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Comedic actor Tracy Morgan, known for his unpredictable antics, got his big break on Saturday Night Live. His 30 Rock character was loosely based on his over-the-top personality.
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Born in the Bronx, New York, on November 10, 1968, Tracy Morgan joined the cast of the legendary television sketch-comedy show Saturday Night Live in 1996 and spent the next seven years there. In 2003, Morgan left SNL to headline his own show, The Tracy Morgan Show, but it didn't gain a following and ran for only one season. Morgan then found his niche in television in 2006 on the hit show 30 Rock,
"As a child, I was able to know that I wanted a better life."
"If you can survive Saturday Night Live, then you're good as far as show business is concerned."
"When I was angry, when I was younger, I was in a cocoon. Now I'm a beautiful, black butterfly."
a sitcom created by fellow SNL co-star Tina Fey.
Actor and comedian Tracy Jamal Morgan was on November 10, 1968, in the Bronx, New York. The second of five children, Morgan grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a low-income neighborhood in Brooklyn plagued by the dangers of the drug trade. Morgan's older brother, Jimmy Morgan, Jr., was born with cerebral palsy. His father, Jimmy Morgan, Sr., was a musician and soldier who served multiple tours in Vietnam. Jimmy, Sr. began using heroin while in the military, returning home from the war in 1974 with both a serious drug addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. At that time, Tracy Morgan was 6 years old.
For most of his childhood, Morgan lived with his mother; she insisted that his father leave the family household because of his drug problem. By the time Tracy was a student at De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, however, his relationship with his mother had seriously deteriorated. Morgan moved in with his father and, a year later, his brother and a sister joined him.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Morgan, Sr. had overcome his addiction, but he had contracted AIDS as a result of using dirty hypodermic needles in his earlier life as an addict. Tracy, already married to his high school sweetheart, Sabina, dropped out of high school to take care of his father. Jimmy died of AIDS in November 1987.
In need of money, Morgan turned to selling drugs. He has said he still feels remorse for the disservice he did to his community by participating in the sale of drugs. As he describes it, he wasn't a very good drug dealer, and he didn't enjoy it, either: "As a child, I was able to know that I wanted a better life," he explained later.
A childhood full of turmoil and tragedy might seem an unlikely source for the development of comedic genius, but it was yet another tragic event that spurred Morgan to pursue a life as a comic. A good friend suggested that Morgan develop his natural talent for humor by pursuing comedy for a living. Soon after, the friend was killed in one of the many acts of random violence that marred Morgan's community. His friend's death spurred Morgan to begin doing stand-up, building a popular act from the humor he had always used to deal with the difficult situations in his life.
By his early 20s, Morgan and his wife had three sons—Gitrid, Malcolm and Tracy, Jr.—and the family was living on welfare. Fortunately, Morgan soon found success as a stand-up comedian, making his breakthrough at Harlem's famous Apollo Theater. Morgan spent time in the Uptown Comedy Club, also in Harlem, before being picked up to play a supporting character named Hustle Man in Martin Lawrence's sitcom Martin.
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Learn more about the cast of Saturday Night Live, including old-timers such as John Belushi, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and David Spade, as well as newer stars of the series, including Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig.
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From the early comedy of Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby to the contemporary routines of Steve Harvey, Mo'Nique, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Craig Robinson, Maya Rudolph and Dave Chappelle, black comedians have often used their wit to become the voice and face of the African-American experience. These legendary comedians have also set a very high bar—not only for African Americans, but for all comics trying to make it in show business. Learn more about these famous jokesters, from their early days to their comic beginnings, to their side-splitting performances and more.
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