At this point, Tracy Morgan needs no introduction to readers of this site. His stints on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock have made him one of America’s more recognizable and adored comedians. This Sunday night at 10pm EST, Morgan’s latest standup special, Bona Fide, will air on Comedy Central. It was taped in Morgan’s hometown of Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater. As Comedy Central’s press release on the special notes, Morgan “delivers a hilarious, personal and compelling hour that includes everything from growing up in the projects and surviving a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving to the time Prince threw him out of his house following an all-night party.”
We recently spoke to Tracy by phone to talk about the special, his life, his career and what song is his favorite to make love to, among other things.
UPROXX: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be a comedian or a performer?
Tracy: When I saw Martin Lawrence host Def Comedy Jam. That was a real source of inspiration, besides my dad — my father did comedy and he was a really funny person. I didn’t particularly really want to do stand-up until I saw Def Jam, but I always wanted to be funny like my dad. He had an incredible laugh and an awesome sense of humor.
UPROXX: Your dad was obviously a big influence on you, were there other comedians who you followed growing up who influenced you in some way?
Tracy: My uncles were very funny. All my uncles were funny. I come from a very funny family. But then when I got older I got introduced to the works of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence and George Carlin. And Bill Cosby — I can’t forget Bill Cosby. But also I’m the biggest Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball fan, ever. So seeing all of these people talking about the things they were talking about and being funny at the same time, it just really inspired me to try to go for it. Growing up in high school, I was always a funny guy and people were asking me to be funny, so here I am.
UPROXX: You mentioned Jackie Gleason and Lucille Ball as being influences on you — did you watch a lot of Honeymooners and I Love Lucy reruns growing up?
Tracy: A lot of them. I grew up on those shows. All of that stuff inspired me, man.
UPROXX: Recently you were openly campaigning to be Letterman’s replacement.
Tracy: Yeah, that didn’t go so well. I didn’t get the gig, man. That would have been fun, it would have been interesting, to shake up late night a bit. I’ve never really watched (Stephen Colbert’s) show but it’ll be interesting to see what he does with (the Late Show).
UPROXX: You said you never really watched Colbert’s show, what TV shows do you watch these days?
Tracy: Right now I’m in to watching a lot of sports. There’s a lot of sporting activity going on right now, so I’m mainly into watching that.
UPROXX: Any newer comedians out there right now whose work you admire, any up-and-coming guys who you really like?
Tracy: I’m more about the classics, man. I’m all about the old-timers. I’m not really following a lot of the new people. Right now, I’m into me right now. I’m doing me right now. I’m like Muhammed Ali a little bit right now, I’m trying to be one of the greatest myself.
UPROXX: Well you’ve obviously got the stand-up special airing on Comedy Central on April 20th at 10pm EST, but you also voiced a character in an animated film that’s currently in theaters, Rio 2. That must be a real treat for someone like you who has a small child.
Tracy: That movie was dedicated to my daughter, who’s 9 months old. She gets to see daddy in it at that point of his life and career. So it’s fun for her. She loved all the colors and she loved the music and daddy’s in it, so she loved it.
UPROXX: How do you like doing voiceover work? You strike me as someone who thrives feeding off of other actors and with voiceover work you’re isolated in a sound booth for hours on end. Is that a challenge for you?
Tracy: It’s definitely a challenge. You’re not getting any energy coming back to you, so you have to use your imagination. So I got to use my imagination. When I was young and first starting out in show business and in comedy, a lot of my material was based on my imagination. As I matured and got older, a lot of it became based on my observations, things that I see every day. So a lot of my standup now is more mature. It’s much more informed. It’s based more on my experiences and my life.
UPROXX: Why should America tune in to watch Bona Fide on April 20th on Comedy Central?
Tracy: To laugh. I feel great about Bona Fide because I touched every aspect of stand-up comedy. The jokes. The stories. The characters. And on top of it, the funny.
UPROXX: I want to ask you a couple of random questions. First one: what would you cook for President Obama if he were coming to your house for dinner tonight?
Tracy: Some hot dogs and tater tots. A public school lunch. Chocolate milk, hot dogs and tater tots.
UPROXX: What’s your favorite song to make love to?
Tracy: Luther Vandross’s A House Is Not A Home. I make babies with that one.
UPROXX: What’s your favorite restaurant in the world?
Tracy: Benihana’s. Benihana’s, baby. (ED. NOTE: Tracy’s love for the Benihana’s on 56th street in Manhattan is actually somewhat legendary.)
UPROXX: What’s your ultimate goal? What’s Tracy Morgan’s end game? When you’re an old man looking back on your career, what are you hoping to have accomplished?
Tracy: Just to tell my story. As far as my legacy goes, when I die I want my tombstone to say, “Here lies a funny motherf*cker.”
Here’s an animated preview clip of the special that again airs this Sunday night, April 20th, at 10pm EST on Comedy Central.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for space.)