Tracy Morgan Biography

Film Actor, Actor, Television Actor, Comedian (1968–)
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.


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, a sitcom created by fellow SNL co-star Tina Fey.

Early Life

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.

Comedic Start

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. Morgan was a regular on the show from 1994-96.

'Saturday Night Live'

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.

Controversial Image

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.

Later Roles

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.

Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan at SiriusXM Studios on May 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Personal Life

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 developed 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.

Morgan and his ex-wife Sabina divorced in 2009 after 23 years of marriage and having three children together, sons Gitrid, Malcolm, and Tracy, Jr. 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."

Car Accident and Return to Comedy

On June 7, 2014, Morgan was critically injured in an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. A Walmart truck crashed into Morgan's limo, killing his friend comedian James McNair, known as Jimmy Mack. Morgan was transported to an intensive care unit at a New Jersey hospital where he was in critical condition following the accident. He suffered a traumatic head injury, a broken leg, nose and ribs. In May 2015, Morgan and Walmart settled a lawsuit relating to the crash. According to Morgan's lawyer, Walmart "took full responsibility for the accident." Morgan said Walmart "did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families." 

The comedian made an emotional return to live TV at the 67th Annual Emmy Awards that year, presenting the final category of the night. Fourteen months after the crash, Morgan married Megan Wollover on August 23, 2015. The couple has a daughter, Maven, who was born in 2013.

Morgan made his return to the stand-up stage at the Comedy Cellar in New York on October 12, 2015.  He tweeted about his performance: "My first time on stage in 16 months at the #ComedyCellar! Picking up the pieces!" That week, he also returned to Saturday Night Live as its host. He told the audience: "I'm back. It feels so good to be here. You may have seen on the news I was in a terrible car accident a year ago. It was awful. But it also showed me how much love and support I have in this world.” The comedian also turned his tragedy into comedy, joking about himself: "People were wondering, 'Can he speak? Does he have 100-percent mental capacity?' But the truth is I never did. I may even be a few [IQ ] points higher now."

In October 2015, Morgan also announced Tracy Morgan: Picking Up the Pieces, a comedy tour scheduled to kick off in February 2016. Towards the end of the month, the comedian appeared in a skit on the 88th Annual Academy Awards where African-American characters were placed in particular movies, with Morgan becoming the title figure in The Danish Girl

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