Tracy Morgan biography
In 1996, Tracy Morgan joined the cast of the legendary TV sketch-comedy show Saturday Night Live 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 has since found his niche in television in 2006 on the hit show 30 Rock, a sitcom created by fellow SNL alumna Tina Fey.
Actor, comedian. Born Tracy Morgan on November 10, 1968, in the Bronx borough of New York City. 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 Tracy Morgan to pursue a life as a comic. A good friend suggested that Morgan develop his natural talent for humor by pursuing comedy as 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, Tracy 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.
Morgan was a regular on the show from 1994-1996.
In 1996, Morgan made a major leap forward, joining the cast of the legendary TV 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: "If you can survive Saturday Night Live, then you're good as far as show business is concerned," he explained. 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, long an 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.
Although his career has been a successful one, the road to fame was not always smooth for Morgan himself.
Morgan was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1990s. He also suffered with a drinking problem while on SNL that earned him his court-ordered bracelet in 2007. That same year, the comedian became very sick while working on the show due to complications from his diabetes diagnosis. Despite an attempt at living a healthier lifestyle, Morgan had to undergo a kidney transplant in 2010.
Tracy and his ex-wife Sabina divorced in 2009 after 23 years of marriage. They had already been separated for several years. In the same year, Morgan published a memoir, I Am the New Black. In it, he describes his rough childhood and how he developed his sense of humor. Only his own rocky past, Morgan writes, could have brought him to where he is today: "When I was angry, when I was younger, I was in a cocoon. Now I'm a beautiful, black butterfly."