April is full-immersion Tracy Morgan month.
The actor and comedian reprises his voice role as the bulldog Luiz in the current animated hit “Rio 2.” His new standup special “Bona Fide” debuted Sunday on Comedy Central, and still can be purchased for streaming. On Saturday, he will perform standup at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln.
A regular on “Saturday Night Live” from 1996 to 2003, Morgan, 45, crafted memorable “SNL” characters including Brian Fellow, a man equally enthusiastic about wildlife and saying his own name. He also appeared as the great poet Maya Angelou, for whom Morgan was an unexpected ringer when in drag.
From 2006-13, Morgan brilliantly caricatured himself as sketch-comedian character Tracy Jordan on “30 Rock,” the subversive (for NBC) sitcom created by Morgan’s one-time “SNL” colleague Tina Fey.
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Though he has yet to achieve the Tracy Jordan feat of “EGOT” (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), Morgan was nominated for an Emmy and won an (ensemble) Screen Actors Guild Award for his work on “30 Rock.”
Tracy(s) Morgan and Jordan often intertwine in the public’s imagination, partly because both are prone to saying outrageous things. In 2011, Morgan publicly apologized for remarks he made during a Nashville standup appearance that were viewed as anti-gay.
Morgan grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in New Jersey with his fiancée, Megan Wollover, and 9-month-old daughter, Maven. He also has three sons from his 23-year marriage to Sabina Morgan, from whom he was divorced in 2009.
Morgan called last week from New Jersey to discuss his Thunder Valley appearance and busy career.
Why did you title your Comedy Central special “Bona Fide”?
It solidifies what I have done in standup – you know, “this is bona fide.” I’ve done all the aspects of standup comedy.
What are all the aspects of standup comedy?
The stories, the characters, the worlds I am going in and out of. There’s no meaning to (the special’s title). I just thought it was a cool name. If I had a rock group, I would call it Bona Fide.
What topics will you cover during your Thunder Valley show?
I couldn’t even tell you that, because the world is doing what it’s supposed to be doing: It is changing, it is still going around. I am the kind of standup, I don’t think the world is flat. I am constantly evolving.
I have a few topics I want to talk about, about current affairs. But current affairs keep changing, so I try not to peg it. I am an artist. I don’t know what I am going to paint.
After that incident in Nashville that put you in hot water
I am not talking about that. I am not bringing that up because that’s in the past. I am looking forward to the future.
OK. I read that you studied Carol Burnett’s and Lucille Ball’s facial expressions on TV when you were young and incorporated them into your own.
Yes, and Jackie Gleason. You know, the people who helped contribute to me as a (comedian), my physical attributes. Carol Burnett was a master at making faces. So were all those people.
Did you know very young that you wanted to be a performer?
I knew I wanted to be famous. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be, but I knew I was going to be famous, in some aspect.
When did it become pursuing comedy specifically?
Oh man, I was born funny. When I was little, it was a defense mechanism, you know, in the schoolyards and all that. And then later in life, it turned into a business.
Do you still see Grizz Chapman and Kevin Brown (Grizz and Dot.com on “30 Rock”)?
Sometimes, but that’s the thing about being successful: You don’t always get to see your friends and your family. That’s OK. The love is still there. ...We had a working relationship. ... They have their friends and I have mine. And we don’t hang out like that. I don’t hang out period, because I’ve got a brand new baby.
You joked, just after David Letterman announced he was retiring, that you were vying for his job. You’re always a great guest on talk shows – would you really want to host someday?
Yeah, you know, maybe down the line, absolutely. Why not?