Tracy Morgan on standup, Jimi Hendrix and Monica Lewinsky "blowing up the spot"
As Hustle Man on fellow standup comedian Martin Lawrence's show Martin in 1994, Tracy Morgan gave TV audiences their first taste of his bullish humor. But it wasn't until the eccentric comedian landed a spot on Saturday Night Live that his bizarre view of the world was given a proper stage, and Morgan spent seven seasons playing such absurdist characters as Brian Fellow and Dominican Lou. Then, on the Emmy Award-winning 30 Rock, he blurred the line between real life and fiction as Tracy Jordan, a loudmouthed character built from an encyclopedic arsenal of political and pop-culture-laced non sequiturs.
Morgan is currently working on a new, yet-to-be discussed show with the crew behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but in the meantime, he's on the road with his Turn It Funny tour. In advance of a stop this Sunday, June 1, at the Paramount Theatre, Morgan spoke with Westword about performing live and (in some unprovoked commentary) his feelings on Monica Lewinsky.
Westword: You recently filmed a special for Comedy Central and are back on the road. What is it about standup that you like the most, versus, say, acting?
Tracy Morgan: It's live entertainment. I love live entertainment. It's a gut check every time you take the stage; it's gut-check time. I don't compare it -- I love all of it. It is just a different muscle being stretched every time you do something different. Whether you're directing or whatever, it is all awesome. It's about how you approach it.
How do you prepare for a tour? How do you decide what stories about your life and your family you share with your audience?
A lot of it is based on my observations. A lot of things are from my imagination. I just observe everything that is going on with me and I try to find the funny in all of it. I try to keep my spirits up -- that is the most important thing. As long as I'm doing standup and comedy in any fashion, in the spirit of comedy, it's always good. I just try to stay in the spirit of comedy. I keep my spirit good and clean.
There is comedy in everything, you know? The other side of comedy is tragedy. You know, the happy face-sad face. That's what it is: show business. I'm not just talking about my family -- I'm talking about funny family situations. What affected my family affected a lot of families, you know? I'm not the only one who had crackheads in my family. It is what it is.
In the '80s, everybody's family was doing crack. I'm quite sure that's why everyone was identifying and relating to it. Some people don't like to admit it, but that's how we are now. We don't want to deal with truth and reality. We want fairy tales; we want to feel comfortable. Well, the '80s, those were lost years.
Those were the years of AIDS and crack and all kinds of stuff. I survived it, so I talk about it and make fun of it. That's magnificent. We forget about what went down back then. I'm talking about my teenage years and my growing up and my experiences and they weren't all pleasant, I'm quite sure. I wish they were. I'm glad I can find the funny in it.
Do you still get nervous before going on stage?
No -- I get excited. I choose not to say the word "nervous." I say "excited." It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in front of people and tell my story. Why would I be nervous about that? I lived it. I survived it. The hardest part is over. You were there -- you remember!
I'll make fun of Monica Lewinsky. She's back in the news, right? The semen on your dress. You go away for a few years and you're supposed to come back and get sympathy and all of that? Who cares? You slept with somebody's husband! That's the bottom line. While Chelsea slept down the hallway. Now we want to look at her on Vanity Fair? She's being rewarded for her bad behavior. She got our president impeached! She blew up the spot!
Let me tell you something: This isn't a standup show. This is an experience. It's like Jimi Hendrix. I'm coming from the heart. It's going to be an experience, because I'm along the watchtower now. [Sings part of Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" and then goes into "Hey Joe."] You don't remember that song?
I remember "Hey Joe" but not "All Along the Watchtower."
Go listen to Jimi Hendrix. It's going to touch your soul. That cute laugh that you got is what inspires me. Right on.
Tracy Morgan's Turn It Funny tour makes a stop at the Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 1. Tickets are $35 plus applicable service charges. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 303-623-0106 or visit the venue's website.
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