Tracy Morgan wants to make you laugh. Anyone who has seen him on the late-night talk-show circuit knows he’s less interested in hyping a new project than getting to the jokes, making some hilarious or outrageous statement and leaving his host bewildered and helpless. He works with the rhythm of a freight train, and is willing to roll over anything in his path to get to the funny.
That MO has landed him in trouble any number of times, as when his remarks about gays and lesbians at a 2011 Nashville show prompted a backlash, an apology from the comedian, and an episode of “30 Rock” in which his character, Tracy Jordan, stirs up a similar controversy.
Now, with Morgan’s seven-season job having ended when the NBC sitcom wrapped just before Christmas, he’s turning his attention back to live comedy. “30 Rock” isn’t due to air its final episode until Jan. 31, but Morgan is already having fun with stand-up, coming to the Wilbur for two shows Jan. 19 and planning to embark on his 50-city “Pardon My French” tour in March. That title is a nod to what he calls the “blue” material in his shows. “I’m apologizing before you even buy your ticket,” he says. “You know what you’re getting into.”
We got caught in the freight train’s path last week, speaking with Morgan by phone about his post-“30 Rock” future, his blunt approach to stand-up, and his love for his audience.
Q. How do you feel about “30 Rock” ending?
A. Everything ends. Even life. It had its run, we did well, and we’re satisfied with that. It’s sad that you’re not going to see the grip and the cast members and the film guys and the cameramen. That’s the sad part, because these people have been in your life for seven years. But overall, we did seven years of great television, and you feel fine and accomplished on that.
Q. Can you say anything about what happens with Tracy Jordan?
A. What do you mean what happens to Tracy Jordan? I’m Tracy Morgan. The show is over.
Q. I mean, on the show, what finally happens with him?
A. Oh, no. I’m not going to tell you that. Why would I do that? You’re a reporter. You want NBC to come after me? No, that’s a question for the writers and that’s a question for Tina Fey. Mum’s the word with me.
Q. I read that every time there was a delay on the show, you sang songs from “Thriller” for the cast.
A. I sing all the time! My dad was a singer, so that’s what I do. We’re sitting around waiting for them to change the film, I sing. It’s an awesome thing. I love to sing. I sing in my home, I sing in my car. I sing.
Q. Was it always “Thriller?”
A. No, it wasn’t always “Thriller.” It was an abundance of songs. Some Top 40. One day I might feel like singing the Doobie Brothers. It was all that. Then everybody would start singing. It was great. There was always music on the set. It was like growing up in my home. There was always music in my home. There was a radio in every room. Even the bathroom, growing up.
Q. Is that something that you’d pursue professionally?
A. No. I’m an actor and a comedian. I’ll leave the singing and the song-making up to the singers. I just like to sing. It’s a hobby.
Q. What did you think of Alec Baldwin’s impression of you on the show?
A. What did I think of Alec Baldwin’s impression of me? What did you think of it? I’m interested to know what did you think of it. Be honest with it. What did you think of it?
Q. It seemed to capture your cadence pretty well. He’s a pretty good mimic.
A. Say again?
Q. It seemed to capture your cadence pretty well. He’s a pretty good mimic.
A. Well, there you go. There you go. I thought it was funny.
Q. What did you think of the way the show would address things that happened in your own life?
A. My life is public. I live my life publicly. And I guess some of the writers grab stuff out of the headlines. It worked. I don’t feel negatively about it. I just thought it was in the spirit of comedy. I guess they made fun of it. If you don’t laugh you’re gonna cry. So we laughed about it.
Q. Do you have any plans for what you’ll do now that the show is over?
A. No. I’m just spending time with my family now. Spending time with my family and hanging out. That’s all. Having fun in life. I leave all my future plans in God’s hands. And the studios’ hands. I’m here. My funny hasn’t gone anywhere. I’m not confirmed with anything. I’m still enjoying what we did [in] the seventh season. The show just ended two weeks ago. Do I have to worry about the future now? Right this minute? No. I’m hanging out for a little while. I’m quite sure Tina Fey’s not worried about the future. I’m quite sure Alec Baldwin’s not worrying about the future. So why should I? I’m chilling out. Seven seasons is a long time, bro! It sounds good to hear my voice again.
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. Well, on the show, that’s Tracy Jordan’s voice you’re hearing. I’m getting back in touch with Tracy Morgan’s voice.
Q. How big a part of that is stand-up?
A. Stand-up is where it’s at. It’s my voice. There’s no writers for that. It’s all me.
Q. Are you going to get to spend more time on the road now?
A. I hope! Absolutely! Why not? I want to do movies. I want to do Broadway. I want to be in a musical. I want to do a lot of things. I don’t know the place, I don’t know the path I’m going to take after “30 Rock.” We’ll get there. We’ll sit down, me and my agent and everybody, and we’ll discuss it. Right now I’m just hanging out and doing stand-up. Being funny. That’s what I want to do right now.
Q. What might you want to do as a musical?
A. Who knows, man. I have no idea. “Carwash: The Musical.” Something with Sandy Duncan. I don’t know.
Q. Is that something you’ve always wanted to do?
A. No. C’mon, man. You just asked me the question. No. I’m doing everything that I wanted to do in life. And you’re seeing it unfold right before your eyes.
Q. Do you feel you have to push an audience a bit to see what they’ll take, and what their [boundary] lines are?
A. No. I just do me onstage. I’m not going to push my audience. I’m there to make them laugh. I’m gonna lose a few people ’cause I’m from the ghetto. I’m gonna. I’m not politically correct. I’m a [expletive] hood. Of course, I’m gonna lose some people. That has nothing to do with me. That’s no reflection on my sense of humor. Some people ain’t gonna get where you’re coming from. Everybody don’t like to eat Rice Chex. Some people like Cap’n Crunch.
Q. Is stand-up your main interest?
A. Right now it is. I’m having fun with it again. I’m getting back to it full-time for a little while, and then I’ll make a movie.
Q. What is it that stand-up offers you that anything else wouldn’t?
A. Freedom. Justice.
Q. What do you mean by “justice”?
A. Justice. In show business, stand-up is the only place where there’s justice.
Q. Are you talking about the relationship, [where] you’ve got that immediate feedback?
A. That and you can say how you feel, what you’re thinking. You can touch people. Change people’s minds on things. Justice, man.
Q. Is that what originally drew you to stand-up?
A. Yeah, man. I love the freedom. I like being able to say the word [expletive] onstage. Personally, I think PC is killing comedy. Let’s be real. Comedy is about honesty. I’m not PC, man. Don’t have a political bone in my body. I just tell it like it is. I tell it like I see it.
Q. Where do you see the political correctness coming out?
A. Everywhere, man. Every genre. Everywhere. People look at you crazy when you say the word [expletive] or you tell the truth. I like to get onstage and be really honest and truthful with my audience. I’m not concerned with the rest of the world. I’m concerned with the people that paid that money to come see me. Those are the cats that are diggin’ me, and I love them. If you’re diggin’ where I’m coming from, then I love you. People still coming to see me after all the drama I been through? I thank my audience. I will give them everything I got.
Q. Would you want a TV show of your own again?
A. Sure. Why not? Absolutely. I would like it at NBC, and I would like Lorne Michaels involved.Interview has been condensed and edited. Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.