News Column

Tracy Morgan says his 'Pardon My French' stand-up routine isn't '30 Rock'

September 27, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 27--Tracy Morgan says that when he comes to Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem Sept. 27 for two comedy shows, the audience shouldn't expect to see Tracy Jordan, his self-centered prima donna character from the hit NBC-TV show "30 Rock."

"Tracy Jordan never even did comedy on the TV show, so I wouldn't even know how to do him," Morgan says in a phone call from Canada, where his "Pardon My French" comedy tour stopped earlier.

Morgan also was a "Saturday Night Live" cast member 1996-2003, during which he created such memorable characters as lecherous space traveler Astronaut Jones and dim-witted TV host Brian Fellow.

He says the Musikfest Cafe audience won't see that, either. Instead, it will see stand-up comedy that's "very funny. It's thought provoking. Sometimes it's the truth -- my experiences. Everything. It's what I live, it's what I do. It's all I am. And I'm peeling back the layers, you know what I mean?"

What that means is it might be controversial, such as when, in April, 50 fans reportedly walked out of his show in Australia, complaining it was obsessed with sex. Or when, in 2011, he told an audience that if his son was gay, he'd better speak to Morgan like a man or he would "pull out a knife and stab" him.

Morgan says controversy follows every great man, and every great comic.

"You don't think Martin Luther King was controversial?" he says. "Jesus Christ was controversial. Hell, Richard Pryor was controversial. George Carlin was controversial."

Morgan, 44, who grew up on the rough streets of Brooklyn, says great comedy is sometimes offensive.

"Nine times out of 10, if you don't offend somebody, you're probably not that funny," Morgan says. "That same joke had worked a million times. That one time, it didn't work. I don't control the Lotto: funny, funny, funny, funny -- not funny. I don't control their minds."

There certainly are a lot of reasons people would want to see Tracy Jordan, the loose-cannon TV/movie star Morgan played on "Third Rock" for the past seven years. It won him a nomination for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2009.

"30 Rock" was nominated for 52 Emmys and won 11 during its run, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 2008 and 2009. Even after being canceled in January, it was nominated for eight Emmys, and on Sunday, the show's star Tina Fey won for Outstanding Writing for Comedy Series.

Morgan says people come to his stand-up shows "looking for [stars] Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey to come out from behind the curtain. This ain't '30 Rock.' It's the Tracy Morgan show. It's stand-up. This ain't TV. If you want to see '30 Rock,' stay at home -- it comes on Thursdays.

"Sometimes people come to my show confused, but that's what happens when you're on a TV show and people know the TV show. Some people aren't Tracy Morgan fans -- some people are '30 Rock' fans. They actually think [actor] Jack McBrayer is going to be there."

Beyond that, Morgan says people have become too sensitive in general.

"They're ultra-sensitive now," he says. "I think people are totally too sensitive. If you don't like comedy, stay home. Make it a Blockbuster night. You can't come to a comedy show with intent. You know, I talk about sex with Howard Stern."

Making things worse, he says, is that social media has given people a forum to voice their opinion.

"The only reason you know about [controversy with his show] is because of social media. Some people ... they don't agree with you, so they got to get on their computers, they got to tell the world 'I don't agree with you and he's bad and he's evil.' That's what technology does. Social media, it moves very fast."

Morgan says it was the end of "30 Rock" that made him fall in love with stand-up comedy again.

"I think we did seven years of great TV, and it ended -- like every other TV show," he says. "You're going to miss some people that you've worked with for more than seven years, but other than that, it's not like an aunt died or an uncle died. You look forward."

For Morgan, looking forward includes starring in a new FX Network sitcom, "Death Pact," in which he plays a motivational speaker "who has extreme tactics, but I get results. That's going to be fun." He says it likely will start in January.

Morgan also voices characters in two animated movies due out in 2014 -- "Rio 2" and "The Boxtrolls" -- and says he's got another one planned.

"I'm looking forward to all of those," he says. "I don't really like to talk about them because I don't want to jinx them. I'm superstitious in that way."

Morgan also was host for the Billboard Music Awards in May, after hosting VH1's Hip-Hop Honors in 2008 and 2009.

"Man, it just fell into my lap, dude," he says. "I didn't audition for it. They asked me, and I thought someone was playing a prank call on me. And then we did it, and it was one of the highest-rated Billboards ever, and we had a bunch of fun.

"I'm not even in that industry, and for them to invite me there, it was awesome. To meet Prince and Erykah Badu and all these people, most of all a lot of my favorites, I had a ball."

It sounds as if pretty much all of Morgan's life is a ball these days. After he received a kidney transplant in 2009, a dozen years after being diagnosed as diabetic, he says his "health is great. I'm feeling great."

He also recently became the father of a baby girl, Maven, with his fiancee, model Megan Wollover. He has three adult sons from an earlier marriage.

The fact that having children is the result of sex is another reason Morgan says he can't understand why people get upset about it.

"Some people don't know how to think outside the box," he says. "I guess they're not doing it right."

john.moser@mcall.com

610-820-6722

TRACY MORGAN

-- When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Sept. 27

-- Where: Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem

-- How much: $44 cabaret, $49 balcony

-- Info: 610-332-1300, http://www.artsquest.org

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