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'Seinfeld' 10 years later
Copyright © 2009, The Chicago Tribune
Richards was first out with a major sitcom -- "The Michael Richards Show" -- in 2000. It was burdened by expectations. The show was canceled after six episodes. Richards did some credited voice work (for Jerry Seinfeld's "Bee Movie"), and there were rare cameos. He also worked on the comedy circuit, but the Nov. 20, 2006, Laugh Factory tirade ended it. That performance -- a blowtorch of rage and racial epithets -- was captured on a cell phone, and Richards' career seemed over. He disappeared into the Far East, where a reporter for the Los Angeles Times caught up with him: "That night, when I was insulted and disrupted, I lost my heart; I lost my sense of humor. I've retired from that." He's back and in production on a major studio animated release, "Cat Tale."
The lowdown: Richards stared down the biggest challenge of any actor -- how to get beyond the character that made you -- then seemed to back off. His "The Michael Richards Show" character was part Monk, part Cosmo and reinforced the quandary. After the Laugh Factory incident, he tried the recovery program (hired a big-league PR firm, etc.) but remains somewhat radioactive.