Let me preface this by saying there exist very few people who love Tracy Morgan in the way that I do. Since watching SNL in my friendless formative years, I grew to love his ridiculousness and at times almost absurdist behavior that translated so perfectly to my hero Tina Fey’s indelible “30 Rock” (who by the by, set him quite straight. No pun intended.).
However, Tracy Morgan’s recent tirade portraying a hypothetical situation involving stabbing his son should he come out of the closet was a very low (and immensely unnecessary) blow. He’s backtracked and attempted to make amends, but the question remains: Is it the language or the vessel from which it spews forth that offends and invites criticism, and to what specific point does it have the potential to incite violence? There is no doubt in my mind that those words were coming from a violent place against the LGBTQ community and as both a proud member of the family and a huge fan of his, I am extremely disappointed.
However, Morgan is first and foremost a comedian. He is no politician nor scholar nor does he hold a position powerful enough to really do much harm. Despite his public exposure and potential influence on those who are less than educated or younger, his job is to bring in the laughs. It can be argued that the most harm he’s done is to himself.
On the other hand, we’re living in a world where more people get their news from John Stewart than Brian Williams. That may be because cable news outlets like CNN have traded in gimmicks for journalism. We are not a very self-aware culture or politically versed. We live in a culture so polarized by the Internet and other people’s personal lives that people who are more limited than others will agree, to a literal extent, with statements like Morgan’s. Not everyone understands comedy nor what a joke is.
There have been many in Hollyweird who have responded, including Wanda Sykes (who did double time by condemning a CNN commentator’s defense of Morgan), Cheyenne Jackson (Morgan’s co-star who also happens to be gay), and Chris Rock (who awkwardly agrees and disagrees with him at the same time). However, my favorite response comes from comedian and paisano Louis C.K. who said it best: “Tracy Morgan said something wrong, evil, cruel, ignorant, and hilarious. He was on a comedy stage, not a pulpit.”
Even if it was all in good (albeit morbid) fun, and he isn’t as he said “a hateful person,” that means he was pandering to a crowd he deemed ignorant enough to get it. Of course, you must perform for the audience present, but to sell not only yourself but a whole group of humanity down the river takes enormous, reckless balls. This doesn’t change my fandom of him or “30 Rock,” but it definitely has given me the motivation to not let just anyone acquire cheap laughs at my dignified expense. It definitely reminds me that in the eyes of many, I don’t even cut it as a person, and that’s gay.