Cosmo Kramer, we never knew ya.
Three days after leaving patrons at Los Angeles' Laugh Factory stunned and far from amused when he unleashed a racist tirade against two African-American men in the audience, Seinfeld star Michael Richards issued an apology for his actions, saying he was "deeply, deeply sorry."
Appearing via satellite on the Late Show with David Letterman on Monday, Richards said, "I lost my temper on stage. I was at a comedy club trying to do my act and I got heckled and I took it badly and went into a rage.
"I'm really busted up over this, and I'm very, very sorry to those people in the audience—the blacks, the Hispanics, the whites—everyone that was there that took the brunt of that anger and hate and rage and how it came through.
"For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I'm deeply, deeply sorry. And I'll get to the force field of this hostility, why it's there.
"I'm not a racist, that's what so insane about this, and yet it's said, it comes through, it fires out of me and even now in the passion that's here as I confront myself."
Richards appeared on the show at the behest of Jerry Seinfeld, who was a scheduled Late Show guest and persuaded his friend to make the public mea culpa. Earlier in the day Seinfeld issued a statement saying he was "sick over" the incident.
"I'm sure Michael is also sick over this horrible, horrible mistake. It is so extremely offensive. I feel terrible for all the people who have been hurt," Seinfeld said.
In video footage of the Friday night incident (available on TMZ.com), an enraged Richards screams: "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f--king fork up your ass." He then goes on to use the N-word repeatedly, appearing completely out of control, as he paces back and forth on the stage.
"You can talk, you can talk, you're brave now motherf--ker. Throw his ass out. He's a n---er! He's a n---er! He's a n---er! A n---er, look, there's a n---er!" Richards rants.
While there are a few chuckles from the audience, expressions of dismay can be heard on the tape and a number of patrons can be seen leaving.
"It's not funny. That's why you're a reject, never had no shows, never had no movies. Seinfeld, that's it," someone can be heard remarking.
As for what set Richards off, audience member Kyle Doss told ABC News it was a remark he made to the comic.
"I had said my friend doesn't think you're funny," Doss said. "He could have responded back in a professional way and said something funny, but he responded in a hateful, mean way."
The Laugh Factory held a press conference earlier Monday, with resident comic and acting club spokesman Paul Rodriguez saying that Richards, 57, would be permanently banned from the Hollywood landmark. He explained that the actor-comedian had returned to perform at the club on Saturday night only because he had indicated he wanted to apologize for his remarks, but that he never did.
Rodriguez called the incident "unfortunate" and "sad."
"We do not condone, accept or will have him repeat that onstage," Rodriguez said.
"He has always done cutting-edge stuff, and I was sitting in the back waiting for a punchline or something, but there was nothing. The African Americans in the audience were rightly offended."
Club owner Jamie Masada offered full refunds to all those in attendance at Friday's show.
"It was ugly. It was hurtful," Masada said. "There was no call for it."
An African-American man who attended both the performance and the press conference said he accepted the comedy club's decision and urged Richards to apologize for his offensive behavior.
"I cannot speak for the entire African-American community, but I'm satisfied with their explanation...and I will continue to patronize the Laugh Factory," the man said. "To Mr. Richards, I must say, please apologize so we can move forward."
Meanwhile, another African-American audience member, Daryl Pitts, made the connection to another recent high-profile Hollywood meltdown.
"You think about Mel Gibson and what he said, and put that in the context of this, it's very upsetting," Pitts said during a CNN interview, referring to Gibson's booze-fueled anti-Semitic rant during a drunken-driving arrest.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, and associate dean Abraham Cooper condemned Richards' outburst in a joint statement.
"There is nothing funny about racial taunts," the pair said. "People in the entertainment industry have a special relationship with American audiences and Richards violated that relationship."
Apart from his Emmy-winning Seinfeld role, Richards' last major acting credit was the short-lived comedy series The Michael Richards Show, which was canceled shortly after its debut in 2000.