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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tracy Morgan interview

On the heels of the big Tracy Morgan controversy of '11, I thought I'd take this opportunity to run the full transcription of the interview I did with the manchild in May. It was a doozy. I didn't know what to make of him, but was kind of amused throughout even though I thought he was yelling at me. And by the end, he kind of tipped his hand and showed he was maybe more normal than he lets on. Who knows, though? The guy is an enigma.

I was saddened when I heard the reports about his comedic rant on gays. Saddened at the report, I should clarify. Not that I think Morgan is particularly funny as a stand-up (I don't). It's just that this serious out-of-context reporting of a stage act has got to stop.

According to TV Guide, Morgan said that if one of his sons told him he was gay, he “better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice, or I’ll pull out a knife and stab that little n---er to death … I don’t f---ing care if I piss off some gays.” And there was more. Sure, it's hard to imagine a context where those words wouldn't be objectionable, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one. And that context is a comedy stage. That context doesn't make it funny, understand; it just makes it slightly more understandable.

Does he really believe what he said? It's doubtful, but who knows? Should he have said what he said? I reject the use of 'should'. The comedy stage is a free zone for craziness. Like it or leave it. Again, don't confuse this with me liking it or agreeing with it or thinking it's the least bit funny. But the intent is jokes. Sometimes that backfires, but that was the intent. I doubt very much that he took a break from the funny to deliver a serious message.

One day when I have the time and inclination, I'd love to transcribe objectionable passages from well-known and beloved comedians and do a mock article full of outrage just to show how easy it is to blow something way out of proportion.

Here's a rule of thumb: If you don't like what a comic says, either be silently disgusted and make a mental note to never see that comic again, or leave. Easy-peasy lemon squeazy.

So here's the interview. Interesting how a month ago he was saying he didn't care if people got offended and today he's issuing apologies for offending people. Methinks network publicists had something to do with it.
Tracy Morgan – May 6, 2011

"You don’t like it, leave, man, but don’t judge me. You ain’t walked a mile in my shoes. You don’t know where I’m from. I came out there to make you laugh. I left my family and my home to make you laugh. The least you could do is have a sense of humour. Don’t take it so serious.
" – Tracy Morgan

Guy MacPherson: Hello, Tracy.
Tracy Morgan: Hey, what’s up?

GM: How are you?
TM: I’m okay, man. Just hanging out in my house.

GM: In LA?
TM: No, I’m in New Jersey.

GM: I know you’ve been to Vancouver many times.
TM: Yeah.

GM: From the clubs right up to the theatres. Have you done movies here as well?
TM: Uh, I don’t think so.

GM: No?
TM: No.

GM: What do you do when you’re in Vancouver? Got any good memories?
TM: I love Canada, man. Canada’s awesome.

GM: Anything in particular in Vancouver, though?
TM: No. No, no. I don’t think so. I don’t remember locations, dude.

GM: Oh, okay. You’re best known for your work on network TV. But no matter how subversive or outrageous your TV work might be, it’s got to be a bit of a shock for someone coming to your stand-up show for the first time if they’re not used to that.
TM: Yeah, it’s okay. I don’t think it’s a shock. I think people are just surprised. I don’t care.

GM: Oh, I know you don’t care. Nor should you.
TM: I don’t have any boundaries when it comes to stand-up.

GM: Oh, I know. I’ve seen you.
TM: Yeah. I love to talk about sex, I love to talk about politics. I love to talk about the things I know.

GM: And do you ever get any problems from the people who come to see you?
TM: No. I don’t care. If they get upset, they get upset.

GM: That’s part of being a stand-up, right?
TM: Yeah, I don’t care. You think I worry about that? That’s the least of my problems. I don’t care about that.

GM: No, no. I don’t suggest that you care or worry.
TM: I never do.

GM: Is it cathartic to say what you want?
TM: Yeah. Let me explain something to you. Stand-up comedy is the only place in show business – probably in the world – where there’s justice.

GM: How do you define justice?
TM: Because I get to say what I feel and what I think. And if you don’t like it, leave. You don’t have to sit there and listen to me. I’m sorry, everybody can’t be Ray Romano. I’m Tracy Morgan. I’m not trying to be nobody else, man. I’m talking about my experiences in life. I’m talking about how I see life, how I feel.

GM: And that’s what a lot of people–
TM: – are afraid to do. People don’t even like speaking out in public. They sit in the back and they judge. Those are cornballs, man. You don’t like it, leave, man, but don’t judge me. You ain’t walked a mile in my shoes. You don’t know where I’m from. I came out there to make you laugh. I left my family and my home to make you laugh. The least you could do is have a sense of humour. Don’t take it so serious. But we got assholes out there that think that they coming to see Tracy Jordan. You don’t know the difference between stand-up and TV? You don’t know the difference and you a grown-ass person? Come on, that’s not my fault. You can’t fix stupid. Forrest Gump even said that: stupid is as stupid does. People actually think that Tina Fey’s gonna be there!

GM: Get out.
TM: Yeah! I’ve had people say, “Where’s Tina Fey?!”, like we hang out together.

GM: Yeah, like it’s a touring show.
TM: Yeah! They actually believe what they see on TV! Come on. This is what I deal with. You axe; I’m letting you know.

"The funny dude always gets protected as long as he’s got a good spirit. My father taught me that early in life because he was a comedian: 'Always tell jokes with a good spirit. That way, when you do make fun of somebody, they can laugh and you can laugh.'” – Tracy Morgan

GM: I don’t get how people can be offended by words on a comedy stage.
TM: Sure, I don’t care. Be offended! I love it! I want you to be offended. Maybe you’ll change things. If people don’t get offended, you probably ain’t funny. I’m always confrontational. I’m confrontational with black people, I’m confrontational with white people, I can be confrontational with women, I can be confrontational with men. Yeah, my stand-up is sort of confrontational. Everybody don’t agree. You think I want everybody agreeing? But that’s politics. You put ten people in a room, half are gonna like you and half not. Boom, politics.

GM: Were you like that as a stand-up starting out?
TM: As a kid I was like that, man. Yes. I had a vision of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to be and I was going to make society conform to that.

GM: Did it ever get you in trouble?
TM: I don’t care.

GM: No, before you were a stand-up.
TM: And I don’t care.

GM: (laughs) But did you get in trouble?
TM: (yelling) I don’t care. What do you call trouble? I got kicked out of my classes because I axed my professors, “How you know?” If you want to consider that trouble, then consider that trouble. Yeah, I questioned the knowledge. Of course you gonna get in trouble when you question the knowledge, when you rage against the machine. Of course! But that’s why we got stand-ups.

GM: Or did an older kid ever smack you upside the head because of your mouth?
TM: (yelling) No, other kids loved me. I was the funny dude in the neighbourhood so they protect that. Especially in the neighbourhood, in the ghetto. The funny dude. We didn’t have no money, we was too poor to go to Radio City to see Richard so they had me. So they protected that. The funny dude always gets protected as long as he’s got a good spirit. My father taught me that early in life because he was a comedian: “Always tell jokes with a good spirit. That way, when you do make fun of somebody, they can laugh and you can laugh.”

GM: So no matter what you say, it’s in the approach.
TM: All in the approach.

GM: Is it true that SNL would dock your pay for foul language?
TM: I don’t know, I never used foul language.

GM: I read that you said that on Conan but I didn’t actually see you say it.
TM: No, that was just me being funny.

GM: So you know. You’re a professional.
TM: Yeah. Absolutely.

GM: You know the stage that you’re on and what’s right and what’s not.
TM: That’s right. I’m aware.

GM: You have three kids?
TM: I have three sons.

GM: You could be a grandfather, right?
TM: (softly) No. I’m not doing that. They’re working. They’re focussed.

GM: What kind of kids are they? What kind of dad are you?
TM: (softly) Well, you’ll have to axe ‘em, but they’re beautiful. Me and my ex-wife, we raised them right. Yeah, we raised them right. They’re beautiful.

GM: All our parents embarrass us. Do they get embarrassed by you?
TM: Sure. I’m quite sure they do from time to time.

GM: They’re college age?
TM: Uh, one is 26, one is 24, and one is 20.

GM: That is amazing because you seem forever young.
TM: Ha-ha. Well, you know what they say: Black don’t crack and brown don’t frown. You know?

GM: (laughs) I hadn’t heard that.
TM: Yep.

GM: It’s part of your spirit, too. No matter what, you’re young.
TM: Yeah, it’s part of my spirit. As long as you got a young spirit.

GM: It seems like you get amused if and when you get in trouble. Because you don’t care. That thing you said about Sarah Palin on TNT where they apologized.
TM: Yeah, I did say it and it was awesome.

GM: Exactly. So it amuses you that people would get upset about something like that.
TM: I don’t mind. I mean, people get upset, I guess. I mean, fine, they get over it.

GM: There’s a famous clip of you on a local Texas TV station and everyone says you’re drunk on it.
TM: I wasn’t drunk.

GM: I didn’t think so. I saw it and thought you were just being funny.
TM: People are idiots, I told you that. Some of them. They like to just say things on the internet. They weren’t there. Nobody told them that. They just assumed I was drunk. What am I gonna do? Respond to that?

GM: Have you ever been in a situation like that where you were?
TM: No. Never been on stage intoxicated. Never ever ever ever ever.

GM: Save that for after the show.
TM: Yeah. I’m not gonna focus with that.

GM: Your Wikipedia entry says you’re an actor, comedian and author. I know you’ve written a book but ‘author’ sounds so impressive. Were you a good student in school?
TM: No. I hated school. School only taught me how to pick up chicks.

GM: Well then it taught you something then!
TM: Yeah. But, nah, I didn’t go to school and I wrote a book. You don’t have to be a good student to write a book. George Bush wrote a book and he was a terrible student.

GM: That’s true. But it requires some–
TM: It requires the truth. It just requires you tell your story. And writing it on a piece of paper. That’s all it requires. People want you to think that but I don’t fall for that crap.

GM: No?
TM: Yeah. I told you, I don’t conform. It required me putting my mind to it and it being done. That’s it. Those are the requirements.

GM: How long did it take you to do it?
TM: Two years. It was hard cause I was telling the truth.

GM: And to just sit down and do it was like work, right?
TM: No, it wasn’t. I just did it.

GM: Yeah?
TM: I just did it. It wasn’t hard.

GM: What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
TM: The hardest thing I’ve ever done? Bury my father.

GM: Yeah. That’s real life stuff.
TM: Yeah. You just think I live on TV? You don’t think I go through real life stuff?

GM: Of course.
TM: There you go.

"Nobody stood over me in 1968 when I came outta my mother’s vagina and said, 'You shall be funny! You shall do comedy!' This was all my idea, man. This was all my idea. All of it!" – Tracy Morgan

GM: I read a nice piece on you in the New York Times and it says you’re always funny, always on, whether it’s on stage or off.
TM: I don’t know what the New York Times said but yeah, I like to be funny every day. Yeah, sure. Why not?

GM: Some days surely you don’t feel like it.
TM: When I don’t feel it I don’t be funny. [I don’t care what] the New York Times said, I ain’t on all the time. I’m on when I wanna be on. This is my life. Don’t nobody control me. Don’t nobody tell me when to be funny or not. Nobody! My father died when I was 19 years old. So I’m funny when I wanna be funny. The New York Times don’t hang out with me every day all day.

GM: Except for, I guess, when you’re professionally obligated to be funny, then you have to be.
TM: Nah, I don’t have to be nuthin’. If I don’t wanna go on stage, I don’t. I cancel. But I don’t do that because I don’t feel the need to. I’m funny. I love what I do. I told you, nobody controls this here. Nobody evah. Not Alec, not Tina, not Lorne, nobody! Nobody stood over me in 1968 when I came outta my mother’s vagina and said, “You shall be funny! You shall do comedy!” This was all my idea, man. This was all my idea. All of it!

GM: What was?
TM: Every drop! My life. Was my idea.

GM: From what age?
TM: From when I was born, man! From when I was born. My father and my mother just pointed me in the right direction. It was me that took the initiative to follow it. From when I was little!

GM: To be funny professionally?
TM: Yeah. It was my idea, man. Whose idea do you think it was? You think somebody came to my house and said, “You shall be professionally funny”? My idea, dude.

GM: (laughs) I don’t know where you got that from.
TM: I got it from me. You think somebody told me to be funny professionally? You think I knew Lorne in 1986?

GM: No!
TM: When crack was king? In my neighbourhood? This ain’t like that. It was my idea, I’m telling you.

GM: Yeah, I believe you.
TM: You have to believe me cause it’s the truth.

GM: Okay. When you started in stand-up, did you know where you were going?
TM: Nope.

GM: Were you just happy to just be on stage– ?
TM: Nope. Just be funny.

GM: Which was more fun: as you’re working your way up with each job better than the last but still not know where–
TM: All of it was just beautiful to me, man. I don’t look at it like that, man! I don’t know who you been talkin’ to but that’s not how I look at it. I’m an individual. I didn’t approach none of this like anybody else on this planet. This is Tracy Morgan, man.

GM: (sarcastically) Oh, Tracy Morgan!
TM: This ain’t Dane Cook, this ain’t none of that. This is Tracy Morgan! I took my path and it was all my idea!

GM: Right, but it makes it sound like you knew you’d end up now where you are.
TM: No, I didn’t know. I didn’t care. I just knew I was going to be funny. I know I’m funny. My father was funny.

GM: Is everyone else in your family funny?
TM: Everybody. Both sides. My mother’s side is funny, my father’s side is funny. My father did stand-up in Viet Nam. And that’s what I grew up watching – my father. I didn’t know if I was going to be successful. I didn’t know none of that. I just knew I wanted to be like my dad. Like any other kid. My father was God to me. What kid don’t grow up wanting to be like their dad? My dad was an entertainer.

GM: So was mine.
TM: Yeah. So all your life you wanted to be an entertainer. You are involved in entertainment in some capacity. Nobody told you that.

GM: Are your kids funny?
TM: Well, I don’t know. You would have to axe them. You’d have to axe their friends, really, because children can be one way when they’re with their parents then another way when they’re with their friends. So, you know, I might not see that side of them.

GM: You think they’ll get into show biz?
TM: I have no idea. You would have to axe them, man. They’re grown men.

Publicist: Hey, Guy, you have time for one more question. So if you could wrap up...
GM: Yup.
TM: But, Guy, you gotta admit, this is a very passionate, interesting interview.

GM: I do.
TM: And you need more! (laughs) Like, “Tracy is an interesting dude, man! He’s got a point of view and everything!” Why you think my lady love me?

GM: Because every day is like this.
TM: That’s what it is, man. Life ain’t nothing but crises management. How you gonna manage?

GM: You live it.
TM: You live it. You deal with it, man. You get through it. And understand that it will all pass.

GM: How’s your health?
TM: My health is fine, man. I’m doing great. I’m in high spirits, as you can tell. I’m passionate about what I say, what I feel, what I believe. You know, that’s it.

GM: And the sobriety?
TM: I’m totally five years clean now.

GM: Sweet.
TM: Yeah, man. I don’t even think about it. I’m trying to get other people to stop.

GM: Like Charlie Sheen? He was here on Monday.
TM: Oh, good for him.

GM: Are you trying to fix him?
TM: Nah. I don’t know him.

GM: I saw that Tweet of yours. I didn’t know if it was a joke or not.
TM: Yeah, it was a joke.

GM: Okay. I know you gotta run. Tracy, thanks very much.
TM: Thanks, Guy.

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