Tracy Morgan has a cold. That's one reason the craziest man in show business—who's known to flash his belly and yell "Somebody gonna get pregnant!" during interviews—was quite calm and reserved when we chatted with him on the phone during his day off from shooting 30 Rock. The Brooklyn-born Saturday Night Live alum had some serious things to say about New York and President Obama, whom he met at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner. In September, Morgan headed to the Apollo Theater to film a freewheeling HBO stand-up special, Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue. True to the title, he definitely works blue, covering topics like public blow jobs and porn preferences. We talked to him about his stint at the legendary Harlem theater and what the Incredible Hulk has to do with white rage.
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
Congrats on meeting the President.
Well, thank you.
His campaign slogan was "Yes we can." What would yours be if you ran for President?
Keep it real. Just "Keep it real." But I think he's going to run again. I hope.
He may have the Oval Office, but you have a comedy special on HBO. So what can you do with stand-up that you can't do on 30 Rock?
Oh, man. It's free-range. When I do my stand-up, that's my personal touch on my show business and on my life. I get to tell my story. That's the thing that I love most. It's totally me. Nobody else is writing it.
What was it like going back to the Apollo?
It was awesome. I mean, that's a very exclusive place. That's a landmark, you know? Michael Jackson, Tammi Terrell, all those people came before me. So there's a sense of history, and I'm a part of it now.
When did you first perform there?
About 18 years ago. I was brand-new, about four months into the game, and I didn't really know [much]. But I did well. Then I went back too soon and my ego got in the way. It didn't go so well. It was a learning process for me.
Was it a slow learning process?
No! I learned right then and there! [Laughs]
You're a native New Yorker. Given the unpredictable economy, do you think the city might change back to the way it was in the '70s?
I don't know about that. I just know this is not the New York I grew up in.
It was more relaxed [back then]. It was good times. Things didn't seem so hard. I mean, I guess it was dangerous—more dangerous in the '80s, with the mob being around and crack being around and all those things. And now it just seems like the soul has gone. Since 9/11, it seems like a police state.
It's not as friendly now that it's safer?
Yeah, people don't speak or anything. It seems like everybody has a lot more fear.
Speaking of people being unfriendly, in Black and Blue you do a bit about white rage. What's this rage all about?
[Laughs] Well, we don't have superheroes that express black rage. But we have the Incredible Hulk....
So white people get all angry and smash stuff up?
Yeah, black people turn their rage inward; white people turn their rage outward. And a lot of times, I don't even think it's a black-and-white issue; I think it's an economic issue. You have poor man's rage and rich man's rage. Rich people don't really have no rage about anything. Poor people got rage, man—got a lot of rage, man. A lot of deprivation and stuff like that.
Would you ever consider making a career move like fellow SNL alum Bill Murray, showing that dramatic side?
Well, I'm not really a character-driven actor. I'm not. I'm more of a realistic type actor. But, I mean, I love to do anything. I love show business period...so there's no one genre I want to do [or] one I want to keep out of.
In your Rushmore, who would be your romantic lead?
'Cause I like J. Lo. [Laughs] I like J. Lo.
Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue premieres Sat 13 at 10pm on HBO.