Story last updated at 11/25/2009 - 12:04 pm
Millions of Americans have been charmed by the humor of comedian Tracy Morgan. Now, he has put his words onto paper in his new book, "I Am The New Black," with co-author Anthony Bozza.
The memoir is a window into Morgan's world. He begins by describing his childhood growing up in "the hood," his neighborhood in the Brooklyn projects that he attributes to shaping who he has now become. He continues by chronicling the series of events that led to his success as a performer. Morgan shares what gives him hope and lessons he has learned along his journey.
An obvious curiosity emerges out of the book's title. What exactly does Morgan mean when he speaks of the "New Black?" Is there an old black? I'm no expert, but the thought never occurred to me-even during my religious watching of his hit TV series, "30 Rock,"-that Morgan was any "newer" than any other black, white or purple person. I just thought he was funny. Real funny.
Morgan took the title for his book from his speech during the 2009 Golden Globe Awards show, given while accepting an award on behalf of "30 Rock."
"I said that we had a black president and that I was the voice of postracial America-which I am!" he writes.
"If you want to know the truth about Tracy Morgan, the truth is that like the new black, I'm impossible to define," Morgan writes in the book's introduction. "Black isn't the absence of color, it's the presence of all colors. That's why I'm the new black. I'm everyone you've seen me be and just myself at the same time."
For someone unfamiliar with Morgan's performance work, his book may be a difficult read. Instead of introducing himself to the world, he writes in a style that sheds light on areas of his life with which his readers may already be familiar, such as his stand-up comedy, movies and various events in his life that made headlines.
Morgan has a distinct voice and a way of speaking that is hard for the memory to abandon. So hard, in fact, that I could distinctly hear him speaking every word of his book to me as I read in the silence of my apartment.
"My dad taught me how to tell a story," he writes. "He always brought an unforgettable detail."
Morgan follows his father's example by loading his story with unforgettable details. He even goes so far as to describe particularly memorable bowel movements. However, the distasteful is balanced with more touching moments, such as magical times spent with his father before he passed away.
Some readers may find Morgan's language and content offensive, but that seems to be a part of his nature. Early into his title, he volunteers more details than I would ever care to know about him. What is the point of telling the world your deepest, darkest secrets, and sparing no details in doing so?
Whatever Morgan's strategy is, it works. I keep reading. Slowly revealed is a detailed picture of this person who many of us find to be so funny. And I now know that he developed his humor as a tool to defend himself while growing up in a threatening neighborhood.
He calls his "funny" a God-given gift, his comedy a "creative urge."
Morgan repeatedly refers to his readers as "you people out there." He also slips in shout outs to his friends as they appear in the story. "What up!"
Many of his words are clearly written to make his readers laugh. But there are equally serious passages dealing with the deaths of close friends and family members, love, pain and universal truths. The mature content aside, I am actually inspired by Morgan's story and the advice he shares. So, readers who have a high tolerance for a bit of foul subject matter may very find "I Am the New Black" a very worthwhile read.