November 24, 2006

Is "Seinfeld" ruined? (My advice to Jerry.)

David Bernstein has started a conversation over at Volokh Conspiracy about whether Michael Richards' racist rant makes his Kramer character unwatchable.

I happened to try an old episode of the show the other day. The TiVo had dragged in the "real and... spectacular" episode, which begins with a lot of Jerry and Elaine. I wasn't really thinking about the Michael Richards incident. I was just passing the time, fooling with the TiVo. But when Kramer came in, after a few seconds, I turned it off. You know, there's usually a Kramerless beginning, and then, at some point, Kramer makes his entrance. Traditionally, you'd get a real lift at that point. The whole arc of the show is now screwed up!

But I'd love to see one more episode of the show where we discover that Kramer is a racist. We were always learning just one more odd fact about Kramer -- his first name, some hobby, some arcane field of knowledge, some impressive skill. And we were always tantalized by the unknown: What does the inside of his apartment look like? How does he support himself? Why don't we ever encounter the oft-referenced Bob Sacamano? And -- as one of the commenters on Bernstein's thread says -- the idea of the show was always that the four characters were not good people. We may have loved them, but it was not because they were purely lovable. So it would actually seamlessly fit with the show to have an epilogue episode where we learn that Kramer is evil.

Come on, Jerry. You like to push the envelope. Do a reunion show where we discover Kramer is a racist!

(Does anyone remember the old parody -- I think it was in the National Lampoon -- about "The Andy Griffith Show" where a black person comes to town and we learn that the lovely Mayberry folk are all racists?) [IN THE COMMENTS: Someone reminds me that it was in RAW, the comics journal, and drawn by Drew Friedman. I did have the Friedmanesque pictures in my head when I wrote this post. I must have the old copy of Raw around somewhere, as I never threw those things out.]

(And on the question whether a racist sitcom character could be lovable: That's a conversation we had back in the 70s when "All in the Family" came out. Is the answer different today?)

53 comments:

Jonathan said...

How about the "Naked Gun" movie with O.J. Simpson playing the deadpan blockhead, Nordberg? Pretty funny back in the day. Now, maybe not so much. Kramer's faults seem mild by comparison.

Bissage said...

I did not learn until today that "racist" means the same thing as "evil." Who knew?

Anyway, the evil character slot on "Seinfeld" has already been taken, by this guy.

JERRY: "Oh no, I’ve looked into his eyes – he’s pure evil."

Regarding Archie Bunker, Lionel Jefferson from next door said it best: "Archie’s not a racist -- he hates everybody."

FWIW, I’ve known lots of guys who would let loose with an ugly remark every now and then who were basically very nice, but frustrated. Sometimes a life of quiet desperation makes a little noise. So what?

I used to work with one of these guys coding CICS COBAL. He came up to me on my last day before I left for law school and I’ll never forget what he said. He said, "I know you think I’m kind of hard on people but you should hear the things I say to myself."

He was an okay guy.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Let's not forget this post where you discredited forever Mel Gibson because of his anti-semitic rant.

I believe it is necessary and proper to separate the art from the artist. In both cases. In fact, in most cases let's not confuse the two.

Dadgum said...

I tend to see a little of myself in everyone, from racists to the followers of MLK who white people find so comforting these days. Is the rejection of Richards linked to an underlying 'Afrophobia' that we don't like to think about?

Ron said...

How about a flashback showing Kramer with mirrorshades and a shotgun, like the guard in Cool Hand Luke? Guardin' a chain gang...("They call me Mr. Kosmo!")

If we get pictures of Jerry Stiller in a bundt meeting in 1938, or Ann Meara as Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, the envelope has been pushed too far!

Mark the Pundit said...

I wonder what people will think when they see the episode where Kramer gets too much sun and then goes to meet his black girlfriend's parents - the sunburn makes it looks like he showed up in blackface.

And there was the episode where he accidentally burns th Puerto Rican flag; or refuses to wear the AIDS ribbon. Racism everywhere!

Goatwhacker said...

This comes up in an analogous situation on conservative boards every so often, usually something like "I can't stand Barbra Streisand/Tim Robbins/Susan Sarandon/etc. as a person, now I can't bear to watch them in the movies". My response is generally you have to be able to separate the character from the person, otherwise you are denying yourself lots of enjoyment. Barbra Streisand has a beautiful voice and Shawshank Redemption was a great movie, by avoiding them you are just denying yourself.

I still watch the Naked Gun movies and still think they are funny (which probably exposes my lowbrow sense of humor). Besides you can take some enjoyment in Nordberg's character being continually beat up on screen.

Bissage said...

I thought maybe I’d follow-up MTP’s 10:10 with a picture of sunburned Kramer but I came up with something that’s, well, . . ., uh, . . .

Anyway, we report. You decide.

bearbee said...

I believe it is necessary and proper to separate the art from the artist

Hard to do. Listening to Wagner is always accompanied by a vague tinge of unease.......

Mortimer Brezny said...

I did not learn until today that "racist" means the same thing as "evil." Who knew?

What exactly is the argument that racism is not evil? I just don't get these people. Really. And I made my point without violating Godwin's Law.

I believe it is necessary and proper to separate the art from the artist.

Well, Tolstoy would say you have no idea what you're talking about; the whole point of art is for the artist to communicate/transmit specific and individualized feelings to the receiver/interpreter of the art.

Anonymous said...

Bissage: thank you for the brief visit to Memory Lane -- I also wrote CICS code in a previous life, and yes, a lot of those guys were a little nuts. (Me? I escaped.)

I want to contest Ann's statement that we all loved the characters. I didn't love them. I actively disliked them, and in fact was relieved when the show finally went off the air. It really contributed to the sarcastic/cynical vibe that is still current today. People used to be nice as a matter of course, but Seinfeld made it cool to be a jerk. Thanks a lot, Jerry!

I could never understand the people who idolized Kramer, the weird stalker-ish guy who lived in Manhattan with no visible means of support, and still somehow managed to get women to sleep with him. The whole Seinfeldian view of humanity disturbed me then and still disturbs me now.

If Richards' outburst means that Seinfeld will finally fall from favor, then at least something good will have come of it.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Listening to Wagner is always accompanied by a vague tinge of unease.

This is plainly false, especially considering how pervasive Wagner's music is in pop culture.

If we were to start closing ourselves off from appreciating art that was created by anyone in history who held any prejudiced views (against race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality) we wouldn't be left with much.

Joe Baby said...

Agreed, seems that most artists are driven by inadequacies, pathologies, and a general wackiness. Something about genius + madness living on a knife's edge.

Drugs, shattered lives, a variety of sexual proclivities, Bubbles the Monkey. There's rarely anything happy about art or artists, but therein drives the spirit.

If we only observed art from the truly happy, it would be a bland collection of casseroles and toaster cozies.

knoxgirl said...

JAC: OK... but that's not always possible. For example, I can't watch Woody Allen movies anymore. I've tried, as he used to be one of my faves, but just can't without feeling gross.

###

I have no desire to pick apart what Michael Richards *really* thinks, or Mel Gibson. It's a cliche, but everyone has their prejudices. It's how you behave and treat people that matters.

Michael Richards--and Mel--turned into completely ugly, vicious people in the face of stress/hardship. That's all I need to know. (Richards case is especially lame--aren't standup comedians supposed to have thick skins?)

knoxgirl said...

If we only observed art from the truly happy, it would be a bland collection of casseroles and toaster cozies.

I find this sentiment very distasteful. And overstated if not totally inaccurate.

bearbee said...

This is plainly false.......

You know how I feel........?

Steven Taylor said...

My guess is that the Richards Effect on Seinfeld episodes will fade over time. However, I suspect that it will never disappear completely.

As such, the show is clearly tainted by this event.

Cedarford said...

I look forward to Apocalypto
in early December. What Gibson is doing is making movies that go far deeper and more meaningful than the shallow gruel Hollywood ladles out.

Comparison with Richards is wrong. As far as I can recollect, Richards had no reason to have any resentment of blacks...but as soon as word came out that Gibson was making a movie true to the Gospel that would slam the Jewish Sanhedrin that condemned Christ, all hell broke lose.
Powerful Jews did work to pressure wealthy Jewish people not to fund the Passion and pressure other sources of capital not to be "anti-semitic". When the movie was confirmed to be going ahead with Gibson's own money, Jews made threats on the actors and crew "not working in our town again", which led to Screen Guild union officials intervening to end the threats to livelihood. Then there were 11th hour efforts to financially ruin Gibson by blocking distribution and calling on critics to "condemn this film no matter what".

So then Gibson had to finance part of the distribution.

The perverse result of his Jewish enemies trying to bankrupt Gibson was Gibson put most of his personal fortune at risk involuntarily in lieu of getting other investors, then tripled it when the movie was a huge global success. (The ADL boycott was disregarded globally)

And of course, Gibson's own demons fed on the persecution over the Passion, festered, and needed release...

But I do note that past predictions of artists doomed for saying offensive things - Robbins, Penn, the Beatles, the Dixie Chicks never happened.

Danny Glover and Ossie Davis were supposedly "doomed" for making rabidly anti-white remarks and had steady work after that. Ice-T was blacklisted for anti-cop lyrics, then went on to make millions playing one on TV.

I guess all this shows that Americans really do believe in free speech after all - and not in punishing people to the point of destruction, for "offending" PC. And separating the art out from the politics.

Susan Sarandons politics don't faze me when seeing one of her or Robbin's flicks, or from enjoying a Lilian Hellman, Arthur Miller play knowing they were also Soviet supporters.

If Richards suffers, it will be not at the hands of the American public, but the Elites that own and control the entertainment venues Richards needs to access to work.

He is not as powerful as Gibson in ability to take on the media moguls, but he does have the resources to fight them.

Watch what happens with Apocalypto

Pat Patterson said...

Jerry Stiler went to baking meetings in 1938?

Brent said...

Although "Avenue Q" - the show on Broadway - is a little vulgar for my taste, I fully agree with the lyrics and title of one of it's songs:

Everybody's a Little Bit Racist

Chorus
Everyone's a little bit racist
Sometimes.
Doesn't mean we go
Around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one's really color blind.
Maybe it's a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

Jeff said...

Drew Friedman drew a one-page comic that explored what would have happened if a blck man had passed through Mayberry in the early 60's. It was beautifully drawn and hilarious. It appeared in RAW magazine in the early 80's.

BJK said...

Am I the only one who remembers that Cosmo Kramer hired a black lawyer?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Chiles

Maybe he just did it so that he wouldn't look like such a racist?

Joe said...

Clearly, some of us can put aside the politics of an entertainer and enjoy their art, and some of us can't. I am one of those who apparently cannot forget. I can no longer listen to Neil Young - a favorite for almost 40 years - the Stones - ditto - the Pretenders, etc.
I think the Hollywood stars of the Golden Age had the right idea. Rarely did they pontificate on politics. I think this was out of respect for their audience; they realized that they had no superior insights, that their fans' points of view were just as valid. The collection of egos in that town today have no problem condescending to us peons and telling us how to think and behave even as they violate their own precepts. I am specifically thinking of the preaching that goes on about greenhouse gases while they fly everywhere on private jets.

Dogtown said...

Don't be ridiculous. I watched the show last night, and I had no problem watching his character, which is the whole point: Kramer is a CHARACTER!!!!

Pogo said...

I'm tired of envelope-pushing. When test pilots would 'push the envelope', (i.e. testing the limits of safety), it was a brave and defiant act. But comedians seem more like young women squeezing into pants both too tight and too low, creating that muffin effect, and straining the seams. Not brave, not defiant, but uniform, derivative, and ugly.

Rather than comedy being on the edge, seeing just how far it was safe to go, much recent comedy seems to be straining to put 20 pounds of taters in a 5 pound sack. Not pretty. Not funny.

$CAV3NG3R said...

The collection of egos in that town today have no problem condescending to us peons and telling us how to think and behave even as they violate their own precepts.

I would venture to suggest that maybe this idea that celebrities are somehow on a higher rung is what makes it hard for some to divorce art from the artists. Maybe if people did not over-emphasize the importance of entertainers in their lives they might be able to seperate the two but then again maybe people don't want to have anything to do with anyone/anything that they disagree with. The latter is an interesting position to take considering that there's a lot of merit in being able to seperate the fact that the guy in the next cubicule is a jerk and that he does his job well or otherwise. I've often wondered why as compared to other places I've lived, people here are really hostile to others especially once they know that the ideas those folks espouse are diametrically opposed to theirs.

And overstated if not totally inaccurate.

The full range of emotion in art would be lost, so I'm not sure this is inaccurate. People don't make sad music when they are happy. Then again there's a certain creepiness to hoping for dysfunction in order to create great/good art.

Clarey watcher said...

That kind of "pushing the envelope" may also be redundant. I mean, I think most people are aware that there's levels of complexity to that sort of thing: consider Faulkner, a source of both make-you-squirm comments about blacks and Jews and also someone who occasionaly displayed warmth and goodness to both. From what I understand about this event (I never watched "Seinfield") the actor's also made us aware of a complexity.

Ann's idea will never fly anyway: Even if Seinfield wanted to do it the "Kramer" actor would, if he's got any sense, run like hell from the idea.

OddD said...

People don't make sad music when they are happy.

Nonsense. There's a modern obsession with art being self-reflective (as, perhaps, everything else for our narcissistic selves).

There are still a few songwriters out there who don't write exclusively about themselves (cf. Randy Newman). And I doubt very much that all the fine film composers who compose sad music for sad films are sad.

It's probably necessary to have been sad at some point but to paraphrase, a person has experienced the entire range of emotions necessary for art by the age of five.

Anonymous said...

I tend to believe that discussions such as this rank right up there with repeated references to how it is terrible that everyone else is giving so much attention to the antics of a certain ex-football player of note. Drives ratings, attracts viewers, but, all in all, a lot of noise signifying nothing. Your mileage may vary, of course. In fact, I'm confident that it does.

Mack said...

Mortimer,

What exactly is the argument that racism is not evil?

The problem, I think, is that racism in the abstract is a thought crime, and a common one, and one which many think is selectively punished even by those who invoke it most vehemently.

If you ask me, Richards showed that he's not a particularly sharp guy, and that he's got some emotional issues, and probably some prejudices. I don't see "evil." What's evil, I'd say, is someone who actually promotes a racist worldview, meaning that they would actually mistreat people for their race, or deny them rights, or disrespect them. I don't think we should necessarily equate that with someone who goes nutty in a comedy club.

You might say it's not unlike pedophilia: most people say you're not evil just because you're attracted to children, only if you act on it. In that sense, you could call Richards' rant "evil," and I'd agree. After apologizing, though, I probably wouldn't say so evil as to erase all other aspects of his character.

To many people, I think this idea that merely revealing some prejudice gets you labeled "evil" seems somewhat disingenuous and even absurd, in a world where prejudices in one form or another are nearly universal.

Bissage said...

OddD evoked Randy Newman and I couldn’t resist.

Goatwhacker's not the only one who goes for lowbrow humor.

Blair said...

This somehow seemed relevant:

Kramer: I'm telling you, something's going on. I can feel it, sense it.

Elaine: I'm sure he was just joking around.

Kramer: Oh no no no, this is no joke. O'Brien's coming in from Chicago,
Jerry's in a limo, says he's O'Brien? That's not funny. Oh my god. Yes. Yes!

Elaine: What is it?

Kramer: Don't you see? There's always been something very strange about Jerry,
always so clean and organized. Do I have to spell it out for you? The limo?
The name? The rally at Madison Square Garden? Jerry, O'Brien are the same
person. Jerry is the leader of the Aryan Union!

Elaine: Jerry's a nazi?!

Kramer: I can't believe I didn't see it.

Elaine: Listen, you idiot! Just calm down! I know Jerry, he's not a nazi.

Kramer: You don't think so.

Elaine: No, he's just neat.

Kramer: Maybe he's with the company.

Elaine: What?

Kramer: The CIA! Maybe they placed him in there to infiltrate the organization
from within.

Elaine: What about his comedy act?

Kramer: That's the perfect cover! All that time on the road? Look Jerry, he's
too normal to be a comedian. These comedians, they're sick, neurotic people.

Elaine: What about George?

Kramer: What about him, he's part of it. His whole personality is a disguise.
No real person can act the way he does. Elaine, I'm telling you they're with
the organization. They're all part of it. He's in there with Helms and Hunt
and Liddy, that whole crowd. George and Jerry, they probably know who killed
Kennedy!

Elaine: I'll bet they were even in on it.


- from The Limo (Season 3)

reader_iam said...

The "real" Kramer weighs in on the actor vs. character issue.

TW Andrews said...

(And on the question whether a racist sitcom character could be lovable: That's a conversation we had back in the 70s when "All in the Family" came out. Is the answer different today?)

I don't think any character who dropped the N-bomb would be watchable.

LoafingOaf said...

I've watched Seinfeld since the incident and it hasn't taken away any of my enjoyment of the Kramer character. I learned to separate actors from their characters a long time ago. (With Mell Gibson this is harder to do, because his anti-semitism and homophobia seeps into his art....)

But if I actually believed that Richards' ugly outburst did define him as a person and where his heart is coming from, it might have a little more impact. I don't think one bad night should define a person. I feel kind of sorry for him. Everyone deserves to be cut some slack and be forgiven for having a bad night.

Mortimer Brezny said...

To many people, I think this idea that merely revealing some prejudice gets you labeled "evil" seems somewhat disingenuous and even absurd, in a world where prejudices in one form or another are nearly universal.

Speak for yourself. If I were a German in Nazi Germany, I would not rat out my Jewish neighbor. And I would not contemplate it, either. Period. Godwin's Law violated.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You might say it's not unlike pedophilia: most people say you're not evil just because you're attracted to children, only if you act on it.

No, most people say you shouldn't be punished unless you act on it. I don't know anyone who thinks watching child porn that accidentally fell out of the sky and into your lap is moral. Assuming it is clearly labeled as such, I would immediately have it destroyed.

Mack said...

Mortimer,

I'm not disputing your first point. On your second, I'd suggest that merely wanting to watch the movie doesn't make you evil. More likely it means you were probably yourself molested as a child. It's not a perfect analogy, but it gets to the basic problem of pure thought crimes. The important thing being that racism has often been much more than a thought crime, and I think those are the incidences that we should really call evil.

So I guess if there's an argument that racism isn't evil, it's simply that "racism" has become too broad and ambiguous of a term to support that label in every instance where it is accused. One result is that at this point, many people see the term as more of a political attack than anything else (I'm not one of these people, but I can't say it's an insane belief). In addition to my skepticism that someone like Michael Richards is truly evil (although it certainly was an ugly outburst), this is largely why I'm uncomfortable with over-extending the term.

Anon Y. Mous said...

TW Andrews: "I don't think any character who dropped the N-bomb would be watchable."

Is there a character on The Sopranos who hasn't used the word?

Revenant said...

I'd suggest that merely wanting to watch the movie doesn't make you evil. More likely it means you were probably yourself molested as a child.

I'm unclear why those two things are supposed to be mutually exclusive. Why can't the explanation for a person's evil nature be that they were molested as a child?

The important thing being that racism has often been much more than a thought crime

You keep conflating morality with criminality. It is not illegal to be evil -- it is only illegal to break the law. A person who longs to rape little children and eat them is evil. A person who wants to steal a car is evil. A person who wants to round up all the "ragheads" and shoot them is evil. He is not, however, guilty of "thought crime" because thinking things like that is not against the law.

CB said...

"...whether a racist sitcom character could be lovable"

I don't know if he's lovable as such, but Eric Cartman is the most racist, vicious, and all-around evil sitcom character ever, and one of the funniest.

Mortimer Brezny said...

A person who wants to round up all the "ragheads" and shoot them is evil. He is not, however, guilty of "thought crime" because thinking things like that is not against the law.

I was going to respond; I see someone beat me to it. I give thanks for that.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I would also note that watching child porn is both evil and criminal. Children had to be raped to make the porn. You are supporting child rape by watching it. Possession of child porn can result in conviction.

Mack said...

Mortimer and Revenant,

Again, I don't and didn't dispute most of what you just said, and I don't particularly care to try to define what's normal and what's not. If there are evil people out there, clearly you're right that their thoughts have a lot to do with that. I'm simply suggesting that the focus should mainly be on a person's actions. (I might even say that if you have an urge to do something that you know is bad, and you restrain yourself, there's actually something admirable about that, but that's beside the racism point.)

Beyond that, though, I think our conversation breaks down because we could be talking about totally different things, depending on how we define racism. If you dislikes somebody because of their skin color, I don't have much problem calling that evil. If you have a penchant for un-PC generalizations, then I'm less likely to call it evil. If you have slight prejudices engrained for whatever possible reason, which you make an effort to push aside, it may fit somewhere in between. Then there are all kinds of other things like racial pride which get more complicated yet.

My main point: racism can be evil, and if I'm defining it, then I'll say it is. If you're taking the most left-wing definition, though, then the issue gets more complex.

The partisan moderate said...

It doesn't ruin the show, but it does to a certain extent put a damper on the Kramer character and I say that as huge Seinfeld fan. It is kind of hard to suspend your disbelief when you will always remember that the actor playing Kramer went on a racist rant.

Whenever, I see OJ in a Naked Gun movie I have trouble picturing him as the nice guy he is supposed to be portraying and I suspect to a certain extent that I will have a little trouble picturing Kramer as the doofy eccentric friend now.

Furthermore, I never thought the characters were "evil" on Seinfeld but just incredibly inconsiderate and selfish people. The characters also weren't supposed to be overtly racist on the show. In fact, what made the show good was people could relate to a lot of the dilemmas and issues on the show. This incident in no way affects that but it does affect the way at least some people (including I suspect me) will view Kramer on the show.

Kev said...

Joe Baby said:
If we only observed art from the truly happy, it would be a bland collection of casseroles and toaster cozies.
And knoxgirl replied:
I find this sentiment very distasteful. And overstated if not totally inaccurate."

Actually, knox, I agree with Joe for the most part. Read the bios of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and listen to their music, and compare it to any one of those smooth "jazz" saxophonists out there, and it's pretty easy to see who had the happier life. Sure, there are exceptions, but Joe is pretty much spot-on here.

Palladian said...

I don't believe there's necessarily a correlation between personal emotional misery and great art. One of the greatest composers who ever lived, J.S. Bach, had from all accounts a happy life. He was married twice (his first wife died in 1720; he remarried in 1721) and had a total of 20 children from both marriages, ten of whom survived into adulthood. The Bachs hosted many musical evenings at their house in Leipzig, singing and performing with their friends. Hardly a life of poetic misery, and yet Bach turned out a massive body of transcendently emotional work, of such quality and variety that it cannot be reductively explained by biographical details.

I don't think tragedy makes artist great or deep. I think that great, deep artists are great and deep despite their tragic lives. Van Gogh's miserable problems didn't make his work better; he just managed to work despite great obstacles. His problems didn't enrich the work, they hindered it and eventually killed him.

I understand why some would be put off of Michael Richard's work forever because of this incident. It's not necessarily logical but it's completely forgivable. For instance, though I've always loved many of Picasso's works, I'm unable to disassociate his work from his loathsome affiliation with Communism and specifically Stalinist groups during his life in France before and especially after WWII. Richard Wagner is another good example of this problem. Although Wagner was not alive to have any direct association with Nazism, he (like many Germans of his and other ages) reviled Jews. And although Wagner wrote some of the greatest music of the later 19th century, you can't listen to it without hearing in it the occult Romanticism that provided the fertile ground in which Nazism took root. I certainly don't fault people for being able to enjoy the music despite this but I also don't fault people for being totally put off by it either.

reader_iam said...

Those engaged in the conversation about "person vs. work" might find the following book interesting:

Paul Johnson's Intellectuals (1988). I don't subscribe to all the conclusions, but it is well done, a great read, illuminating, and wicked. Earlier this year, in partial response to "Intellectuals," Johnson came out with Creators, in which he looks for artistic heroes.

I've read the former a number of times, and the latter is on the bedside pile.

Kev said...

Palladian: As I was writing my previous comment, the idea of Bach as a major exception to that rule did cross my mind. But I bet that exception makes more sense when you contrast the times in which he lived vs. now:

1) Bach was employed by either the (ducal or royal) court or the church for most of his life, and most musicians made their liviing this way. Since a lot of his music was sacred in nature, it makes sense that a lot of joy would be reflected in what he wrote. Plus, as Palladian noted, Bach did seem to have a pretty happy life, once you get past the whole thing of being orphaned at age 10 and all.

2) Compare that situation to today. Sure, we still have church musicians, but not all of those are full-time gigs; for the most part, who makes the most money in music is dictated by the whim of the masses. Parker and Coltrane, whom I referenced earlier, made (IMHO) some of the most creative and complex music of the twentieth century, but it was largely ignored by the masses because a) it demands more of the listener than most listeners are willing to give, and b) you can't dance to it.

It does make me wonder how different things might have been if those situations were reversed (i.e. if Bach had to pander to the masses to make a living and if Bird and Trane had, say, corporate sponsorship).

OK, so let me amend my statement from the previous comment: Maybe it's not so much that you have to be "sad" to make great music, but Joe Baby was still onto something: If you ever become totally satisfied with the music you're making (the great jazz guitarist Pat Metheny has noted that any jazz musician worth his/her salt is a card-carrying member of the "'I Suck' Club"); if you ever stop that endless searching that leads to great creativity...then, your music can become as dull and generic as the kind Joe was talking about.

Seneca the Younger said...

Seinfeld was watchable?

Aakash said...

This is the first I've heard about Michael Richard's rant...

I'm not a Seinfeld watcher, but I can see how it may be hard to watch a character on a movie or show, once you've found out something bad about the actor or actress. Then again, that effect may fade, after some time has passed.

Jacob said...

Ann Althouse gets results: a new episode of Seinfeld were we find out Kramer's a racist..

Jacob said...

Sorry that link is now broken: here's the new one.