Comedy superstar and Stern Show favorite Tracy Morgan returned to talk with Howard live in the studio Monday morning. After becoming a household name for his work on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” Morgan is making his way back to TV on his new TBS sitcom “The Last O.G.” which he explained has a dark premise but plenty of comic relief.
Tracy plays an ex-con who returns home after serving 15 years in prison only to find his beloved Brooklyn neighborhood has become drastically gentrified during his time away. He also discovers his ex (played by comedian Tiffany Haddish) is now raising their two kids with her rich white husband.
Executive producing the sitcom is recent Oscar winner Jordan Peele. Tracy said it didn’t take long for Jordan to understand what the show was about due to the two of them having the same “comedic sensibilities.”
“The show is about second chances,” Tracy told Howard.
A second chance at life is something Tracy can relate to following the tragic 2014 traffic accident that nearly killed him and took the life of his friend and fellow comedian James McNair (better known as Jimmy Mack). Following the crash, Tracy told Howard part of his healing process was actually watching Jordan’s Comedy Central series “Key & Peele.”
“The Last O.G.” premieres on Tuesday and while Tracy is confident the show will do well, he warned the cast and crew their work isn’t done yet.
“We ain’t gonna celebrate ‘til the sixth season. I was on ‘30 Rock.’ I know what it is to do seven seasons. I was on ‘SNL.’”
Tracy recalled the life-changing moment of getting his audition for “Saturday Night Live” in the mid-90s after talent manager Barry Katz saw Morgan perform at a Harlem comedy club. When it came time to perform his act in front of a few “SNL” bigwigs, Tracy told Howard he nailed it.
“I approached the stage that night like I approach it now: nothing to fucking lose,” he said. “I went hard. I had three kids and a wife, I went hard.”
Tracy got a callback to come for an additional audition on “SNL's” Studio 8H stage. However, this time he’d be appearing via satellite for NBC execs watching him 3,000 miles away in Burbank, Calif., meaning they could see him but he couldn’t hear or see them.
“Being a New York comedian, we get shook when there’s silence,” Tracy said of the experience. Nevertheless, he nailed that audition, too. But surprisingly, Tracy told Howard he never had to do an impression during any of his “SNL” tryouts.
“I was just funny,” Tracy said. “I always put the funny first.”
That’s not to say Tracy never did an impressions during his seven-year run on “Saturday Night Live” — he appeared in sketches as poet Maya Angelou, boxer Mike Tyson, and talk show host Star Jones. He also briefly portrayed musician Louis Armstrong on “SNL” and it sounds like he might soon be playing Satchmo again, this time on film.
Tracy told Howard he’s currently writing a screenplay about Armstrong's life with him in the lead role. He also plans to fund and film a trailer once the script is complete. “In Hollywood, seeing is believing,” he explained.
As for how he hopes to capture Armstrong’s character, Tracy told Howard, “I’m gonna channel him like Jamie did ‘Ray,’” pointing to Jamie Foxx’s Academy Award-winning performance as Ray Charles.
Like Armstrong at the height of his fame, Tracy told Howard he's been criticized in the black community for being a sellout for working alongside white entertainers or performing for white audiences. But just like Armstrong, Tracy doesn’t let those comments slow him or his career down.
“You can’t give a fuck about that. You gotta live your life,” Tracy said. “I know where the fuck I come from.”
Though Tracy will never forget growing up in the Tompkins housing project in Brooklyn, his lifestyle is very, very different these days. He purchased a 31,000-square-foot house in New Jersey not too long ago that has a bowling alley, several pieces of Michael Jackson memorabilia on display, and perhaps his favorite feature of all, a 30,000-gallon aquarium to house his sharks.
“It’s a million dollar tank,” Tracy told Howard. “I love my motherfucking aquarium. I love marine life.”
Aside from his sharks, Tracy also said he owns an octopus and several box jellyfish capable of stinging a human to death. “I like to hold things that could possibly kill me,” Morgan joked.
As if his house wasn’t impressive enough, Tracy has also acquired quite the car collection including a Bugatti, a Lamborghini, and a $300,000 Range Rover with a refrigerator inside of it. Howard wondered how fast he drives these luxury autos around but Tracy assured him he never takes them out at top speed.
“One car crash is enough in my life,” Tracy said. “I do 30 miles per hour so everybody in the fucking neighborhood can see me.”
Another perk Tracy enjoys is sitting courtside at New York Knicks games, although it seems he spends a good chunk of the games on his feet yelling at players.
“I’m a disgruntled sports fan,” Tracy told Howard with a laugh.
He doesn’t hold back his frustrations as a hardcore fan, no matter who is in front of him. He told Howard he was once in an elevator with Madison Square Garden executive James Dolan and put some pressure on him to figure out how to get the team a title. Morgan also did some player scouting of his own on Twitter once.
“I tweeted directly at LeBron James,” Tracy revealed. “I said, ‘The only way you’re gonna be better than Michael Jordan is if you come to the New York Knicks and win a ring with us. That’s the only way.’”
As much as Tracy is living the good life these days, he told Howard he’s fully aware fame and fortune doesn’t last forever and that his house, his cars, and even his pet sharks can’t come with him when he dies.
“Those things are just things! You can’t take them with you. I’ve never seen a Brink's truck following a hearse,” Tracy told Howard. “As long as I ain’t hurting nobody, man, I just want to bring joy to the world.”
See Tracy Morgan on “The Last O.G.” premiering Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on TBS.