What’s the first thing Emmy-nominated comedian Tracy Morgan thinks about when someone mentions the city of Buffalo?
“Rick James, baby,” Morgan said. “Rick James – she’s a Super Freak!”
Morgan, who is best known for his roles on NBC’s “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live,” will be in Western New York at 8 p.m. on Saturday, when he’ll appear at Seneca Niagara Casino as part of a stand-up comedy tour.
Over the years, Morgan has produced his fair share of both laughter – through characters like Brian Fellow, Astronaut Jones and self-caricature Tracy Jordan – and controversy. About 50 people reportedly walked out of a Morgan performance in April at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in Australia due to offensive remarks.
But Morgan said he’s toned it down as of late.
“Seven years on ‘30 Rock,’ seven years on ‘Saturday Night Live’ – that’s a lot of TV,” Morgan said. “So you tend to think that you’re losing your edge, so I became a little bit more vulgar ... And then when I got off ‘30 Rock,’ it was a little bumpy. But now, the vulgarity is not there. Because I realized that, hey, I don’t have to be so vulgar. And I’m still edgy.”
Morgan won’t be away from television screens for long. He’s the star of a new FX pilot called “Death Pact,” which casts him as a drug dealer who goes off to war and returns home as a radical self-help philosopher.
“I think it’s going to be hilarious,” Morgan said of “Death Pact,” which was scheduled to film this summer.
Asked whether he preferred acting or stand-up comedy, Morgan couldn’t decide.
“They’re all different muscles,” he said. “That’s like saying, ‘What do you like better, your leg or your arm?’ ”
Morgan is also currently writing a movie, and he’s about to film another one. “My hands are pretty full,” he said, though he wouldn’t reveal many details about the films besides that the one he’s writing is a comedy.
Saturday’s show at Seneca Niagara Casino won’t mark Morgan’s first visit to Niagara Falls. He’s been there before.
“I love it,” he said of Niagara Falls. “My way of describing it was ‘a hip town to play.’ ”
Morgan may have toned town the vulgarity of his act, but he hasn’t lost any confidence. He said people who have seen him before shouldn’t worry about whether he’s lost his sense of humor.
“They’re going to laugh,” Morgan said of his fans. “I’m funny ... I’ve been in show business for 20 years, on TV. I’m funny. Any people who have ever come see me, man, can’t deny that I’m funny. I don’t worry about that. I’m not a young kid coming up. I’m a veteran.”
Morgan said the tour has been “awesome” since the show in Australia, during which he reportedly made sexist remarks.
It wasn’t the first time he’s been in hot water – he has previously apologized after insensitive comments about homosexuals – but he said he and his writers have now found what he called their “footing.”
“I don’t really have to be so vulgar, and I keep my audience focused that way,” Morgan said. “Now I’m more about keeping my audience focused on the funny.”
What: Tracy Morgan
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center, Niagara Falls
Tickets: $25 and up