“It was interesting, it was scary, it was real painful,” says Tracy Morgan of looking back on his life for the comedian’s new autobiography I Am The New Black. The resulting book is also all of those things as the 30 Rock star recounts his hard scrabble childhood in Brooklyn’s Tompkins Houses projects, the death of his ex-heroin addict father from AIDS, his days as a drug dealer, and his (now famously) cool relationships with former Saturday Night Live colleagues Cheri Oteri and Chris Kattan. In an interview with EW, Morgan discusses the book, his days at SNL, and his biggest fear.
The book reads like a very honest, warts-and-all, recounting of your life.
Yeah. It’s giving people in the mainstream public a chance to look into my world, without actually having to physically go there. There’s a lot of beauty there, and there’s a lot of young talent there in the ghetto. But it can be dangerous too. I realized how many of my friends didn’t survive. I’m not just talking death. I’m talking falling into drug use, falling into violence, falling into just bad decision-making. And then a lot of them just being at the wrong place at the wrong f—ing time. But I realized that I’m not here just by chance. I made some pretty good choices, my friend!
Speaking of which, New Black makes clear that, while your reputation as a party animal was a deserved one, those days are behind you.
I just got older. I grew up and I grew out of it. I did it, had fun, did it, seen it, did it, and it was time to move on. I’ve just matured beyond it. And thank god.
The book’s slamming of Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri (“Where’s Chris Kattan now? Where’s Cheri Oteri? That bitch can’t even get arrested”) has become a big story.
Everybody’s blowing that out of context. I’m not angry with any of those people. I don’t know those people. But we focus and fixate on drama. I didn’t write that book, and go through everything I went through, just so people could fixate on Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan. We weren’t mortal enemies, but we never hung out. They never wrote me in sketches, come on! If Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri were to write a book, do you think they would actually mention me? Hell no! I was always in my life voted “The Most Unlikely,” and I’m quite sure they thought that I was just a black dude, and I wasn’t going to succeed and all of that. But there were people (on SNL) that I loved, and that were very supportive of me, even though I wasn’t getting on much, like Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon. They’re my family.
How do you get on with the 30 Rock cast?
Well, maybe they got on with me. I was the first one Tina Fey asked to do the show. But we have a good time, and we care about each other.
What scares you?
The IRS. That’s it.