Q&A With Comedian Tracy Morgan: ‘My Audience Knows Me’
Tracy Morgan won’t say much about his thoughts on the newest cast of Saturday Night Live, but he isn’t afraid to speak out about people being too touchy when comedians tell jokes on stage.
“Now, people are just way too sensitive. You couldn’t have a show like Archie Bunker on TV,” he said. “People would go crazy; they would lose their minds. Even though all of [this] stuff exists in this world, people want to act like we live in a perfect world.”
Morgan is headed to Boston in March to perform two back-to-back shows at the Wilbur Theatre, but if fans of the television star expect to get a dose of what they see on the screen when Morgan hits the stage, they might be surprised. “When they pay to come see me, they know what they’re coming to see. Some people think they are coming to see 30 Rock. But they’re not,” said Morgan, known for his role as Tracy Jordan on the show 30 Rock, and his demeanor when performing, which he describes as “based on reality.”
We got the funny man—who thinks the world needs to relax a little bit and laugh—to tell us why he believes people are so easily offended, and what it’s like to have his baby daughter along for the ride while on tour.
How’s it going?
I’m good. I’m good.
You’re getting ready for a trip back to Boston in March.
Absolutely. I’m looking forward to going to Boston. I have a nice following in Boston. The Boston crowd is very hip.
Why is that? What do you mean, why is that? Because I perform there, and they get me. They get everything that I’m saying, so that makes them hip, right?
Are there instances where people don’t get you?
I didn’t say that. You’re saying that. Whenever I perform people get me because I’m talking about things that people can identify with, and relate to. I’m not just up there doing jokey, jokey, joke. My sense of humor is based on reality. If I had to describe my sense of humor, I would say it’s contemporary wit, you know what I’m saying? I cut the monster. I don’t go too deep because I know we need the monster. But I cut the monster.
So do other cities not get your comedy?
I think there are some cities that are remote, but they get it. Funny is funny.
But Boston just really gets it.
Everybody gets it. I’m Tracy Morgan, dude. I’m not an amateur. How old are you?
Dude, I have been on TV since you was about seven. Literally. David Letterman 100 million times—I have been everywhere. Everybody gets it, and everybody knows me. I’m not like a new guy. I was on 30 Rock for seven years. People that don’t get it? I get it.
That’s confusing. But in 2011 there were some people who ‘didn’t get it,’ and you caught some backlash for a joke about your son.
Some people don’t get it, and I get that, too. I just don’t think that people should—we live in a time where PC is here, you know what I’m saying? People are really politically correct, and that sort of turns into censorship. If you don’t like comedy—my audience knows me. When they pay to come see me, they know what they are coming to see. Some people think they are coming to see 30 Rock.
But they’re not.
But they’re not. So when they get there, they’re already upset because the show went off the air. Sometimes, when TV shows leave the air, people get upset.
So do you think—referencing people being PC— do you feel like that constricts the type of stuff you want to do on stage?
I think every comedian feels that way. We make our living on saying what’s bad in the world, and making fun of it. What do you think Archie Bunker did? What do you think George Jefferson did? Those shows on TV, we made fun of our bigotry and our prejudice and our racism. We made fun of them. Now people are just way too sensitive. You couldn’t have a show like Archie Bunker on TV. People would go crazy; they would lose their minds. Even though all of that stuff exists in this world, people want to act like we live in a perfect world. This world ain’t perfect because racism is always going to be here, prejudice is always going to be here, murder is probably always going to be here—all of that stuff is probably always going to be here. And it has always been here.
So where does your comedy fit in?
I’m just trying to make this world a better place than it was than when I got here, by adding laughter. So why would you attack me? Why would you crucify me? I’m just saying, when a comedian’s on stage, we are just trying to make fun of what’s happening out there in the world. When you shut us off, then you kill people’s sense of humor. You have to have a sense of humor about some of this crap. If you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry. I’m just done crying.
You’re done crying?
This country has afforded me some beautiful things in my life. The least I could do to give back is try to make people in the country laugh. Richard Pryor was controversial, George Carlin was controversial—so was Gandhi. So was Martin Luther King. So was John Kennedy. Great men are controversial. I don’t liken myself to those guys, but I’m just saying. I’m telling the truth [with my jokes]—and I’m black.
Which means, what?
I walk through rooms sometimes and I cause controversy.
So besides causing controversy, and being OK with it, how’s being a new dad?
Dude, my oldest son is 30 years-old, my man. I’ve been a dad for a long time.
I know, but you recently had another kid.
Oh, you mean being a new dad. I love it. She’s the joy of my life, she’s the purpose in my life. My existence.
Is it tough leaving the family behind when touring?
My family goes on the road with me. I don’t leave them behind, no way.
By the way, we were curious about what you think of the new SNL cast.
I think they’re young, talented people, but I don’t have an opinion on that. I think they are going to do great. I don’t know, we all have to wait and see. But I haven’t watched the show in a long time because I’m usually working on Saturdays.
Before you go: When you do get to Boston, do you have anything specific planned?
No, dude. I just check into my hotel and do my shows. I love solitude before my shows. [Baby makes crying noises in the background.]
You probably don’t get much solitude on the road as a new dad, though.
I do. She doesn’t cry much. You didn’t hear her. You didn’t hear that. That wasn’t her. She is just hanging out, playing with my cell phone.
You sound like you have your hands full, so we’ll let you go.
I think that this conversation was very engaging.