Monday, March 2, 2009

I Love Tracy Morgan. I Mean, Tracy Jordan. (Am I Really Saying This? Thank God For Prime Time TV.)

Okay, let me just say right up front, I am not a prude. I love "30 Rock." I love Tracy Jordan. And I love a live show.

So, with that in mind, my husband, 44, and I bought tickets and went with our neighbors to see Tracy Morgan (aka Tracy Jordan, from "30 Rock") live, at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, last Saturday night.

We are huge "30 Rock" fans in our house. My husband bought me the first two seasons on DVD for my birthday in December and we spent hours and hours over Christmas break watching every episode. Sometimes, we would start at 10 a.m. and watch five episodes straight through. Yes, I felt guilty letting my kids watch three hours of TV in the middle of day, but I am addicted to the show, and was committed to watching every single episode before the New Year began.

Perhaps my kids were just indulging me, but they seemed just as thrilled as I was to watch Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowsi, and Jack McBrayer goof around, fall in love, screw up, pass out, get rejected, feel humiliated, and watch each other's backs as they rehearsed for TGS (The Girly Show.) They do this in a mocking, occasionally shocking, yes-I-have-relatives-but-you-are-my-real-family, kind of way. There's a lovely vibe of love and friendship on that show, and even if the love is just for show for the show, I feel the love anyway. What makes the show even more delicious is that it appears to take place at 30 Rockefeller Center, which is just a block from my old Business Week office. I know the show is filmed at Silver Lake Studios in Long Island city, but when they flash that "30 Rock" sign and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, I fantasize that if I ever go back to weekly business journalism, the cast of TGS will be closeby and I might bump into Tina and Tracy at the Soup Man on 50th Street.

That is unlikely to happen, in fact or in my head, since now I teach writing far from mid-town. Thursday nights I teach at the JCC on 76th Street and Friday mornings I teach up at Columbia. I love teaching: The students are really smart and productive, they actually do their outside reading and are kind to each other in class, and couple of them are working on books that might actually get published. I come home early Friday afternoons exhausted but energized. The beauty of this is I often get home before my kids do, which means I get to turn on the TV and watch Thursday night's episode of "30 Rock" all alone.

Yes, I come home from teaching a class about writing and immediately turn on the TV. It is bliss.

Several hours later, my kids materialize, we have dinner and then we watch "30 Rock" as a family on our bed. It is one of the most pleasant half hours of my week (Occasionally, we go to Temple, but mainly we watch TV on Friday nights. Remember, this blog is called "flawedmom.")

"30 Rock" is PG-13. Sometimes, my kids, who are 12 and 8, hear stuff they shouldn't but generally, the show makes us laugh hysterically. To give it an educational bent, we try to analyze what makes it so funny. What we've concluded is that the characters are constantly surprising us and though they may behave wretchedly (Liz pretending she lost her nonexistent dog to get the "Mad Men" guy to fall in love with her, Jack running over his mother in Florida and waiting a very long time to call an ambulance, Tracy cheating at Halo), they are always lovable.

With that pleasant, family-friendly analysis in mind, I thought about taking my kids to see Tracy Morgan in person. They begged to come, and since the show was just a few blocks from my brother's house, we thought about taking my oldest nephew too. Both my neighbor and my husband told me that was a piss-poor idea, so I spent the better part of the week telling my kids they were just going to have to watch Tracy Jordan on TV, and Daddy and I would watch Tracy Morgan in person without them and tell them all about it when we got home.

The night of the show, my babysitter cancelled. My mother, bless her, was taking my older son and my oldest nephew to see "Avenue Q" in the city that afternoon (I come from a long line of "flawed moms"). Still, she offered to step in as our babysitter that night. Go Mom. And off we went to Montclair.

While the husbands parked the car, my neighbor and I headed into the theater. Except we couldn't find it. Then my neighbor spotted Tracy Morgan emerging with a dazed expression from a trailer.
"Hey Tracy," my neighbor said. "Where's the theater?"
Tracy ignored us.
"Tracy, we love you!" I screamed. I sounded like an idiot, I couldn't help myself. I looked at him with glee. There he was! I went to grab my camera to get a picture of him for my kids.
Tracy continued to ignore us and asked one of his people: "Is it over there?" He was wearing a thick cotton sweater and jeans with white Chinese letters covering his butt. As he walked away from us, we stared at him. This wasn't the happy , friendly guy we knew from TV! He didn't even want to say hello!

We found the theater around the corner. My neighbor bought us a pack of M&M's and a bottle of water, the husbands found us and we settled in. The show opened with Roz, who was really funny. She said she was a former crack-head and prostitute, who went to work as a rehab counselor for other prostitutes, and was now making her living in stand-up. She had just lost 60 pounds and was crass, fresh and hysterical. She complained about thong underwear and men who didn't shower before sex. She performed for an hour, then told us to go pee---there would be a 15 minute intermission before Tracy came on.

At 9:15, Rox came back on stage and introduced Tracy Morgan. They hugged quickly and she disappeared off stage. Tracy was...not what we expected. What I was expecting was...sweet, goofy, shockingly funny, ingratiating, childish, fiendishly clever Tracy Jordan. The one who outsmarts his boss and shames him into not being racist, mugs for the camera, frequents strip bars, is patronized by Grizz and, and gets drugged by unemployed investment bankers slumming as interns on The Girly Show (TGS).

What we got was, Tracy Morgan, who never saw a body part he didn't want to discuss. After a brief mention of how much he liked watching President Obama ascending Air Force One because the President walks just like Tracy's father, Tracy dove into the pleasures and messes of sex. He spent a minute discussing his DUI's, another minute talking about being sober, and maybe one more minute discussing his marriage, which ended after 21 years, but otherwise, the show was X, super-duper, triple X. One of Tracy favorite topics was the fun of making making anal sex oral. (Use your imagination.) He also spent twenty minutes describing how much fun he had doing it with a girl who was crippled and on dialysis. He repeatedly banged the microphone to show how much noise she made.

Glad we didn't bring the kids.

The funniest thing he said was that he couldn't trust women because how could you trust an animal that bleeds for seven days and doesn't die? And there were some funny bits about licking the taste of the night off his lips as he drove home from a date. Still, I did not feel his love---of anything or anyone. I don't mean to heap scorn on porn, but Tracy sounded angry and juvenile, a middle-aged man obsessed with crevices, cracks and bodily fluids.

Couldn't he talk about Michelle Obama? His favorite foods? AA?

I missed Roz. I wondered who wrote his material. There had to be other ways to make doing it this way and that funnier than he was making it sound for the past 75 minutes.

Someone from the audience asked him to do something from "30 Rock."
"You want that?" Tracy said. "Watch NBC."

Next time, I will, in bed, with my kids.

I guess the joke is on me for confusing fact with fiction, and thinking that an actor's alter-ego is actually his ego. I came away from Tracy Morgan's show thinking he's a brilliant actor, because the character of Tracy Jordan barely ressembles the stand-up comic Tracy Morgan. Which is why I will be tuning into "30 Rock" every week, until all those funny actors find something else to do with their time.


  1. WOW. Glad your kids didn't make it to the show. Unfortunately, you had to learn from personal experience what many have had to learn the same way…MANY comedians are tortured souls. I just started doing stand-up 2 years ago…all clean, clever material. In my limited foray into the world of stand-up comedy, I am no longer shocked out how much pain walks up on stage night after night to make everyone else laugh and sometimes share the pain. Blue comedy (explicit language and material) is the norm and seems to trump funny in terms of importance. It takes more courage and creativity to write and work clean.

    I am also a writer. As a writing teacher, you know first hand that the magic begins with what we put on paper. Some have the ability to write and perform well. Some do best bringing others’ words to life. Morgan could have made some bad material choices for that show or could fall into the second category.

    After living in Los Angeles for 14 years, I’ve seen celebrities handle fans with gratitude and others with an attitude. The only thing real on TV is the news and the weather…most of the time. The often disheartening part of how talent pulls us in with dynamic performances as our favorite characters is that, at the end of the day, it is a performance. Talent doesn’t always come with manners…sometimes it shows up all by itself. I’m glad you will continue to watch the show and enjoy what he brings to it. Some would wash their hands of him and the show completely.

    p.s. before I go to see comedy shows, I checkout some of their material online. This gives me the opportunity to decide if I can stomach a whole show and saves me a lot of money!

  2. Hi Jenean,
    Thank you for reading this blog. I would love to read your stand-up material on line. Where can I find it?