Tracy Morgan has become an outrageous dynamo on 30 Rock but where did he get the character of Tracy Jordan? He worked it out over the course of seven seasons on Saturday Night Live.
Perfecting the ability to go from clueless man-child to streetwise hustler, he could also mix it up as a clueless hustler and a streetwise man-child. He didn’t mind playing large in order to avoid being the cast member that fades out during a season. Saturday Night Live: The Best of Tracy Morgan brings together his finer moments before he took his routines to primetime.
Brian Fellow (Tracy) hosts the Safari Planet animal show. The elementary school dropout has no clue about animals, but still loves them. He can’t even recognize the simplest of creatures. Whenever he gets stuck in a conversation with a zoo curator, he repeats, “I’m Brian Fellow.” The first sketch has a parrot says, “I’m Brian Fellow.” This drives the host nuts that the parrot will steal his identity and career. The second visit with Fellow brings us a trash talking porcupine. “Uncle Jermima’s Mash Liquor” lets Tracy play a version of Uncle Remus complete with animated birds chirping around him. He’s smashed as he explains why he knows booze. “Astronaut Jones” is a more about set up than delivery. Two thirds of the sketch is Tracy singing the peppy theme song. Each week he meets a female alien life form and asks her for a sexual favor. The theme song returns with end credits. The first has him encountering a Britney Spears alien, before her meltdown. The second installment recruits Nelly and original SNL Not Ready for Primetime Player Garrett Morris. They want to make a close encounter with the late Brittany Murphy.
“Homeless Sewer Guy” was never a favorite of mine. Each week he lures a star into his underground world to blather about his unwritten script while talking on a cellphone that isn’t. This one has Kate Hudson as his target. It just doesn’t work. “Chat With Rachel and Tracy” is a faux talk show featuring Rachel Dratch. The two are like an anti-morning show as Tracy nearly ignores what Rachel says. The interview with Jon Stewart gets good when Tracy points out how his co-hostess wants to get pregnant by The Daily Show host. There’s quite a few “Weekend Update” segments. The best is Dominican Lou wanting to sell his “Sammy Sosa” baseball for a million bucks. “King Kong: The Director’s Cut” ought to be a new bonus feature on the upcoming Blu-ray.
For pure physical humor, the highlight is Tracy as Shaq’s dad. The massive NBA star has to go over Tracy’s knee for a spanking. The ultimate moment of the set is when Tracy rags on Chris Gaines to country superstar Garth Brooks. He thinks Gaines is a talentless sex freak leeching off his connection to Brooks.
In reality this was a “persona” project done by Brooks at his height of fame. Tracy pretty much tells Brooks what a majority of his fans thought of the stupidity known as Gaines. While this whole diss was scripted, Tracy makes it seem like pure improv.
This is the talent that allowed him to become Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock. Saturday Night Live: The Best of Tracy Morgan is a fine primer for fans of his primetime work that never stayed up past 11:30pm Eastern on the weekends.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are from recent video so there’s no glitches. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. The mix is good for a live show. The show is Closed Captioned.
Audition (7:21) is a painfully bad tryout. The producers must have seen him somewhere else since this wouldn’t have passed the muster on Last Comic Standing.
Dress Sketch (5:21) is a bit sliced in the run through. Queen Latifah throws his stuff out of the apartment window after catching him with her mother. It’s all about MC Hammer and other cheesy ‘90s rappers.
Outtakes (3:03) are various bloopers.
TV Appearances (14:01) are two visits to Conan O’Brien’s old show. He revives a few bits from his audition. They don’t improve with age.
Photo gallery (1:08) is a montage of stills from the show.
More Sketches includes bits from his hosting time in 2009 including the monologue and “Scared Straight” with Kenan Thompson. “An Easter Song” is a reworking of “I Wish it was Christmas Today” with Horatio Sanz, Chris Kattan, and Jimmy Fallon. Weekend Update bits include “Skull Island” when Tracy and Thompson deflate the myths about their homeland from the Peter Jackson film. “Bitch is the New Black” and “Black is the New Bitch” are editorials from Tina Fey and Tracy.
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Tracy Morgan expands upon the previous release with the bonus sketches. Over the course of his seven seasons on SNL, he was able to improve over his painful audition tape. Fans of 30 Rock should enjoy seeing how he developed his man-child persona.
Lionsgate presents Saturday Night Live: The Best of Tracy Morgan. Starring: Tracy Morgan, Matt Damon, The Rock and Tina Fey. Running Time: 128 minutes. Released on DVD: July 13, 2010.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.
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