Tracy Morgan didn't have much to laugh about growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y.'s Bed-Stuy projects. His father died from AIDS and some of his friends became junkies, but Morgan found his way out through humor.
"Where I'm from, I've seen everything," he says. "It was so painful then. This [comedy] is not therapy for me. It's fun for me. If I want therapy, I'll go back to my old neighborhood."
The 44-year-old former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star brings his Excuse My French stand-up tour to the Ohio Theatre June 8. His comedy is not for the faint of heart.
"I talk about sex five minutes into my act," Morgan says. "Poor people use sex as a sedative. If I'm promiscuous on stage, that's where I come from. If you don't like it, get your ass up and leave."
During his years at Saturday Night Live, Morgan impersonated a wide range of celebrities, including Maya Angelou and Mike Tyson, and created memorable characters such as Dominican Lou and Astronaut Jones. He went on to receive an Emmy nomination in 2009 for his supporting role as 30 Rock's Tracy Jordan — an arrogant, air-headed star of a sketch comedy show.
"Stand-up is the foundation of my career," he says. "30 Rock was an awesome collaboration, but I am not Tracy Jordan."
Morgan, who is diabetic, has endured a kidney transplant, divorce and is several years sober, so his stand-up show is infused with real-life grit, much like the way Richard Pryor discussed sex and drugs.
"He was the messiah, he was an influence on everybody," Morgan says. "You can't hold a comedian to the same standard as other people. Political correctness has no place in comedy. That's what Archie Bunker was about, that's what George Jefferson was about."