Most-hosting Chris Hardwick, the stand-up comic, “Talking Dead” zombiesplainer and host of Comedy Central’s “@Midnight,” brought the social-media skewering game show to South by Southwest again, this time to a much larger audience.
The comedian noted that last time “@midnight” was here, in 2016, it was at The Parish, it was for about 100 people. On Friday night, it was Facebook Live-broadcast to the tune of about 139,000 views as of this writing and thousands in person at the much-larger ACL Live at the Moody Theater.
If you’re a fan of the Comedy Central show, it was perhaps a slightly looser version of what you’d expect: jokes about some of the best Internet memes and a supremely entertaining panel of contestants, which included Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”) as well as stand-up comics Whitney Cummings and Nick Swardson. Swardson did a short stand-up set before the game show started, as did Hardwick, and the whole affair, which included audience interaction and jokes about Mark Zuckerberg shutting down the feed when an extremely creepy eBay doll of him was shown, made for a fun time and a good start to SXSW Comedy. Hardwick’s positive exuberance went a long way toward keeping a fun vibe throughout: as usual, he made for a funny, engaging ringleader who’s not above a really, really dirty joke about Thomas Lennon and a pair of microphones.
Tracy Morgan took the stage at Funny Or Die’s party at the Scoot Inn Monday night and told the crowd he was “the Desmond Tutu of entertainment.” And with that non sequitur, everyone’s crazy and dirty comedic uncle was back.
The beloved former star of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” almost died in a horrible collision with a Wal-Mart freight truck in 2014, making the night’s sponsor both ironic and on-the-nose, and Morgan spent a good portion of the first part of his set mining the accident for material. The whole time he was in a coma, he said his grandmother wore God out with her prayers, eventually inspiring the Man Upstairs to reprimand her (and Tim Tebow) for wasting his time when he had better things to do, like make sure Donald Trump didn’t get elected president. He said he went to heaven but didn’t stay long, because you don’t go toward the white light if you think it might be the cops.
Morgan used his reputation as rebellious bad boy to set up such jokes, and it’s not just a comfortable comedic device. From his anecdotes about selling crack to his myriad stories about graphic sex and masturbation, Morgan doesn’t worry with offending anyone. Even when the jokes were simply confessions of his sexual proclivities and not very funny, in the age of political correctness, it was good to see someone fearless, though I don’t expect the New Yorker to be earning any medals from feminist groups anytime soon. But when you’ve almost died and lost the ability to speak, being fearless probably comes easy.
The boundary pushing naturally followed Morgan into satirical discussions of race, as he wedded slavery metaphors and sexual humor. Morgan, whose wife is of mixed race, also defined the difference between arguing with a white woman (she’ll call her lawyer on you) and a black woman (she might kill you). In one of his bits that brought the biggest laughs and guffaws, he called out Tiger Woods for not identifying as back, saying Earl Woods (Tiger’s dad) is undoubtedly the name of a black man.
“The blackest thing he ever did was suck at golf,” Morgan said of Tiger Woods.
Morgan engaged in some biting crowd work, while his act repeatedly bounced from tales of physical therapy and the accident back to his sexual desires. Understandably, it wasn’t Morgan at his most manic or funniest, but it was great to see him back on stage taking swings. Comedy isn’t like sports – you don’t get to rehab in private and wait to come back and perform for the public at 90 percent. Morgan, who was performing in only the 12th show of his first tour since the accident, isn’t all the way back, but from the immediate standing ovation at Scoot Inn, it’s clear his fans are ready to help him rally back to his old self.
“30 Rock” fans, rejoice! You can now live every week like it’s Shark Week—or at least, live one weekend of South by Southwest like it’s Shark Week.
Comedian Tracy Morgan will perform Monday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Historic Scoot Inn as a part of the Funny or Die Junction tour. The tour features comedy and music, and will feature performances by Raekwon and Ghostface Killah.
Hangout before the show starts at 2 p.m. Monday and is only for SXSW attendees with badges. The show is restricted to ages 21 and up.
Morgan recently started touring and performing again after a bus crash in early 2014 left him in critical condition for several months. He recently appeared in a skit for the Oscars telecast on Sunday and hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live” in October of last year.
Chris D’Elia, Brent Morin, Ron Funches and Rick Glassman bantered and answered moderator and audience questions Tuesday about their beginnings in comedy, careers, joke-writing processes and NBC sitcom “Undateable.”