In hindsight, I suppose I understand why Tracy Morgan would be pissed off by a question about audiences and bloggers complaining that his recent set is too raunchy. An entire set being characterized by one segment -- even if it is the opening bit -- would grate on anyone who has a lot more than one topic to talk about.
"I don't just get on stage and talk about giving head," Morgan, who's in Dallas this weekend, told me over the phone the other day. "There's a lot of material, but people like to focus on one thing. I don't see what's wrong with talking about sex. Everybody I've known and watched, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, everyone talked about sex. But now we live in P.C., and that is killing comedy. ... Who doesn't like sex? So I want to talk about it for five minutes in my act. Where do you think we came from? Imagine if we never talked about it."
I asked what he wants audiences to take away from his set, if he doesn't want it characterized as nothing but raunch.
"Focus on the funny," he said. "Talk about the funny. I don't care about topics or material. Things are happening every day. Things are happening every day. I'm an artist. You can't pinpoint me. Focusing on the topic is like focusing on a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't focus on the finger or you're going to miss all the heavenly glory. If you pay your money to laugh, no matter what I talk about, you should have a good time."
I suppose I get why he got so short when talking about 30 Rock, too. People tend to conflate Morgan with his character, Tracy Jordan, which has to be insulting. Rather than being credited for bringing to life someone else's fictional creation and making him a hilarious, endearing eccentric, viewers and critics seem to think Morgan was simply playing a perhaps slightly exaggerated version of himself. The show's success brought him new fans expecting his stand-up to be an extension of his scripted TV-14 clowning, so you can see why he might grow tired of talking about it, just as some particularly precious rock bands grow sick of playing the one hit single that casual fans want to hear.
"Some people find it difficult when I talk about where I come from on stage now," he said. "It's only controversial because you think I'm Tracy Jordan and they don't know where I come from. They see these characters like Brian Fellow and all that. With stand-up, I get to be me."
The assumption that he's just as stupid as that character is because he is black, he said: "I'm a wise man who plays the role of the fool. But the fool can't play a wise man because he's a fucking fool."
People don't ask Tina Fey what's the difference between her and her character Liz Lemon, he said. When I did just that, perhaps my most obnoxious and boring query as an interviewer ever, he batted the question away and I don't blame him: "I'm not around her much like that to know her personality like that. Me and Tina Fey have our own friends. We did a TV show together and that was it."
What I can't say I undertand is what Morgan said next. I asked him about a story told by Jay Mohr (which Mohr took, with permission, from Bert Kreischer) about their sharing a PCP-laced joint and getting thrown out of a club. Not only was that false, Morgan insisted, but my asking about it was the first he'd heard of the tale.
"That's a lie," he said. "The last fight I ever been in was in the 11th grade. You asked me about something I don't even know. I've never heard this story before."
And then he adds for emphasis, "I never flipped a table over in New York or nothing like that."
Thing is, I never said the story took place in New York. I did say it took place after Morgan was on SNL, which he could have took to mean took place after an appearance on the show rather than after his stint on the show was over. So it could have been a misunderstanding of my question, or it could have been the kind of slip-up a suspect makes on an especially hacky detective show.
But Morgan didn't seem phased at all by the notion of fellow comics telling such an outlandish lie about him: "Maybe that's just a story he's telling. Does that make it true?"
Which I can't help but admire. Just as Tracy Morgan doesn't want the P.C. sensitivity police telling him what he can say on stage, he's not going to tell other comics they can't go on stage with stories about him.
Tracy Morgan performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at House of Blues. Tickets ($35 plus fees) are available through Live Nation.