Don't go to the Tempe Improv this weekend expecting old Saturday Night Live bits from comedian Tracy Morgan. And if you're offended by anything in Morgan's standup act, don't you dare go home and diss him on the 'Net. "I think those people are cowards that get home and get on the Internet and criticize my show," says an uncharacteristically angry Morgan, taking a break back home in New York after a show in Palm Beach, Florida, where a few audience members reportedly walked out during some of his more sexually explicit material -- then posted their disgust on the forums of what appears to be Morgan's official Web site, www.tracymorgan.net.
"They should have waited 'til after the show to approach me personally," he says, stressing that he has no affiliation with the above-noted site. "Those people don't come talk to me. They don't sit down and have a cocktail with me. They walk out 'cause I'm talking about sex? I guess they ain't having sex!"
Morgan presumes that most of the people who leave are expecting him to reprise some of the memorable characters he created on SNL, where he worked as a cast member from 1996 through 2003. "They don't wanna see my standup," says Morgan. "They wanna see Brian Fellow. They wanna see Astronaut Jones. That's TV! That's not standup! I don't have no costumes here."
While Morgan says the skits he concocted for SNL are what people remember most fondly today, there wasn't always mad love for characters like the dimwitted "Safari Planet" host Fellow or the space-suited, alien-lusting Jones. Critics -- particularly from the black community -- criticized Morgan's characters as celebrating ignorance and buffoonery and proliferating negative stereotypes. "That's the same thing they said about Eddie Murphy when he did Buckwheat and Gumby," says Morgan. "You know the expectation when it comes to black entertainers. We're supposed to be extra-intelligent. We can't just have fun and be silly. Chris Kattan can do a character that just go, 'Baa! Baa!' but nobody says anything about him! John Belushi did a character that just said, 'Cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger!' but he was a genius! C'mon!"
Morgan, who "didn't grow up watching Seinfeld. I grew up watching Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx," says the same kind of honesty he loved in Pryor's comedy was reflected in the way his parents dealt with touchy topics. "My dad never lied to me. And I ain't gonna lie to my audience. When I throw down, I get a little raw. I get a little raunchy. But that's me. Real people do real things."
While Morgan -- a busy TV and film actor who recently turned in unforgettable bit parts as a transvestite jailbird in The Longest Yard and the voice of a Satchel Paige bobblehead in Are We There Yet? -- says he has plans for a solo NBC sitcom, he maintains that his first love is standup. "When I do TV and movies, that's for everybody else," he says. "When I do live standup, that's for me. Me and my real fans."