Tracy Morgan’s Homophobic “Jokes” and the Risk of Hiring Actors For Their Eccentricities

My friend Tyler and I have talked a couple of times about how he feels uncomfortable watching 30 Rock because of the extent to which the show relies on Tracy Morgan’s real-world issues for humor. I was reminded of that today when a man named Kevin Rogers reported that at a club show, Morgan went off on an anti-gay tirade:

What I can’t take is when Mr. Morgan took it upon himself to mention about how he feels all this gay shit was crazy and that women are a gift from God and that “Born this Way” is bullshit, gay is a choice, and the reason he knows this is exactly because “God don’t make no mistakes” (referring to God not making someone gay cause that would be a mistake). He said that there is no way a woman could love and have sexual desire for another woman, that’s just a woman pretending because she hates a fucking man. He took time to visit the bullshit of this bullying stuff and informed us that the gays needed to quit being pussies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying. He mentioned that gay was something kids learn from the media and programming, and that bullied kids should just bust some ass and beat those other little fuckers that bully them, not whine about it. He said if his son that was gay he better come home and talk to him like a man and not [he mimicked a gay, high pitched voice] or he would pull out a knife and stab that little N (one word I refuse to use) to death.

It’s worth noting that it’s not like Morgan suddenly revealed new political opinions here. In 2009, he said sexual orientation is a choice in a performance that got him applauded by Spike Lee and Jane Krakowski.

This is the Charlie Sheen problem all over again, right? You can’t hire someone for their crazy*, and then expect to only get the crazy that’s beneficial to you, that’s harmlessly funny, the stuff of “I am a Jedi” skits, the falling asleep on your neighbor’s roof jokes, and an episode based on pretending you own someone else’s boat. Morgan’s latest rant is a very inconvenient form of crazy, especially since Tina Fey accepted an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation this spring for her work on 30 Rock (which in some way is sort of weird, since the show doesn’t have an out gay character in the main cast and the show doesn’t have any long-term engagement with gay issues other than running jokes about whether Liz dresses like a lesbian). I doubt he’ll get fired for this since the Hollywood apology machine is very efficient at helping people keep their jobs, and there’s a lot of leeway for comedians. Morgan’s already issued this apology through his reps:

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.

But 30 Rock’s in need of a refresh anyway. The wacky-Tracy bits were getting old even before this added an ugly overtone to them.


*A couple of folks on Twitter have, I think fairly, questioned the use of the term “crazy” to refer to Mr. Morgan. I meant the term more in the sense of a “wild and crazy” guy kind of way, though Morgan’s character is meant to have diagnosable mental health issues, and to the extent that Morgan behaves eccentrically in real life (and my understanding is that he is a recovering alcoholic), I think that sense of unpredictability if not outright instability was one of the things that make him an appealing hire for the role.