Comedian Discusses Life in Ink and Comedy
Where do you even start when trying to write an article about an interview you had with Tracy Morgan? The truth is like the comedian himself you go a bit rogue. You decide not to go the normal route of a quippy lede or tossing out one of his lines like how he’s on tour right now and he’s leaving his audiences pregnant. Instead, you just shoot from the hip, and let everything flow. Just like life. And, the word “life” and it’s meaning is what Tracy and I talked about throughout our conversation. The subjects changed but it always came back to this thing called life. Before we plow right in, I’ll denote I’m forgoing the “Morgan” for future references for this piece. It’s Journalism 101 that you’re supposed to say Mr. Morgan or Morgan from here on out, but I’m sticking with Tracy because, well, it’s just Tracy. When you read this article, you’ll hear Tracy better and get a better visual picture than the formal use of Morgan. Silly I know, but I’m rogue remember?
It’s a Thursday morning and I’m awaiting a phoner to take place. I pushed hard for an in-person but it was too difficult schedule wise. All good. I’ll take a phone call any day with this dude. Anyway, Tracy is running a little late, and then I hit a dead zone. Eventually, the two of us connected to discuss his upcoming Oct. 12 show at The Palace Theatre in Stamford, his overall tour, and naturally, his tattoos. The conversation is always deep but the answers are never not funny. Signature Tracy: he’s delightfully all over the place, matter of fact about everything, and you just try to keep up but can’t. You find yourself trying to make a joke but can’t even formulate one because he’s six blocks ahead of you already.
I started the conversation with the former 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live star by discussing his upcoming 50th birthday, but age for Tracy doesn’t mean much. He focuses on life every day. He lives in the now, and is appreciative of every single second he’s on this planet. Obviously, surviving “the accident” five years ago plays into this. We don’t need to go into detail here about it. We know what happened. We know how he came back. All Ill say is thank whoever you pray to that he’s still here.
“You have to live everyday like it’s shark week,” The Last OG tells me. “It’s cradle to the grave, baby. Age ain’t none of your business. The day you were born? That was his decision.”
Everything about Tracy is about moving forward, but that doesn’t mean he skips the past completely. His tattoos, he explains, are “filling the map of my life.” He has about 10 to 15 ink jobs in all - some he got for fun, most he got to mean something. “Life changes,” he explained. “That tattoo is going to be on you for life but it’s just a moment of your life.”
His most personal tattoo is one across his back that reads “Me, Myself and I.” He got that after his first divorce. “That’s where I was in my life. I was by myself again.” Still, he said “sometimes you get goofy with it. Sometimes you might see one you like and you get one.”
Some of his favorite tattoos? He has one in the middle of his hands that reads “pay me sucka.” Another? He has one on his penis that reads “long live the king.” But, Tracy’s done getting tattoos. Why? “I’m 50 years old,” he cracked. Still, he’s fast to note, that each tattoo on his body tells his story - one that’s evolving every day and one he doesn’t take for granted. And, he obviously has an appreciation for life after surviving the accident, and continues to hone his craft.
When he comes up for air a bit, he says he always goes back to his old material in order to shape the new. Burying the lede a bit here, but when audiences see him on this tour all of the material is new, and a lot of it changes night to night. “You have to retrace steps of your life,” he said. And, in prepping for his current standup tour, he watched a lot of footage of his past work, and realized “what not to do.” Still, he said, “the old stuff shows growth. You gotta look at your game, baby. I remember only playing offense and needing to work on my defense. You have to have the complete game.”
He continued, “As a young kid, you start out with a sense of humor. That’s the gift God gave you. Then you develop and write jokes. But, when you start it’s just your sense of humor.”
And with his current tour it’s so much more. It’s using everything he’s learned and more to get his set just right. “Everyday is a new life. So you write about it,” he said. And while his set is politically free (“No poli-tricks. I don’t do politics. I do life”), he won’t shy away from anything. When asked if he’d soften some of his material given that the world is somewhat more sensitive these days, he’s quick to respond rhetorically, “A censored Tracy Morgan?” He then repeats the same line louder. “Please. I don’t censor myself. If people can’t deal with the truth, that’s their problem. I’m very honest with my audience,” he said.
He continued, “You don’t just draw material by what you see on TV. Sometimes I’m going through sh*t, and other human beings are going through it, too. And they can relate. It’s ups and downs, baby. It’s like the heart machine in the hospital. It’s up and down, and in a minute it can flatline. I am not trying to compromise.”
He added, “I see material and I inject a sense of humor. I give my insight, wisdom and understanding. I let my audience know I love them.”
And he also, as mentioned, mixes stuff up. Each night is a different show. “You can’t do the same show. Michael Jackson never did the same show. Michael Jordan never played the same game. You have to make adjustments. You evolve. There’s a reason the dinosaurs became extinct.” Long live the king.