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Jul 3, 2018 2:11 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Interview: Tracy Morgan Returns To Westhampton Beach PAC On July 7

Jul 3, 2018 2:11 PM

It was four years ago that “Saturday Night Live” alumnus and “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan was involved in a six-vehicle crash that nearly took his life.

His recovery was arduous, but he has already accomplished so much in the time since the accident.

He hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2015, toured the country with his stand-up act, released a new hour comedy special on Netflix in 2017 titled “Staying Alive,” and earlier this year he debuted “The Last O.G.,” a TBS comedy in which he stars as a former inmate returning to a changed Brooklyn. In between filming seasons of the lauded show, he’s touring again, including a visit to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center this Saturday, July 7.

Last month, for “CBS This Morning,” Mr. Morgan wrote a letter to his 6-year-old self.

“They asked me to do it and I said I would love to do it,” Mr. Morgan said speaking last week from his home in New Jersey. “They let me know who did it before—I seen one with Oprah—and I said I was honored to do it. And then I just reflected on my life and my career, so I wrote about it, to myself.”

In the letter, which he also read to the camera, Mr. Morgan gets very personal and revelatory. He talks about his anger after his father—a Vietnam veteran who came back from the war addicted to heroin—left his family, including his mother and four siblings. He praises his older brother Jimmy, writing, “I know he’s handicapped and can’t fight all the bullies in the neighborhood when they pick on you, but he’s going to protect you in other ways.” He recalls being drawn to old films like “The Maltese Falcon” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” when he was very young. And he talks about how his first wife gave him the encouragement “to get on stage and be funny.”

He warns of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, saying they will cost him a marriage but not his life.

“Nothing’s gonna stop you, not even a Walmart truck,” he wrote. “You may not know it now, but you’re strong, man. You’re strong. You’ll have a lot of things going for you. Second chance at love and life.”

Speaking to The Press, he said that even before the accident his stand-up has always been deeply personal.

“My stand-up is based on the truth of my life—tell the stories of my experience, and I inject my sense of humor into ’em. It’s always been like that. If you look at my stand-up from the beginning, that’s just my life—autobiographical. I’m not really a fiction dude. I’m more of a factual dude. As long as I tell the truth, I don’t got to defend it.”

The audience should not expect a show of behind-the-scenes stories from “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live.” He said he steers clear of work stuff. “Because Tracy Morgan is more interesting. My stand-up is me, personal. You get to find out who Tracy Morgan is.”

He shares his opinions and reflections on life and things that are going on in the world, he said. But he doesn’t get into politics.

“Well, I’m not political. I’m down with the king—I’ve never voted in my life. I don’t believe in politics. I’m down with the king. Does that shock you?”

He said that no one tries to convince him to vote.

“No, I tell them mind their f---ing business,” he said. “Worry about me? I’m down with God. That’s it.”

Mr. Morgan said he gives audiences what he’s been giving them for the last 27 years. Even the accident that nearly killed him hasn’t changed that.

“All the accident did was bring me closer to God,” he said.

It was after he was released from the hospital that he became hooked on the Comedy Central series “Key & Peele,” co-created by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.

Now, Mr. Peele—the breakout writer and director of “Get Out”—is also the co-creator of “The Last O.G.”

Would “The Last O.G.” be happening if the accident never happened? Mr. Morgan said he couldn’t speculate.

“I can’t answer that. That’s a destiny thing,” he said. “I don’t know what would happen. I just know what happened, happened. … I don’t know. No one, knows. I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m just glad it’s happening. I’ve been thinking about it for years, and now it’s here.”

Though his character, Tray, is an ex-con trying to integrate back into society, Mr. Morgan said the show is about much more than that.

“I have family members that’s locked up and incarcerated. That’s a part of my community,” he said.

But the show is made for everyone.

“It’s not just inmates. It’s just people struggling in life. The show is not based on just jail,” he said. “The show’s based on people who are having a hard time in life. It’s about second chances. It’s about forgiveness. That has nothing to do with just being black or incarceration. It has something to do with life.”

Mr. Morgan said that he does believe in punishment for people who commit terrible crimes, but he also believes in forgiveness. “That’s all a part of the healing process.”

Tray was released on good behavior after serving 15 years for dealing drugs.

“He was a hustler, but we forget he’s out there hustling for him and [his girlfriend] Shay. He’s just trying to make things better for him and his girl. He didn’t know she was pregnant, but that’s how great the show is. People are talking about it in beauty salons and barber shops all over the world—people love ‘The Last O.G.’ because people can identify and relate with the struggle.”

Now that he is out of prison and in a halfway house, Tray is confronted by gentrification in his old Brooklyn neighborhood.

“You got to understand, I was raised in Brooklyn—born and raised, Brooklyn and Harlem—and all of that,” he said, explaining that he witnesses gentrification himself in his old neighborhoods. “Things are different now. The only thing about that, that I don’t like, is the displacement of others. … You got to figure that part out, man. You can’t just throw people out on the streets.”

The series debuted at the end of March and was quickly picked up for a second season. He said that fans can expect to see more of what they enjoyed during the first season.

“We just want to do great TV,” he said.

Mr. Morgan has performed at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in the past, both before and after his accident.

“It was fun and the people there were great,” he said. “The people there were loving, warm and laughing. We had a good time there and I can’t wait to come back. I look forward to being in front of the people in the Hamptons because they laugh at the same things that we laugh at. They’re all human beings, all human beings. And as long as I’m doing stuff that you can relate with, it’s going to be funny. Human stuff. It’s gonna be awesome.”

Tracy Morgan will appear at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $165, $145 and $125. Call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.

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