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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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Morgan was a regular on the show from 1994-96.
In 1996, Morgan made a major leap forward in his career, joining the cast of the legendary television sketch-comedy show, Saturday Night Live. He spent the next seven years on the show. SNL has long held a reputation as a challenging workplace environment, and Morgan agreed saying, "If you can survive Saturday Night Live, then you're good as far as show business is concerned."
But Morgan also faced hurdles that his colleagues didn't. The comedian had honed his skills in front of primarily African-American audiences, and SNL's comedy was targeted for a mainstream, mostly white audience. Morgan also performed alongside mostly white comedians. Instead of leaning toward writing for the show, Morgan shifted all his energies to performance. He found, though, that the writers didn't know how to write good parts for an African-American man. He therefore found his time on SNL to be a challenging experiment in bridging the gaps between his own experiences and those of his coworkers and the audience.
During this stressful period, Morgan acquired a reputation for being something of a live wire. He freely admits to lacking a filter between what he thinks and what he says, and has become famous for his unpredictable—or, perhaps, predictably strange—behavior during interviews. Once, for example, while being interviewed live on local television in El Paso, Texas, Morgan took off his shirt and declared that "someone's gonna get pregnant" during his two days in town. In 2011, Morgan made waves for making inappropriate comments about the attractiveness of former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin while being interviewed on Inside the NBA, a sports commentary show on the TNT network.
In 2003, Morgan left SNL to headline his own show on NBC, a sitcom called The Tracy Morgan Show, but it didn't gain much of a following and ran for only one season. During and after his Saturday Night Live years, though, Morgan landed significant roles in a handful of feature films, including A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996), Half Baked (1998), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) and Head of State (2003). In 2010, Morgan appeared in both Death at a Funeral and the Bruce Willis police flick, Cop Out.
Morgan found his niche in television in 2006 on the hit show 30 Rock, a sitcom created by fellow SNL alumna Tina Fey. Fey, a longtime admirer of Morgan's strengths, wrote a character specifically for Morgan named Tracy Jordan, who is the star of a fictional sketch comedy show. The character is loosely based on Morgan himself; many of Morgan's own eccentricities and tribulations, including the ankle bracelet he was ordered to wear after a DUI arrest, appear on screen.
Despite the obvious similarities, Morgan is quick to point out that Tracy Jordan and Tracy Morgan are two different people: "Tracy Morgan doesn't exist in Tracy Jordan. Tracy Jordan exists in Tracy Morgan." Morgan was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2009 for his work on 30 Rock.
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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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