Like everyone else in the power-outage-plagued suburbs of northern New Jersey, Tracy Morgan can’t turn his TV on. Unlike the rest of northern New Jersey, the 30 Rock star also worries that the blackout is going to kill off his collection of exotic sea animals. His jellyfish are looking sad and gelatinous in their circular abode on the wall. “See,” he says, pointing to another tank. “It’s getting cloudy because the water can’t circulate! There’s two moray eels in there and a shark!” He’s feeling better about the prospects of his several giant snakes and his many enormous cane-corso dogs. “I love my exotic pets,” Morgan says. “That was the genius of Michael Jackson: animals. Unconditional love.”
The doorbell rings. It’s an extremely tall man named Leroy, or L-Boogie, an old friend. He’s a volunteer counselor for troubled youth in Hackensack, where the power has been out for five days since the Halloween-weekend nor’easter; his phone wasn’t working, so he just dropped by. Within minutes, Leroy is washing dishes. “He’s my brother. He’s gonna mess them up; he might as well wash them,” explains Morgan, who’s perched on a stool, recovering from bone-spur surgery on his right foot. The comedian moves on to ribbing his 20-year-old son, Tracy Junior, or Junebug, about his “filthy room.” Junior, a burgeoning music producer, is the youngest of three boys Morgan, 43, had with his high-school sweetheart, whom he divorced in 2009 after 23 years of marriage. The oldest works at Carolines Comedy Club, which is producing the New York Comedy Festival and Morgan’s stand-up show at the Beacon on November 11. The middle one is going to NYU, for graphic design, if Morgan remembers correctly.
This summer, all three sons were caught up in the fallout from a stand-up rant in which Morgan said he’d kill his son if he acted gay, and for which he has apologized many times. He has nothing against gay marriage, he tells me—“If you want to get married, get married. What do I care?”—nor does he care about politics. “I’m not needed down at Occupy Wall Street. I’m needed on the stage being funny,” he says. “You gotta take a break from that shit sometimes and just laugh, or you’re going to fucking cry. And I don’t want to cry no more. I don’t want to see nobody cry.”
Morgan is getting married himself next year, to gorgeous 25-year-old Megan Wollover, who’s arranging lilies in the kitchen. She was working at a pharmacy when they met, she tells me, and is now getting an online master’s in business from the College of New Jersey. He proposed within three weeks of a blind date six months ago. “I hypnotized her,” Morgan says. “She called me the Black Svengali!” Then, switching stories: “This is what happened: We walked into the club and I went like this”—he lifts up his shirt, grins, and slaps his protruding belly—“and that’s the mating call! It’s dinnertime! Supper’s ready!” Then, another version: “We met at Occupy Wall Street. She was sleeping in one tent, and I was sleeping in the other. I opened up that can of Spam, and she came a-running!”
As Morgan downs much of a large cheese pizza, he says he doesn’t find it unusual that a kid from the Bed-Stuy projects ended up in a ten-bedroom house with manicured shrubs. “I’ve been coming back and forth to the suburbs my whole life,” he says. “I started out in the Fresh Air Fund. Every summer, I’d go stay with my little white family upstate for two weeks. They showered me with gifts. Sent me back with cookies and sneakers and all that stuff.” Morgan says he bought his place in the suburbs not because he’d dreamed of fleeing the city as a kid but because “I just knew that if I came, I was gonna get gifts.”
He gives me a tour of them: a hibachi grill like the one at his beloved Benihana; a basement with a home gym, a sauna, and eighties arcade games; and a comedy-legends Last Supper painting he just installed in his dining room, featuring Chaplin, Gleason, Foxx, Pryor, Kinison, Bruce, Flip Wilson, Robin Harris, and Bernie Mac, with Lucille Ball as a naked cherub flying above them. The power is still out. “Get Barack on the phone! If Barack is not there, tell Michelle I want to speak to her. I’m tired of this shit.”
Through patio doors he admires his backyard pool. “Yo, L!” he yells out to Leroy. “Tell her, bra! We ain’t play in no pools. We played in puddles.” They both laugh, and Leroy mentions fire hydrants, too. “The Johnny pump!” says Morgan. “They had the neighborhood pool, but they didn’t open up for half the summer because somebody always shitted in it, you know? Wasn’t some kid always going poop in the pool?”