Tracy Morgan has been a fixture on television and in film since the mid-1990s, but is best known as a star of NBC’s 30 Rock, winner of 16 Emmy awards over its seven-season run, and for his time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Morgan comes to Chicopee Feb. 28 to perform two stand-up sets at the Hu-Ke-Lau, at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Despite making his name on screen, Morgan’s excited to be back performing in front of a live audience. It’s something he’s loved, and loved doing, for a long time.
“I love stand-up. Stand-up’s the foundation of my whole career. That’s where I started from.” said Morgan in a recent interview. “It’s a rush. There’s nothing like live entertainment. People think that comedy’s a step down from drama, but, nah, it’s really a pleasure to do stand-up.
“Growing up in the ghetto, there are only so many things that make poor people happy. One is music, one is comedy, and one is sex,” says Morgan. “Growing up, listening to Marvin Gaye, looking at Richard Pryor, plus all the males in my family had great [senses] of humor—my father did stand-up comedy. That’s what really made me want to be [a stand-up comic].”
Morgan has drawn criticism for his unfiltered, unvarnished sense of humor, which, to some, has a foot over the line of bad taste. In 2011, he caused some controversy with a monologue during a stand-up performance in which he said that if his son was gay and didn’t deal with bullies on his own, he’d stab him to death.
But, says Morgan, he’s not looking either to offend or to spare anyone’s feelings. He’s just trying to share his view of the world with whoever cares to listen, as purely and honestly as possible. “My comedy’s controversial, but that’s just me being honest. I’m not out to pander to anybody. I talk about where I come from, the things I’ve seen... I’m from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. I didn’t have no creek in my back yard,” he says. “Some people don’t want to see that. Some people want to call that raw. Some people want to say it’s rude, but... I’m telling the truth. The truth is right there. I don’t to have to defend it, either. It is what it is.”
And, for the people who enjoy his truth, Tracy Morgan is hilarious. He’s quick, clever and utterly unabashed—willing to share whatever is on his mind without pretense.
“When I’m on stage, I don’t tell jokes, I talk about my experiences. It’s just a funny conversation to me. That’s how I saw Richard Pryor do it,” says Morgan. “I just want people to relate and identify with me—just have fun, have a good time. Turn your cell phones off, turn your cameras off, and let’s just enjoy whatever happens at that moment.”•
Tracy Morgan performs Feb. 28, 11 p.m. $43, Hu Ke Lau, 705 Memorial Drive, Chicopee, (800) 745-3000.