All the way live
Saturday Night Live player Tracy Morgan delivers raw sexual humor at Chico State
Backstage at the Chico State Student Union auditorium, a hyper Tracy Morgan is dropping words of wisdom to fellow comic and opening act Manny Maldonado, from Modesto.
“Man, you gotta drop yo’ act. Once you learn to do that, it’s 100 percent you up there,” he says, adrenaline still pumping from his own raw, hour-long set before a sold-out Chico State crowd.
“You gotta do it mainly for yourself,” Morgan adds after Maldonado says that he feels responsible as a cultural voice for Latinos. “I know a lotta black mothafuckas that ain’t shit. I don’t represent them. Keep it righteous—study [John] Leguizamo.”
Morgan knows from experience. Tonight, his profanity-laced, Def Jam-styled set featured a realist’s blend of street humor and everyday observation, mostly of a sexual nature—masturbation, oral/anal sex and feces were favorite topics, even a few fart jokes ("You know pretty ladies’ farts be smellin’ like embalming fluid. You know they the worst.").
The crowd groaned through gross, Bukowski-like bits, but most kept laughing as the gravel-voiced comic continually returned to the topic of his “big, black dick” and having sex with local college girls. Morgan’s honest, dogged personality made his braggadocio likeable, and when it was all over, the crowd gave a standing ovation.
But it was his sense of purpose when describing his craft backstage ("Comedy chose me") that proved more inspirational than his set.
“You gotta feel this mothafucka right here,” Morgan says to a local poet backstage, tapping his heart. “Don’t do it if you scared—get a dog. Money don’t mean shit. Fame is fleeting. If you in it for that, you in it for the wrong reason. We love this shit. We kicked ass out there—that’s what we do, nothing else. We think about this 24-7 … I’m hardcore.”
Asked what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a comedian, Morgan’s answer was quick and simple.
“Nothing. I’d be dead.”
A devoted family man with three kids back home in the Bronx, Morgan has built a six-year career at Saturday Night Live based on relating to the hip-hop generation though authenticity—the unflinching honesty of “the frustrated black man.” In addition to a small catalogue of original SNL characters including Dominican Lou, Astronaut Jones and safari talk show host Brain Fellows, he has branched out with cameos such as Spoonie Luv in the hit Comedy Central show Crank Yankers and is currently shooting a television pilot for a new family sitcom that he describes to me as “Roseanne meets Taxi.”
Morgan says that his father, a Vietnam vet and wartime comedian who died of AIDS in 1987, got him started at age 3. He explains that growing up in a rough neighborhood, he learned comedic skills as a defense mechanism when bigger kids started picking on him (his older brother had cerebral palsy and could not protect him from beatings, so he used humor to befriend bullies). Later, SNL scouts spotted him working city comedy venues and hired him.
When asked whether he writes his own material, Morgan points to his head: “It’s all up here. … I just say what’s on my mind.” Perhaps it was spring fever, but tonight Morgan’s mind was definitely on the dirty tip.
“People laugh when it’s the truth. I was talking ’bout what goes on in the bedroom, and what’s not goin’ on. You got a real fuckin’ education tonight. I been married 17 mothafuckin’ years, so I know how to keep that shit hot in my bedroom.”
Asked if he is staying away from political humor during wartime, Morgan responds that it has never really been his thing.
“Politics aren’t really discussed in the black household. I don’t do political satire on SNL. Lotta [blacks] don’t even vote ‘cause we feel like we can’t win. That’s why Chris Rock is comin’ out with Head of State,” a movie which Morgan also appears in. Even as his film career launches, Morgan says he will never stop doing stand-up comedy because it is in his blood.
“Mothafuckas are touched,” he keeps repeating, touching his head. “Richard Pryor, Bob Marley … I’m still looking for that perfect set.”
His opener, Manny Maldonado, featured more physical-styled humor, racial topics and impersonations (including a hilarious imitation of a bouncing, jet-skiing woman from a tampon commercial “Look at me! I’m bleeding but I’m still skiing."). He also chided the audience for being almost completely white, saying the women in Chico “all look like Blair from Facts of Life” and referring to one young man in the crowd simply as “Dawson’s Creek."