For his 2014 Comedy Central stand-up special, Bona Fide, Tracy Morgan took the stage at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn with a mic stand and an all-black, upholstered chair. His movements were quick, his reactions quicker, and his speech timed much in the same way 30 Rock and SNL fans have come to know and love. On Sunday, the stage at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre, where Morgan held three shows for his new Picking Up the Pieces tour, looked a lot like Bona Fide. A mic stand and another upholstered chair, albeit a white one, occupied center stage with a black stool. Yet when Morgan came out to a standing ovation, the chair and the stand’s true functions became apparent.
The 47-year-old comedian needed somewhere to sit for most of his hour-long set, and whenever he stood to emphasize a joke or a gesture, he could lean his weight on the stool. Sixteen months after a car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike left comedian James “Uncle Jimmy Mack” McNair dead and Morgan in critical condition, Morgan returned to the stage for the first and second times at New York’s Comedy Cellar and The Stand comedy clubs last October. Soon after, he announced the Picking Up the Pieces tour, which would begin in New Jersey in February and eventually spread across the country with additional dates and locations. By the time Morgan reached Boston the third weekend of February, where I caught up with him, the SNL alum had already performed several shows in Atlantic City, North Carolina and, Vermont. With more performances currently scheduled through May 28, Morgan and his openers will be keeping busy.
As any working comic will admit, new material takes a great deal of time and practice to craft what (they hope) will become a perfect tour. Morgan must contend with this aspect of the routine like anyone else, yet he also has other obstacles to overcome as his recovery remains an ongoing process. Aside from numerous rounds of rehabilitation for severe physical trauma, he’s also seen dramatic improvements after suffering a debilitating brain injury. Morgan was also in a coma for quite some time after the June 2014 accident, and his doctors initially didn’t think he’d ever perform again as a result. Yet just over a year and a half after the incident, there he was — making everyone in the 1,200-capacity venue laugh for the third show in a row.