Every now and then, a stand-up comedian who finds fortune and glory on television or in the movies returns to the form that made him or her famous. Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, for example, don’t really need to get back on the stage, but they do it any chance they can get. While Seinfeld is, well, still Seinfeld, forever doing his clean “What’s the deal with…” routine, Rock’s stand-up tours are a chance to witness a comedian who is literally one of the best ever do what he does best. Rock is so good when he gets the microphone in his hand, you can forgive him for all the fluffy movies he makes with his less-talented former SNL cast buddies.
Tracy Morgan, now a year into his post-30 Rock career, is another comedian whose name we can add to the list of stand-ups who went back to doing what they knew best after their greatest successes. The man who played Liz Lemon’s biggest headache could chase money voicing cartoon characters or acting in the kind of movie roles and low-hanging-fruit gigs that Tracy Jordan would have taken (films like President Homeboy and Who Dat Ninja, along with his gold record with “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” are some standouts), but he went back to doing what he does best: telling jokes.
Coming just a few years after Morgan angered the LGBT community with what he called a joke about killing his son if he ever said he was gay, but what anybody else would call unfunny homophobia, Morgan is back on the stage with his new Comedy Central special, Tracy Morgan: Bona Fide. And if you can look past some of the cracks about plus-sized women and don’t mind the lewd brand of comedy Morgan is known for, then you will be delighted to find that the comedian is still very much at the top of his game — and maybe even a little bit better than ever.
What makes Morgan such a great stand-up is on full display during his Bona Fide set. Morgan, whose whole schtick is to play the fool, is no dummy; he’s self-aware enough to tell us stories of where he comes from, and fully understands how people perceive him. Basing his set on just how bleak things seem these days, he covers everything from Paula Deen (saying he wouldn’t trust her if she didn’t use the n-word) to the fact things are so bad, white people want to occupy Wall Street. “Black people occupy all streets,” he points out.
Morgan weaves his own biography into all of his work. Where he’s from is something he makes any audience very aware of. With Bona Fide, he returns to his Brooklyn home, reminisces about his time in the 1980s as a crack dealer, and shoots off jokes about various family members (including his large, disabled brother) and the stigma that forever attaches itself to anybody he beat up.
Past transgressions aside, Tracy Morgan is a hilarious motherfucker. That’s really the best thing you can say about him. He is a funny guy, but as a stand-up, he kills it. It is what he has always done best, and after Bona Fide, it’s what we should hope he continues to do.