Monday, April 8, 2013

Tracy Morgan: comedy with a nod to the greats

US comedian Tracey Morgan in Melbourne ahead of his national tour.

US comedian Tracy Morgan in Melbourne ahead of his national tour. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Tracy Morgan would say that what you see is what you get. That the Tracy Morgan known from his work with the television shows 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live is the same Tracy Morgan who will perform his stand-up gig to thousands across Australia this week, the same Tracy Morgan who grew up in the ghetto, whose father died of AIDS and who's about to become a father himself, again.

But there is some difference between the man and the performer. He can, as you'd expect, be outrageous, riffing on sex, on race and the differences between men and women ("There's just one question: are we f---ing or are we not?").

But he can be serious too, and when he is his voice lowers and his tone changes. He's like that when discussing the "hurt" he caused in 2011 when he made homophobic remarks at a gig in Tennessee, and he sounds the same way when remembering the contributions of some of America's comedy trailblazers. While Morgan says he doesn't pay attention to contemporary comics, when it comes to learning from those who came before him, he's a scholar.

Tracey Morgan hams it up.

Tracy Morgan hams it up. Photo: Wayne Taylor

"The sacrifices Sammy Davis Jr made – that's why whenever I'm at any venue I will go through the front door," he says. "Because I understand the Pigmeat Markhams and the Stepin Fetchits, they were heroes. I understand that, I understand that legacy. I understand what Lucille Ball has done for women in show business, the Desi Arnazes. I recognise all of that. If I'm going to be up on stage for an hour and a half I've got to talk about something."

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This is the first international stand-up tour for Morgan, who hung up the gold chains of his 30 Rock namesake Tracy Jordan when the series ended in January. He loves the buzz of stand-up, the "gut check" of walking in front of a live audience and, hopefully, making them laugh.

"Because to me, stand-up comedy is the only place where there's f---ing justice. I can say whatever the f--- I want to say, even if it's not popular, I will. It's justice."

Tracy Morgan performs in Brisbane, April 9 and 10; Sydney on April 11 and 12; Melbourne April 13 at 8pm and 10pm; Perth on April 15 and 16.


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