Tracy Morgan Talks ’30 Rock,’ The Burden of Black Comedians & Beating Alcohol Addiction
He’s outrageous, outlandish and often times out of control and now Tracy Morgan is gearing up for Season 6 of the Emmy award-winning sitcom 30 Rock. On the mend from a kidney transplant and on the eve of stepping back into character as his alter ego Tracy Jordan, the Brooklyn native got serious and chatted with VIBE to chat about what fuels his zany brand of humor, why some black comedians will never go mainstream, the childhood pain that fuels his comedy and what made him kick his drinking habit for good. —Ronke Idowu Reeves
VIBE: You’ve described your rise to fame as ‘a path that is least traveled by African Americans.’ Why?
Tracy Morgan: I got my biggest break on NBC. There’s not many of us on there, I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I went thru Saturday Night Live and I think a lot of our people as a whole stopped watching Saturday Night Live when Eddie Murphy left. My fourth year I started to emerge and get notoriety on the show and then when I left there I went to the Tracy Morgan Show. And after the Tracy Morgan Show was canceled I went to 30 Rock and I that’s when I got a wider audience. I’ve been here [in the business] for a minute but it takes time for people to hear and know your voice, especially when you’re in their home.
30 Rock creator Tina Fey seemed to be a fan of yours back when you were both on SNL. As head writer she always included you in the funniest skits. And then she hired you to be on 30 Rock.
Tina Fey understands me, we have great chemistry. We don’t do many scenes together on 30 Rock but when we do the whole thing itis magic. Tina was smart enough to know that I’m smart and I know what I am doing. [I can’t give her] all the credit for my career but she was smart enough to know how to use me. She always told everybody, ‘You gotta let Tracy be Tracy.’ She was an absolutely an ally for me on SNL, totally. Tina and Paula Pell used to write me in stuff all the time. I used to just tickle them and it was cool. After The Tracy Morgan Show got canceled I was in a pretty funky place. And when she called me I didn’t know 30 Rock was gonna [makes explosion sound] the way it did, but I’m glad it happened with her. She’s a really cool cat.
Do you think you and Tina would ever do a movie together?
Me and Tina Fey? That would be awesome; I mean it’s different worlds. I would love to do something would Tina Fey in a movie that would be so funny, so hilarious. Me and her can play two cops! I’m quite sure we will [collaborate in film] something. One day we will.
You’re the type of comedian who seems to do anything, anytime, anywhere for a laugh. Where does your fearless sense of humor come from?
I’ve never been mean-spirited, I’ve always done things just trying to be funny. Some people may look at it weird, but I’ve always done things in the spirit of comedy. Growing up in the world Black, when I first started doing this on TV I wasn’t used to being around white people. So I had my little inferiority complex. My father had white friends in and out the house when I was younger, but most black entertainers never get over that thing, so they never go mainstream. A lot of them can’t just entertain. What stops a lot of black entertainers is the burden of their people. They try to put the burden of their whole people on their backs and then they don’t have the tools. That’s not your job. So I’ve never felt that way. I had elders in my family tell me, ‘That’s not your job. You do comedy. So you do it.’ It’s not black or white when it comes to funny. I’ve always approached it like that. The same things that make black people laugh make white people laugh.