.
A few putdowns usually will do, and I've seldom had to use those. The great ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson had one line he'd use if he had problems from a heckler. His dummy Danny O'Day would say to the heckler: "Who's working your string?"