Those of us who weren’t at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium over the weekend missed 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan’s “homophobic rant” during a stand-up set, where he said, among other things, that he’d stab his son to death if he were gay. A full account of Morgan’s speech was posted to an audience member’s Facebook account, and man, it is dark. To make matters worse for Morgan, this was the Facebooker’s impression: “The sad thing is that none of this rant was a joke. His entire demeanor changed during that portion of the night. He was truly filled with some hate towards us.” Will repercussions go beyond this news cycle?
Morgan has since issued an apology, and it goes a little something like this.
“I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville. I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others. While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.”
Okay, so Morgan did what he had to do by saying sorry, but now the question is: what’s the long-term fallout? Already, GLAAD has issued their requisite statement, saying, “We call on him to remove these violently anti-gay remarks from his show and send a strong message that anti-gay violence is not something to joke about.”
We can’t help but be reminded of the tragic tale of Michael Richards (Kramer on Seinfeld), whose own racist rant in a comedy club in 2006 effectively ended his brilliant career (that, and Seinfeld calling it quits). Not even a public mea culpa on Letterman and a guest stint on Curb Your Enthusiasm spoofing the whole thing could save him. Richards has vanished from the public eye, the negative impressions of him to strong to reverse.
Obviously, Morgan won’t suffer the same fate. He has a far raunchier persona than Richards, and risque homophobic material isn’t far from his character on 30 Rock‘s wheelhouse. Tracy Jordan is a provocative clown, and so is Tracy Morgan. No one is under the illusion that Tracy Morgan is a politically correct personality, and his brazenness transcends his act. Anyone who’s listened to one of his many appearances on The Howard Stern Show knows just how shocking Jordan can get. And it’s not shtick. That’s who he is. This is the same guy who called Sarah Palin “good masturbation material” on national TV during a basketball game. While he was sober. The Nashville incident nicked a nerve because it was spewed in a climate increasingly, and rightfully, more sensitive to gay bashing. And because it wasn’t funny.
The only real threat to Morgan’s standing in the showbiz community is his boss and professed “girl” Tina Fey. As Entertainment Weekly points out, Fey is “a well known LGBT advocate.” Hmm, tricky. Her reps have yet to comment on the situation, and probably never will, although Fey might at some point face questions about continuing to work with someone who has expressed the views Morgan has, apology or not. Whether Morgan believes what he said — and maybe he does — is irrelevant. For now, Morgan’s career as a popular TV star is safe, for as long as Tina Fey says it is.