Tracy Morgan took the stage at Funny Or Die’s party at the Scoot Inn Monday night and told the crowd he was “the Desmond Tutu of entertainment.” And with that non sequitur, everyone’s crazy and dirty comedic uncle was back.
The beloved former star of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” almost died in a horrible collision with a Wal-Mart freight truck in 2014, making the night’s sponsor both ironic and on-the-nose, and Morgan spent a good portion of the first part of his set mining the accident for material. The whole time he was in a coma, he said his grandmother wore God out with her prayers, eventually inspiring the Man Upstairs to reprimand her (and Tim Tebow) for wasting his time when he had better things to do, like make sure Donald Trump didn’t get elected president. He said he went to heaven but didn’t stay long, because you don’t go toward the white light if you think it might be the cops.
Morgan used his reputation as rebellious bad boy to set up such jokes, and it’s not just a comfortable comedic device. From his anecdotes about selling crack to his myriad stories about graphic sex and masturbation, Morgan doesn’t worry with offending anyone. Even when the jokes were simply confessions of his sexual proclivities and not very funny, in the age of political correctness, it was good to see someone fearless, though I don’t expect the New Yorker to be earning any medals from feminist groups anytime soon. But when you’ve almost died and lost the ability to speak, being fearless probably comes easy.
The boundary pushing naturally followed Morgan into satirical discussions of race, as he wedded slavery metaphors and sexual humor. Morgan, whose wife is of mixed race, also defined the difference between arguing with a white woman (she’ll call her lawyer on you) and a black woman (she might kill you). In one of his bits that brought the biggest laughs and guffaws, he called out Tiger Woods for not identifying as back, saying Earl Woods (Tiger’s dad) is undoubtedly the name of a black man.
“The blackest thing he ever did was suck at golf,” Morgan said of Tiger Woods.
Morgan engaged in some biting crowd work, while his act repeatedly bounced from tales of physical therapy and the accident back to his sexual desires. Understandably, it wasn’t Morgan at his most manic or funniest, but it was great to see him back on stage taking swings. Comedy isn’t like sports – you don’t get to rehab in private and wait to come back and perform for the public at 90 percent. Morgan, who was performing in only the 12th show of his first tour since the accident, isn’t all the way back, but from the immediate standing ovation at Scoot Inn, it’s clear his fans are ready to help him rally back to his old self.