"30 Rock's" Tracy Morgan brings his act to Comedy Works South - Reverb

Why So Serious, Tracy Morgan?

The character Tracy Morgan plays on NBC's critically-acclaimed '30 Rock', unsurprisingly, pretty similar to Morgan's real-life personality. Photo by Art Streiber.

The character Tracy Morgan plays on NBC's critically-acclaimed '30 Rock', unsurprisingly, pretty similar to Morgan's real-life personality. Photo by Art Streiber.

Tracy Morgan is no stranger to live television, having been a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 1996 to 2003.

But since 2006, Morgan has safely plied his trade on NBC’s critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning “30 Rock,” a far less… how shall we say… unpredictable, pre-taped environment?

Of course, when that sketch-spoof show broadcast its second all-live episode last week, it reintroduced the risky live element — especially since Morgan has gotten himself into trouble in recent years with his stream-of-consciousness rants at comedy clubs (like these from last year, after which Morgan was compelled to apologize).

But Morgan was all about “30 Rock’s” second-ever live taping.

“I felt great about it. I think it was awesome,” he said over the phone earlier this week from New York. “It felt like just going back to Daddy’s house. I grew up on ‘SNL’ and it felt great going live again, so I just said my prayers and whatever comes out, comes out.”

We talked to Morgan about his upcoming tour and special, his way with words, and his “very, very dirty” sets — as the Comedy Works website puts them — Friday and Saturday, May 4-5, at the club’s south location in the Landmark development.

What keeps you coming back to the comedy clubs despite the success of “30 Rock”?

Whether you’re doing stand-up in front of a live audience or playing jazz, there’s an immediate reaction. You don’t have to wait a week. They give it to you right then. It’s like walking a tightrope with no net. It makes you focus a little bit more with that element of danger and discipline and focus.

It’s been almost ten years since your sitcom pilot, “The Tracy Morgan Show,” which I thought was really underrated. Have you ever considered doing your own show again?

I leave my mind open to whatever opportunities come, and if the opportunity’s right for me for me and my family, it’s right. I see a lot of big artists are coming back to TV. Martin Lawrence just got a gig on TBS.

And you actually got your start playing the Hustle Man on Fox’s “Martin.”

Martin Lawrence is like my inspiration to basically a lot of things I’ve done. He put me on my first really national stage. I totally love him for that. He’s basically one of my comedic heroes.

Did you used to watch him do stand-up when you were coming up?

He’s originally from D.C. and I’m from Brooklyn, but I saw him when he hosted Def Comedy Jam (in the ’90s).

For people not familiar with your stand-up and only know your TV work, should they expect to see any impressions at your shows?

When you’re dealing with Tracy Morgan on stage, it’s straight, no chaser, baby. The stuff I’m saying will definitely put hair on your chest, and I don’t care if you’re a woman. I’m sardonic, man. I’m sardonic. I describe my sense of humor as contemporary wit. I cut just deep enough to lift up the skin and see inside, but not too deep because I don’t want to cut THE MONSTER.

I know you’ve gotten flak in the past for some of the things you’ve said on stage, even though stand-up environments are ostensibly all about free speech.

Yeah, but Denver has an awesome audience. I love you guys. You’re so hip. I can say anything. Some people are too overly sensitive. I guess that’s the climate we created, and it’s a different climate now than what it was ten years ago.

I saw on your Twitter feed that you’re calling your tour “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful.” Is it mostly clubs, or theaters too?

We’re starting off with clubs and tightening everything up, and then we officially start the tour. The name of the tour is “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful,” but the name of the special will be “Tracy Morgan: Straight, No Chaser.” Leave your mind open. Free think! You don’t have to wait for everybody else to laugh. A lot of people come to comedy shows and wait for everybody else to laugh. I hate that. I love the guy who laughs before everybody else because he thinks it’s funny. That’s my man. That’s my man in Amsterdam.

Where are you taping the special?

We’re looking at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music), because it’s where I was born and raised, where Michael Jordan was born and raised. I haven’t really performed in Brooklyn since I took off 20 years ago, so it’s sort of like a coming-home reunion, like a 360 thing for me.

You also co-hosted the 2012 Comedy Awards last weekend with Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett and some other folks (airing May 6 on Comedy Central). Some people think comedy suffers when it gets mainstream approval, while others complain about the lack of recognition it gets at other awards shows. Do you think comedy only thrives when it has that outsider status?

Some people see it that way, some people don’t. I don’t think it’s going to effect the results. If someone’s funny, they’re funny, whether they receive an award or not, because it’s all about the thought process. But it doesn’t matter because only the results matter at the end of the day. If you’re putting something in someone’s home, the results speak for themselves. It’s gotta look good, because that’s their reputation. That’s what they do. That’s what resonates with me, ‘cause that’s where I am. I don’t care what happens before a comedy show, I like to go out and see the people. So if receiving an award makes you corny, I feel bad for you. You shouldn’t be doing it. Hannibal Buress ain’t gonna be any less funny if he’s got an award. I can say that ‘cause I do this.

Anything else you want to add?

Now you gotta come to the show and see for yourself. Tracy Morgan on stage is not your average comedy. You better lay the truth out there like a nice wet fart. My grandma, who’s 80 years old this weekend, always said that: “You better lay it out there like a nice wet fart!”

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John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and Features blogs editor for The Denver Post and the author of “Mock Stars” (Speck Press/Fulcrum). Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.

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