White comedians holding back on President Obama?
Don't get Tracy Morgan started.
“I don't care what people say. Black comedians talk about Obama all the time. That's white America that don't know what to say. This is the first time we've ever had a black president so they don't know what to say. So everything is off limits and that's bull(stuff),” Morgan said, “stuff” being an editorial substitute for one of many colorful words you can expect to hear during one of his typical stand-up performances but that are not appropriate for a family newspaper.
Morgan, an Emmy-nominated star of 30 Rock, former Saturday Night Live cast member, and a co-star of the February comedy Cop Out along with Bruce Willis, will perform tonight at 7:30, tomorrow night at 8 and 10:30, and Saturday night at 7 and 10 at the Funny Bone, 6140 Levis Commons Blvd. in Perrysburg. Tickets are $35.
Morgan's point is simple. If he can make fun of former President George W. Bush, he certainly can make fun of President Obama.
“He's a human being, he's cool. But do they think if we say something about Barack there's going to be racial war or something? People need to get over it. America needs to get over the fact that we have a black president and stop making boundaries. Come on, there's plenty of funny (stuff) to say about Barack. He's the same color as my father. If we can make fun of 9/11, we can make fun of having a black president.”
Such politically correct self-censorship is just another example of what's killing comedy, the 41-year-old says.
“We need to get off this PC (stuff). I come up in a time when we made fun of racism with Archie Bunker and George Jefferson. Now you can't do that. We're in a dark place.
“When I'm onstage doing stand-up, nothing is off-limits, nothing is taboo. That's stand-up comedy,” he said. “I talk about sex, drugs, and rock and roll in my stand-up. I talk about racism. I talk about prejudice. I talk about injustices. I talk about all of that. That's why stand-up is the only true justice in show business.”
Speaking the truth as he sees it is a big reason why Morgan is unwilling to give up being a touring comic. Even after landing a career-defining role as Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock — a character created by Tina Fey but on many levels a mirror of Morgan's life — and his success prior to that on Saturday Night Live, as well as in films, Morgan needs stand-up. Being onstage and opening up about his life is not just his outlet, it's as close to who he really is as the public can see: unvarnished and uncensored and yes, very un-PC.
“My stand-up is personal. Stand-up is personable and personal. It's my life. That's my story. Tina Fey don't write my stand-up, that's me.
“When I do TV, a lot of times it's other people writing their stories and I just bring it to life. Tracy Jordan is a character, Tracy Morgan is me. That's the difference.”
Morgan knew plenty of hardships growing up. His father, Jimmy Morgan, Jr., who was a helicopter gunner in Vietnam, named Tracy after a friend of his who was blown up by a land mine during his first tour of duty, Morgan wrote last year in his autobiography, Tracy Morgan: I am the New Black. Jimmy developed a heroin habit in Vietnam and died of AIDS in 1987, years after kicking the addiction.
Morgan's parents had already split up because of his father's drug habit. When Jimmy died, Morgan dropped out of high school and sold drugs to support himself. After watching several friends die in the same line of work, Morgan opted to try stand-up comedy to support himself and his growing family, a girlfriend and three boys. He made a name for himself on shows like Uptown Comedy Club and Def Comedy Jam, along with cameos as Hustle Man on Martin's Lawrence's sitcom, Martin. Then came SNL, his own short-lived sitcom, The Tracy Morgan Show, and 30 Rock, which is going into its fifth season on NBC.
The success may have meant more money for Morgan, but not much else has changed, he said.
“Nothing changes when you have money. It don't change. It don't change. Things are still really the same. The only things that change is my address and my bank account. That's it. But I'm still black. I'm still 41 years old. I still lived my experiences. I'm still a human being. I'm still a father. I'm still a husband. I'm still a friend. I'm still all of those things.”
Tracy Morgan will perform one show at 7:30 tonight, two shows at 8 and 10:30 p.m. tomorrow, and two shows at 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday at the Funny Bone, 6140 Levis Commons Blvd. in Perrysburg. Tickets are $35. For more information, call 419-931-3474 or visit funnybonefatfishtoledo.com.
Contact Kirk Baird firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6734.