L.A. Comedy Club To Allow "N-Word"

LOS ANGELES (AP) - In response to attacks on Michael Richards' use of the n-word during a performance at the Laugh Factory, the black owner of another club has welcomed comics who use the term.

"Someone had to stand up for comics and freedom of speech has to rule the day," said Enss Mitchell, owner of Comedy Union. "No matter if you agree or disagree with what someone says, you have to allow them the opportunity to say it."

Mitchell said he wasn't encouraging anyone to use the word but wanted to create an atmosphere in which performers feel comfortable talking about anything they want.

"This was not billed as 'N-Word Night.' Some comics used it, some didn't. I just wanted to make the point that it's a slippery slope when anyone wants to start banning a word," he said.

Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada barred the word from his stage after Richards' Nov. 17 outburst in which he targeted four black patrons with a tirade of racial slurs. The Rev. Jesse Jackson and other black community leaders later called for a complete end to the use of the word.

Mitchell said Friday's show at Comedy Union was well received by the audience and nobody complained about the language.

The show drew criticism from the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"It is amazing to me when we see acts of racism, when we see acts of injustice, when we see acts of war, clubs don't take an hour to fight that, but they want to have a fight for the right to call us" the n-word, Sharpton said. "There's something sick about that."

Richards, who played the wacky neighbor Kramer on "Seinfeld," has been on a campaign of contrition for his performance at the Laugh Factory. He has said the tirade was fueled by anger at being heckled and not by bigotry.