No other comedian makes people laugh in the exact way that Tracy Morgan does. The former Saturday Night Live cast member has an unassuming quality about him, like a big goofy neighbor. But his banter is woven through with complex, absurd, and heavy humor.
He's no simpleton, no matter what his character, Tracy Jordan, on 30 Rock might suggest. The final episode of the show — which could give a corpse a belly chuckle — airs this week. Tracy Jordan may be a veiled take on the comedian himself, but unlike his role on TV, Tracy Morgan isn't a creation made only of hilarious exaggerations. He's a guy who grew up in Harlem, acted in films with Chris Rock, got in trouble for making an offensive gay joke, and made Jon Stewart giggle like a baby.
We spoke with Morgan about Biggie Smalls, growing up in the ghetto, and his feelings about the Miami Heat.
New Times: You did an interview with Chris Rock, naming your top five rappers: Kane, Slick Rick, KRS One, Rakim, and Biggie. Does that still stand?
Tracy Morgan: Yes. My sixth man is Tupac.
What makes Biggie one of the greatest rappers of all time?
First of all, he's from Brooklyn. Second of all, Biggie Smalls changed the game. He revolutionized it. He made it a champagne campaign. It went from roughneck to champagne campaign. Playa, playa.
If you were to add a rapper to "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah," who would it be?
Would you ever put out your own comedy music album?
I would love to do that. That's not the direction I'm going into now. But really, in life, I would love to do that someday.
Who do you think masters the art of funny songs?
I would say my boy Weird Al Yankovic. That's his game. That's his niche.
Have any SNL musical guests intimidated you, or you were ever embarrassed to talk to any of them?
No. I say hi to everybody. I would never be intimidated or embarrassed. Why would I? That's not my thing. Do I come off as the kind of person who would be intimidated to you?
Not at all. You own one of Michael Jackson's gloves. How'd you pick that up, and why'd you buy it?
I bought it on an auction online. And I bought it 'cause I'm his biggest fan. Michael Jackson is the king.
How long are you going to be on the road for? Is there anything you want to do down here in South Florida?
I just really want to be funny. I want to come in and spread my love. I want to do a great standup show for the city. You know? That's what I really want to do.
Do you do a lot of off-the-cuff stuff onstage?
Things happen in the moment, and you want to be prepared for that. I have an idea of what I want to talk about, I'm not a check-check comedian. I'm organized as far as material. I have an idea of some of the stuff that I want to talk about. And whatever happens after that, happens. Some of that stuff is what happens spontaneously.
It seems like your comedy is organic...
I have a lot of experience growing up. I grew up in the ghetto. I grew up in the hood. With all due respect to the ghetto. I love the ghetto. The ghetto is a beautiful place. As far as I'm concerned, the whole world is a ghetto. I grew up there, experiences, being an African-American, being an American, being a human being. I want the chance to talk about all of that stuff. I'm attached to it. I'm attached to all of my life. Some people are so detached from the human experience. I want to talk about the human experience and the funny in it.
Is there anything you feel you can't joke about?
No. No. There are certain things that are my forte. Every day that you're onstage, doing comedy, you just have to be responsible for what you say. You have to know what you're saying. There can be some things that you confront that have consequences to it. Either you're going to accept those consequences or not. But there's nothing. I feel free in America.
Is there anyone you performed in front of and you wanted to make laugh?
Yeah. I did that in front of Eddie Murphy during the Eddie Murphy honors. It was incredible. To make a person who makes you laugh, laugh — I just thought that was an awesome thing.
The film you just put out, Why Stop Now, were those all the writer's jokes or yours also?
It was a loose set. The director trusted me with some stuff. I was happy about that. It was an awesome experience.
Any other film projects coming up?
I don't like to talk about it. 'Cause I'm superstitious in that area. I don't want to jinx it. I just want to focus on what's going down now.
You did a commercial for the Super Bowl for MiO Fit. You excited about that?
Yeah, man. This is my second Super Bowl commercial. I did the first one with Stevie Wonder; it had a great response. Now, I have this one. I'm happy about it.
You're a big Knicks fan. How do you feel about coming to the home of the Heat?
We beat them twice, so we're confident. The Heat always show up to play. They're not playing really well right now. But it's always a competitive game, and we just want to compete; that's all we want to do.
No love for the Heat, some love for the Heat?
No love for the Heat. I'm straight Knicks. My team is my team. I don't got no love for the Heat.