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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The last of a dying breed of comics returns to deliver stand-up at the Spokane Tribe Casino

Comic and actor Tracy Morgan will headline Saturday at Spokane Tribe Casino.  (Courtesy of Paul Mobley)

Tracy Morgan was perfectly cast as the star of the late, lamented sitcom, “The Last O.G.,” which had a four-season run that ended in 2021. The outrageous humorist portrayed a convict released after serving 15 years in prison who finds that his Brooklyn neighborhood and the world changed dramatically.

The “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, who will perform Saturday at the Spokane Tribe Casino, has never left, but Morgan is in a different generation of comedy. Morgan is a throwback to an era of comics who never worried about offending fans. Morgan has more in common with such late stand-ups as Sam Kinison, Gilbert Gottfried and Bob Saget than contemporary humorists, many of whom seem more concerned with alienating fans courtesy of their material and what is posted on social media.

“It’s always been about being funny,” Morgan said in a 2022 interview, while calling from New York. “I don’t want to upset people, but it’s about making people laugh. I’m not trying to step over a line.”

Gottfried had the same take when he was asked why AFLAC fired him after he joked about the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011.

“It’s never about being hurtful,” Morgan said. “It’s about being funny.”

Morgan, 55, grew up in a turbulent environment that shaped his comedy. Coming of age during the 1970s in the Bronx wasn’t easy for Morgan.

“But that was my life,” Morgan said. “That was my reality.”

His poignant and hilarious anecdotes would make for an entertaining Broadway show. Morgan sold drugs and cracked jokes in order to survive during the “Bronx is Burning” era.

“It was a drug-infested area,” Morgan said. “I dealt cocaine. I did what I had to do.”

A way out was unlikely in a bleak environment in which teen pregnancy was the norm.

“We really didn’t have anything,” Morgan said. “We had sex. We didn’t go on trips. We weren’t going to Hawaii like the upper class.

“We had no way to really escape. The lower class has no say, and the guys running the show don’t care what the lower class thinks.”

Morgan was advised to try comedy. After working the Gotham clubs during the early to mid-1990s, Morgan auditioned for “Saturday Night Live.”

Producer Lorne Michaels chose Morgan over Stephen Colbert, and from 1996 to 2003, Morgan was a “Not Ready for Prime Time” player. From 2006 to 2013, Morgan went prime time with “30 Rock,” portraying Tracy Jordan, who was an exaggeration of himself.

“I’ve been very fortunate during this career,” Morgan said. “I have so many great memories of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘30 Rock.’ I’ve worked with so many talented people.”

Morgan has made his mark as an actor, but the engaging entertainer is at his best delivering material and living in the moment onstage.

“I got my start doing stand-up and I never stopped,” Morgan said. “There’s nothing like being in front of a live audience.”

There’s also nothing like the Bronx. Morgan still visits and he recalls the good, much of which was provided by his uncle Mike, aka Fatty Love.

“There was nobody like Fatty Love,” Morgan said. “He was so good to me.

“The Yankees were right across the street from me, but they were a world away.”

That was then, but now Morgan’s image is often captured by the paparazzi behind the dugout at Yankees game and in the front row courtside at New York Knicks games.

“I’ve had a great life,” Morgan said. “And it’s all because of comedy.”