Reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant & the backlash that followed

Tracy Morgan

A ridiculous person who should not be taken seriously.

Today the internet has been on fire with reactions to Tracy Morgan’s performance a week ago at the Ryman in Nashville. Kevin Rogers attended the show and very quickly wrote up a note on Facebook: WHY I NO LONGER “LIKE” Tracy Morgan – A MUST READ.

First, let me say that I don’t agree with Tracy’s homophobic comments at all.. but I’ll defend his right to say whatever he wants to say during a theatrical performance. He is known for saying completely outrageous things.. and for walking audiences. For me, half the fun of going to see Tracy Morgan perform is watching people who don’t know what they’re getting into react.. and I had a ball.

NashvilleStandUp.com gave away dozens of tickets to see Tracy Morgan at the Ryman.. but we made a big deal out of making sure people knew what they were getting into BEFORE we gave them tickets. We posted video clips of his NSFW stand-up online and wrote up a warning:

As crazy as Tracy has acted on television, his stand-up comedy is entirely different. When he was scheduled to perform in Denver, The Comedy Works pre-emptively emailed all ticket holders warning them that the performance would be extremely filthy, “We especially want to make sure you are aware that Tracy’s show is very, very dirty. His stand up show is not what you might expect from seeing him on 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live. His show is the most extreme in nature that we can possibly express.” They even offered to refund tickets prices if buyers decided to opt out of the show.

I attended the show with a comedian buddy of mine and a couple ladies.. and we all had a fantastic time. I wasn’t laughing at the gay-bashing stuff, but I don’t remember it being a show-stopper either. I think I saw 2-3 couples leaving the show early at one point or another, but I
didn’t see any kind of mass-exodus. Honestly, homophobia didn’t seem that out-of-context for the show. It’s Tracy Morgan. He’s said crazy stuff about Sarah Palin, about getting people pregnant.. about everything.. he says crazy stuff. That’s what I expect from him. Plus,
homophobia is a fairly common theme in the culture Tracy is a product of. Not all, but a lot of hip hop acts are pretty quick to say, “no homo.” I’m not defending that, I’m just saying it wasn’t totally unexpected.

After the show, a couple local comics were complaining about Tracy’s show online.. saying it was just, “an hour of butt-fuck jokes” – which is not off-base – but I replied to them that if they don’t enjoy that, it’s their fault for going. Nobody shows up for concerts at the Ryman without knowing what kind of music the band plays. People should know better by now. You can’t just show up at a comedy show and expect that the comedians will be what YOU specifically like. You have to research the acts and seek out what appeals to you. It’d be different if this were an open mic and people didn’t like one of the guys in the line-up – because in that case, that performer wasn’t advertised – there’s no way you could have known what you’d be subjected to that night. With a famous comedian at a theater, you just don’t have that excuse.

Some of the criticism of Tracy has been that “his tone changed” and this homophobic rant “wasn’t funny” – well, that’s not prosecutable. I know people think comedians have to be funny all the time, but that’s not true. Humor is subjective. I didn’t laugh at the homophobic stuff, but I didn’t think much about it at all until this controversy popped up. Tracy had bits that were clearly bits, but he also had portions of his act that seemed, to me, to be completely ad-libbed. When comics do that, they’re really taking a risk – just talking, hoping it’ll end up funny. I’m certainly guilty of that myself.

Writing on stage is fairly common. When a comic is comfortable enough to launch into a subject with only a general idea of where the bit should go, it’s not going to be the punchiest, tightest material ever.. but hopefully the comic can get a feel for where the laughs are and go back and rewrite the bit using what worked and losing what didn’t. Was Tracy doing that on June 3rd? Who knows. I’ll bet he wishes it had come across as funnier than it did. Would those homophobic remarks be justified if it was the funniest thing Kevin Rogers ever heard?

I don’t think Tracy should have apologized at all.. I think comedians should be completely unapologetic and let the act speak for itself. Of course, I’m an unemployed, unfamous comic who has spent the last 10 years driving across the country for little money and less glory. Tracy does have a day job – a primetime show on NBC.. and I’m guessing his handlers felt that he should apologize so he doesn’t jeopardize that relationship.

The main point is: everything Tracy Morgan said was within the context of a theatrical performance. Miranda Lambert sings about loading a shotgun and waiting to kill a guy.. does that mean she’s a confessed murderer? No, it’s an act. “Offensive,” “funny,” and “appropriate” are all subjective terms. Tracy has made a living for himself by being outrageous, ridiculous and shocking. When you go to his show, that’s what you should expect.

Tracy’s inappropriateness IS what’s funny to me. Watching people get upset about him being inappropriate is downright hilarious.

Chad Riden is the comedian / nerd / jackass behind NashvilleStandUp.com, ComedyNews.Org, ComedyPodcast.com & other stuff. Widely regarded as America's Favorite Comedian Of All Time. You should buy him a beer some time.

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8 comments on “Reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant & the backlash that followed
  1. Tracy says:

    Oh shut up about “freedom of speech in comedy” and “defend his right to say whatever he wants to say during a theatrical performance”. The act WASN’T funny, it was horribly cruel and fucked up and he’s clearly using comedy as well as your stage to express his true feelings about the LGBTQ community. I’m NO LONGER a fan of Tracy, y’all SHOULD be apologizing for having such a fucked up comedian, and your PR sucks Chad! DON’T defend someone like Tracy Morgan because that just makes y’all look like ignorant and stupid assholes.

  2. Jeff Weedman says:

    Extremely well-written and thought-out response. I have to admit I had a knee-jerk reaction to the posted stories on the homophobic rant, and also must admit I know nothing about his standup act.

  3. Chad Riden says:

    @Tracy you say “The act WASN’T funny” – if it WAS funny, would that justify what he said? If not, why should that be a consideration?

  4. Jeff Weedman says:

    If something homophobic, racist, etc, comes across as funny, then, yes, it does make it more ‘ok’ – precisely because there is exaggeration or irony applied to the joke. South Park and Family Guy get away with it for this reason. Now if a racist or homophobic bit comes across as unfunny – then we might still forgive the offender if it appears that the comedian failed to apply the needed exaggeration or irony. Michael Richards ‘nig*er rant’ was clearly a failure of his talents as a standup – not because he is necessarily racist. Carlin used the ‘n’ word now and again and it worked because his craft was so skillfully applied. I haven’t seen the Tracy Morgan bit, but I strongly suspect that he tried to riff or something and it just didn’t work – he failed as a comedian in that instance. And he might be forgiven for that.

  5. Josh Homer says:

    The Tracy who replied to this clearly knows Morgan’s intent and what he was trying to convey on stage. I mean that’s what your comment implies.

    Chad did not defend Tracy’s remarks, he made a very valid point that people who came to the show should have known what they were in for and Tracy is know for a certain lowbrow humor, and to take everything he says with a grain of salt.

  6. daveyoung says:

    When’s the show?

  7. Chad Riden says:

    so far, I’ve been interviewed by The Tennessean, US Weekly and NewsChannel5. TONIGHT (Tuesday, 6/14) tune in to NC5 (CBS) in Nashville tonight for their 6pm newscast.. they’ll play part of an interview we shot today.

    THEN, I’ll be at Zanies telling jokes / crazy stories about Tracy Morgan during
    my set on the N’Sup Showcase tonight (doors 6:30, show 7:30pm – $5).

    Wednesday, I’ll be on NC5+’s “OpenLine” show debating the issue
    from 7-8pm.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "Reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant & the backlash that followed"
  1. Reaction to Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant & the backlash that followed | NashvilleStandUp.com…

    ..everything Tracy Morgan said was within the context of a theatrical performance. Miranda Lambert sings about loading a shotgun and waiting to kill a guy.. does that mean she’s a confessed murderer……

  2. [...] Chad Riden on Jun.14, 2011, under news, press BOY did Tracy Morgan stir up some controversy on June 3rd at the Ryman.. I’m sure you’ve heard. NashvilleStandUp’s Chad Riden [...]

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