I entered Cobb’s Comedy Club earlier this evening with the expectation that I was going to hear some random funny shit. I left with the realization that Tracy Morgan is a lot smarter than I ever gave him credit for. Mad props to this man.
On SNL, he was always the buffoon. He never really did impressions, he just played silly characters like Bryan Fellow and the homeless guy in the gutter. He established himself early on as a silly caricature, which meant that anything he said was automatically funny. People have been eating out of the palm of his hand for YEARS, without really knowing why they thought he was funny or where his humor came from. To those people I say: See him perform standup. It’ll change your mind, and in a good way. It’ll enlighten you.
Unlike his opener, who shall remain nameless because I respect comedians too much to outright insult them, Tracy was dirty but not vulgar. The opener relied on his pronunciation of “motherfucker” and his insertion of “Fuck yeah!” whereas Tracy used words like “bulbous” and “quite” and merely saved “mo’fucka” and “nigga” for cadence purposes. The opener used ’em as a crutch because he simply wasn’t that funny. He was a fat black guy who laughed at himself and checked off every cliche in the book. Tracy, however, was an anomaly.
Here is a man who is so smart that he can use his on-stage persona, his dumb haphazard personality, to distract you from remembering that he’s tying everything together. He started several bits at the beginning of his set, like the “sucking dicks” bit and the “Tracy, stop!” bit and let go of them for awhile, moving past sex in favor of politics, but then he managed to tie those original jokes back into the latter half of his act without missing a beat, without forcing you to recognize his brilliance. And it was brilliant for that reason: It seemed like an effortless, perverse conversation. He’s really not as crazy as Tracy Jordan would have you think.
And this guy can do VOICES. He’s usually stuck in that thick Brooklyn accent on 30 Rock, but on the circuit stage he’s full of impressions, imitating women and white guys and Michael Jackson and Michael McDonald and all sorts of people that deserve to get mocked. He mocks people sitting right in front of him, he mocks people he doesn’t even know. He mocks the president, he mocks himself. He is also very proud of his accomplishments, but his arrogance is not off-putting. It’s just him. He brought up other comedians, too, in a very interesting way. He knocked Seinfeld’s uber-political-correctness but defended Dane Cook when an audience member booed a mention of him.
So what is Tracy Morgan’s secret? Well, he’s a hell of a lot smarter than you think he is. And he’s much cooler than you’ll ever be. That’s it.