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During his seven years on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), actor and stand-up comedian Tracy Morgan rose to fame playing several memorable characters, including Astronaut Jones, a retro lounge-singing space traveler infatuated with female aliens, and impersonating Mike Tyson, Star Jones and Busta Rhymes. A fearless comic who was always performing whether or not cameras were rolling, Morgan earned a reputation for outrageous behavior, while problems with alcohol led to a career dip following his departure from "S.N.L." The failure of his own family sitcom, "The Tracy Morgan Show" (NBC, 2003-04), only cast a deeper shadow on his young, promising career. But he continued doing stand-up and was tapped for supporting roles in features like "Head of State" (2003) and "The Little Man" (2005). Thanks to fellow "SNL" castmate Tina Fey who had long recognized his comic brilliance, Morgan rebounded professionally when he landed the role of a lifetime, joining the ensemble cast of her Emmy-winning sitcom, "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ). Morgan shined as Tracy Jordan, the impulsive, demanding star of a late-night sketch comedy show-within-a-show whose dramas often mirrored the actor's offscreen life. The series'...
During his seven years on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), actor and stand-up comedian Tracy Morgan rose to fame playing several memorable characters, including Astronaut Jones, a retro lounge-singing space traveler infatuated with female aliens, and impersonating Mike Tyson, Star Jones and Busta Rhymes. A fearless comic who was always performing whether or not cameras were rolling, Morgan earned a reputation for outrageous behavior, while problems with alcohol led to a career dip following his departure from "S.N.L." The failure of his own family sitcom, "The Tracy Morgan Show" (NBC, 2003-04), only cast a deeper shadow on his young, promising career. But he continued doing stand-up and was tapped for supporting roles in features like "Head of State" (2003) and "The Little Man" (2005). Thanks to fellow "SNL" castmate Tina Fey who had long recognized his comic brilliance, Morgan rebounded professionally when he landed the role of a lifetime, joining the ensemble cast of her Emmy-winning sitcom, "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006- ). Morgan shined as Tracy Jordan, the impulsive, demanding star of a late-night sketch comedy show-within-a-show whose dramas often mirrored the actor's offscreen life. The series' critical success reignited his career, leading to Morgan appearing in big screen comedies and voicing character's in animated films, where audiences continued to love his unpredictable, loose cannon persona.
Morgan was born the second of five children on Nov. 10, 1968, and raised in housing projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx. At six years old, Morgan's father - a musician and Vietnam veteran - left the family, leaving his mother to raise her children, one of whom had cerebral palsy. Morgan developed his sense of humor to cope with the emotional distress and spent his childhood with a chip on his shoulder over his father's abandonment. After graduating De Witt Clinton High School, Morgan was already working in standup. But he also ran into early trouble when he married his high school sweetheart, Sabina, at a young age - by his early twenties, he had three children and was struggling to make ends meet while on welfare. But Morgan's habit of hanging around neighborhood spots and making fun of people finally began to earn him invitations from DJs to entertain at parties, which eventually led to performing at the Uptown Comedy Club in Harlem. In addition to doing standup, Morgan took workshop classes and learned to develop a routine and characters, taking his natural gift to the next level.
Morgan's reputation grew with appearances on "Showtime at the Apollo" (syndicated, 1987- ) and "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" (HBO, 1991-97). While some urban comedians at the time sought to avoid racial caricatures in their material, Morgan unapologetically riffed on real people he knew from inner-city neighborhoods, with crowds loving his manic energy, expletive-riddled language and honest cultural observations. He soon began to receive acting opportunities, first playing a shady street character named Hustle Man on the sitcom "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97), which he followed by appearing as a bartender in the romantic comedy "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate" (1996). That same year, producer Lorne Michaels cast Morgan on "Saturday Night Live," where he spent the next seven years establishing himself as a vibrant and often reckless performer. He created unforgettable characters, like uninformed wildlife enthusiast Brian Fellow ("The rain forest? That sounds wet!"), and lent a twist to a impersonations of Maya Angelou and Bert, the bailiff on "Judge Judy." As one of the show's few minority performers, he began to resent the limited scope of black characters, while the grueling "SNL" production schedule took a toll on him in the form of increased dependence on alcohol.
During his hiatus, Morgan made more film appearances, playing Pumpkin Escobar in Kevin Smith's self-reflexive "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), while appearing in a supporting role in the Chris Rock vehicle "Head of State" (2003). He also continued to perform stand-up comedy and recorded the special "Tracy Morgan: One Mic" (Comedy Central, 2002), in which he shared his experiences with family, career and athletic ambitions that never came to fruition. Meanwhile, he further contributed to the network with episodes of the prank phone call show, "Crank Yankers" (Comedy Central, 2001-04). In 2003, Morgan landed a deal to develop his own show and bid "SNL" goodbye. He and his family relocated to Los Angeles, where Morgan created "The Tracy Morgan Show," a family sitcom loosely based on his own life and experiences in the Bronx. While not exactly "Leave it to Beaver" (CBS, 1957-1963), Morgan did portray himself and television family as being average, though not exactly wholesome people. As the owner of an auto shop, Morgan played Tracy Mitchell, a good husband and father living a mundane life and dreaming of grand ambitions. The show received lukewarm reviews and was cancelled after only a few months due to poor ratings.
It was during this time that Morgan's alcohol problem began taking a toll, which led to bans from several Hollywood nightclubs, several drunk driving arrests and unhinged appearances on live television and radio. But he nonetheless continued to work, returning to stand-up while landing screen roles in the remake of "The Longest Yard" (2005) and "The Little Man" (2005). Morgan's career was on a definitive slide until former "SNL" head writer Tina Fey cast him in her new sitcom, "30 Rock." On the show-within-a-show, Morgan proved a perfect foil to play a television comedy star constantly testing the boundaries of people-pleasing show producer Liz Lemon (Fey). Much of the humor of Morgan's character, Tracy Jordan, stemmed from the culture clash of a rags-to-riches urban celebrity working with a staff of mostly uncomfortable, white liberals. The character's outrageous demands and blissfully inappropriate behavior dovetailed with the actor's eccentric reputation to great effect. In fact, the character's name, his many kids, his alcohol problems, his diabetes, and his unpredictable behavior on live talk shows were all details mined from Morgan's real life.
As a result, "30 Rock" was an enormous critical success for NBC, reviving the flagging careers of both Morgan and his co-star Alec Baldwin with its tailor-made casting and some of the cleverest writing on television. The show won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series two years running, while Morgan earned an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Player in a Comedy Series in 2008. But while Morgan was experiencing a career high, his personal problems continued to multiply. After more drunk driving arrests, he was court-ordered to wear an alcohol monitoring anklet. Then his wife filed for divorce after 22 years in the same year that a female radio DJ in Florida filed a complaint that Morgan had groped her during a studio interview. Despite his problems, the buzz surrounding Morgan's role on "30 Rock" revived interest in the actor. He was tapped to host the "VH1 Hip Hop Honors" in 2007 and 2008, while he returned to theaters to star alongside Ice Cube and Katt Williams in the moderately popular heist comedy "First Sunday" (2008). Morgan next appeared in the spoof "Superhero Movie" (2008), and lent his voice to the animated family films "G-Force" (2009) and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009). Meanwhile, he continued to win acclaim for "30 Rock," earning an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor - the first Academy recognition of his career.
After surviving a serious kidney transplant in late 2010, during which time, he was written off as having gone AWOL from his fictional sketch show on "30 Rock," Morgan returned to the show triumphantly before the season's end in spring 2011. However the revelry was short-lived when in June he took to the stage in Nashville, TN for his usual out-there stand-up, and let fly a seemingly homophobic rant onstage - violent and ugly enough in its imagery that appalled patrons walked out. Among things stated were threatening to stab his son if he ever came out as gay, as well as implying that homosexuality was a choice because "God don't make no mistakes." Fey and NBC brass quickly released statements condemning his behavior, even in the guise of stand-up where there are no rules. For his part, Morgan did not use his comedic license to justify his words; instead begging forgiveness and expressing his support of people to love whomever they wanted to love, saying that because his act was all about being unfiltered, "sometimes I say really stupid sh*t." He went on to meet with bullied gay teens who had been rejected by their parents, as well as return to Nashville to meet with the offended patrons and to apologize publicly.
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