Best Known For
Actor Michael Richards starred for nine years on the television series Seinfeld, playing Jerry Seinfeld's quirky next-door neighbor Cosmo Kramer.
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Born in California in 1949, actor and comedian Michael Richards appeared on a number of television shows before landing his career-defining role as Cosmo Kramer on the television series Seinfeld. Richards spent nine years starring on the show as Jerry Seinfeld's quirky next-door neighbor, during which time he won three Emmy awards.
Actor; comedian. Michael Richards was born July 24, 1949 in Culver City, California. He barely knew his father, William, an electrical engineer who died in a car crash when Michael Richards was only two years old. Richards' widowed mother, Phyllis, a medical records librarian, raised him as a single parent. Richards described his mother as a hilarious woman whose zany sense of humor sparked his own interest in comedy. "God, she was a crack-up," he recalled fondly. As a student at Thousand Oaks High School in Ventura, California, Richards embraced the role of class clown. "He couldn't come into class unless he fell over two or three desks," one classmate remembered. Growing out of his passion for making people laugh, Richards also developed an interest in theater as an adolescent. He later recalled an eighth grade drama class making him feel that he "suddenly had purpose."
After graduating from high school, Richards moved to Los Angeles, where he landed the occasional gig at the legendary Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood and took classes at Ventura College and Los Angeles Valley College. Then, in 1970, Richards was drafted into the United States Army and stationed in Germany, where he was assigned with directing educational plays about race relations and drug use. After being discharged in 1972, he returned to school at the California Institute of the Arts but soon transferred to Evergreen State University in Olympia, Washington. There he studied philosophy, acting and fine arts, graduating in 1976. Around this time, Michael Richards married his wife Cathleen. They had one daughter, Sophie, before divorcing after 18 years of marriage.
After graduating from college, Richards moved to San Diego, where he appeared in several productions at the San Diego Repertory Theater. He also made frequent treks to Los Angeles, where he attempted to make a name for himself on the standup comedy circuit. "I would commute up to Los Angeles from San Diego, and get in line at 5 o'clock and wait until about 1 a.m. to do three minutes," Richards recalled. "I was very inspired. I did have the feeling that this was the route to go. I didn't question this course at all."
In 1980, after four years of scrambling to get noticed in L.A. comedy clubs, Richards landed a spot in the cast of the late night sketch comedy TV show Fridays. After two years on Fridays, and several guest appearances in TV shows and low-budget films, in 1984 he landed a recurring role on the medical drama St. Elsewhere. For the next several years, Richards' career continued to consist mostly of guest appearances on TV shows such as Cheers (1985), Hill Street Blues (1985) and Miami Vice (1986), along with a recurring role on Marblehead Manor (1987-88).
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