Live Review: Tracy Morgan at the Improv
Theatergoers exiting the Improv at Woodfield Mall Friday night after Tracy Morgan’s first show walked to their cars briskly and sullen-faced. “Save your money, guys,” a woman blurted as she cut through the line of 500 ticket-holders who paid $40 each to see the sold-out follow-up. Another woman, when asked if she enjoyed Morgan’s set, replied, “Yeah,” then hesitated before adding, “He’s pretty nasty.” So we’ve heard. In June, Morgan was forced to apologize after allegedly stating that if his son were gay, he would “pull out a knife and stab him.” The same month, he also received criticism for joking about the mentally disabled.
After a half-hour delay and two opening acts, Morgan emerged at 11:27pm, dressed in white overalls with “TRACY” written in red lettering down his right pant leg. Some of his opening remarks:
11:27pm: “I like pregnant women. That shit makes my dick hard when I see that.”
11:33pm: “I eat the pussy and the butthole.”
11:36pm: “I like old lady titties…you have to get on your knees to get tit-fucked.”
We already knew a ton about Tracy Morgan—he grew up in a broken home in Brooklyn, was discovered by Lorne Michaels working at Gate 4 at old Yankee Stadium, has a tattoo on his penis that says "Stove Top," is divorced, engaged, diabetic, and a recent kidney-transplant recipient. But everyone who saw his act this weekend learned even more as he spoke for over an hour in a gruff trance. He came across as a shameless sexual predator—“I’m a perv, goddamn it. At least I know I am.” No one walked out—four people even shook his hand at the end—but I thought about it. I also thought a lot about Tina Fey (a feminist with two little girls who happens to be Morgan’s boss) when he asserted, “The way to my heart—get your ass in that kitchen. You try and be some CEO or some shit…get in the kitchen… Fuckin’ put out. You don’t need a job…you’re sitting on the cash machine.” Besides women in the workforce, Morgan had cruel words for newsmakers ranging from President Obama to Occupy Wall Street protesters to Kim Kardashian.
His 30 Rock alter ego, Tracy Jordan, is a wide-eyed innocent, more off-the-wall than offensive (on seeing Liz Lemon in a wedding dress: “Oh no! Did a Korean person die?”). Three or four times in the show, Morgan had phony-sounding digressions, these but seriously, I’m just having fun speeches—“Come on, you don’t protest that shit,” the shit being his impression of a slack-jawed autistic boy in a grocery store. In response to the violent homophobic imagery he’s invoked, Morgan tried this diffusion tactic: “I would not be mad at my son if he was gay. I’d probably ask that motherfucker to decorate the house. Put some curtains up.” He did a very good Michael Jackson impersonation, the humor of which was invalidated with the line, “MJ threw Joe [Jackson] under the bus—‘He beat us!’ You forget who put the fuckin’ mic in your hand?” The closest Morgan got to being funny was when he acknowledged a heckler: “He’s like, ‘Watch me being funny in my section.’ I get paid millions of dollars to do this. You work at FedEx.”
Morgan’s M.O. was to give people their money’s worth by shocking them to the anticipated degree. The result was neither shocking not amusing—but plenty sad.