'Seinfeld' Star Michael Richards Reflects on Racist Outburst Nearly 18 Years Later: 'The Damage Was Inside of Me'

The comic also spoke on his 2018 prostate cancer diagnosis, saying, "I thought, well, this is my time. I'm ready to go."

Michael Richards at an event, dressed in a tailored suit with a patterned shirt and clear glasses
Image via Getty / Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
Michael Richards at an event, dressed in a tailored suit with a patterned shirt and clear glasses

Seinfeld star Michael Richards stepped away from the spotlight nearly two decades ago following an incident in a comedy club where he used the N-word during a racist tirade directed at a group of hecklers.

"I was immediately sorry the moment I said it onstage," Richards recalled in a new interview with People.

"I'm not racist," the 74-year-old continued. "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."

Looking back, the comedian believed his 2006 outburst was part of an ongoing issue with anger that he needed to address.

"My anger was all over the place and it came through hard and fast," he acknowledged. "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. Crisis managers wanted me to do damage control. But as far as I was concerned, the damage was inside of me."

By committing himself to resolving his personal issues, Richards felt like he needed to leave Hollywood. "It was time to disappear and finally pay attention to where all of my anger was coming from," he said. "The most I could do for everybody was go home and get my shit together."

Richards seemingly had a soft launch of a return last month when he appeared on the red carpet for the premiere of Jerry Seinfeld's Netflix movie Unfrosted. While he assured People that he is "not looking for a comeback," his re-emergence coincides with the upcoming release of his memoir Entrances and Exits.

With over 40 journals in his possession, Richards thought it was a good time to "connect with feelings and memory" as he closes in on his 75th birthday.

Popularly known as Cosmo Kramer from his time on Seinfeld, Richards was admittedly surprised that he remembered so much from his past. Some memories, though, remain a little more fresher than others.

Richards was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer in 2018. After learning of his diagnosis, the comedian spent the first few moments accepting that it was possibly his time to go before realizing who he would be leaving behind.

"I thought, well, this is my time. I'm ready to go," he remembered. "But then my son came to mind just a few seconds later and I heard myself saying, 'I've got a 9-year-old and I'd like to be around for him. Is there any way I can get a little more life going?'"

Richards underwent surgery to remove his entire prostate, as recommended by his doctor. "It had to be contained quickly," he said. "I had to go for the full surgery. If I hadn't, I probably would have been dead in about eight months."

Entrances and Exits comes out on June 4.

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