Stand-up is personal for '30 Rock' star Tracy Morgan

by Julie Hinds

Detroit Free Press (MCT)

30 June 2008


Tracy Morgan is not Tracy Jordan, the character he plays on NBC’s “30 Rock.”

But the comedian does have a few things in common with his wild and crazy alter-ego on the Emmy-winning sitcom.

Morgan, a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, and Jordan both seem funny, outspoken and unpredictable.

But Morgan wants to make it clear Jordan is just a guy he plays - and “30 Rock” is just one aspect of his career.

“Are we ever going to talk about my stand-up?” he says, sounding as passionate as Tracy Jordan as he speaks by phone from South Carolina, where he’s filming “Nailed,” a political comedy with Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal and director David O. Russell.

Morgan describes stand-up as his most personal art form.

“When I do stand-up ... I get to do whatever I want to do. There’s no boundaries. You’ll get to know me,” he says. “You’ll leave with a piece of me.”

Q: Do people think you’re as crazy as Tracy Jordan?

A: I couldn’t tell you what people think. I lost that ability a long time ago. If you’re asking me am I anything like him, I would say no.

Q: No?

A: We share some characteristics, but that’s human. ... Tracy Jordan is a character that Tracy Morgan plays and that’s it. Outside of show business, I live a normal life.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing your character has done on the show?

A: The very first episode, I ran down the street in New York in my underwear and that’s fun.

Q: What is Tina Fey like as a boss?

A: She’s really cool. She’s not bossy at all. She’s just creative.

Q: What should we expect when we see you onstage?

A: You’re going to see Tracy Morgan, who’s much more interesting than Tracy Jordan. Tracy Jordan is just a figment of my imagination, a figment of Tina’s imagination. You ain’t seen nothing yet until you see Tracy Morgan.

Q: What are we going to find out about you from your act? Are you going to get real personal?

A: Stand-up is really personal. It’s not like somebody else is writing the script and you have to do what they write. Stand-up is mine. It’s a part of me. Everything I talk about in stand-up is my experiences as an American, as a father, as a husband, as a black man, as a human being. You don’t get to experience that on “30 Rock” in a half-hour. ... That’s why I love doing stand-up and I would never give it up.

Q: With the news that George Carlin passed away, are there comics who ...

A: You know what? I didn’t even know George Carlin passed away. ... I’m so in a bubble here filming this movie. I’m on the set and I’m back in the hotel room.

Q: Was Carlin one of your favorites?

A: George Carlin is an influence on a generation. He made me want to do comedy. Amongst Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, he’s one of the masters. I’m so sad to hear that. Young stand-ups, we ought to do comedy in his spirit, in Richard Pryor’s spirit, in Jackie Gleason’s spirit, in Lucille Ball’s spirit, because they did it with the spirit.

Q: Is your stand-up primarily adult-oriented?

A: Absolutely. ... I don’t like doing stand-up for little kids. It’s not geared for that. I like to do stand-up for people who live real life. I don’t really take the college tours and all that. Those are young people and I’m quite sure they’re mature enough to understand, but they haven’t seen or lived real life yet. I touch on sex in my stand-up and it’s funny, because when I talk about sex from an adult point of view, people cringe. But if I talk about war or killing, people laugh. So it’s sick. It’s really demented.

Q: Do you think people know how passionate you are about certain things?

A: No, because I don’t show them that. They’ve got to come see me perform. I talk about it and I’m not afraid to move away from funny. I’m not afraid of that. I can make people laugh at the drop of a dime. God’s given me that ability. But I’ve also got to say something. I’ve got to show life as I see it.

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