Tracy Morgan: Black and Blue
HBO // Unrated // $19.97 // August 2, 2011
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted July 26, 2011
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In 10 Words or Less
Old gags and bad timing make for weak comedy

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-up, 30 Rock
Likes: Tracy Morgan
Dislikes: Race-based comedy
Hates: Lazy comedy

The Show
So, have you heard the one about Tracy Morgan and the trouble he got into for making anti-gay remarks and jokes about the handicapped? Not the funniest gag I've ever heard, and sadly, Morgan's actual stage act isn't much better if this DVD is to be considered representative of his comedy. Perhaps he just needs the words of the 30 Rock writers or the constraints of a character and situation, but this set, shot at the Apollo Theater in New York in early 2011, has to be one of the most disappointing stand-up performances I've had the misfortune to experience. If this is Morgan at his best, perhaps those comments he made really were comedy, since they were about just as funny.

Obviously comfortable in front of a crowd, Morgan works through a set that doesn't stray far from a select few topics: getting old, the differences between white and black people, and relationships between men and women. It's well-traveled territory, and Morgan, changing directions rapidly with his trademark drawling delivery, doesn't bring a whole lot of freshness to the discussion. It was thought perhaps we were past the old "white people dance like this, but black people dance like this" bit, but Morgan reaches way down into the well and drags it right back up, before applying the old tact to other such racially-divided areas like anger (with Mel Gibson being symbolic of scary white rage) and sex (which apparently isn't quite as porn-tastic with black women.) Surely race relations are fertile ground for comedy, but it takes a bit of effort and originality to make it truly funny. Simply making President Obama into a gangsta doesn't quite do the trick.

Releasing this DVD now may have been a case of some awful timing, as he's now viewed through a current prism in which Morgan has been vilified for his comments about homosexuality and the handicapped. Well, he goes right to those topics here, joking that gay people are too sensitive about what's said about them ("this gay **** is going too far") and the same goes for handicapped people as well, wrapping up his set with his tale of dating a severely handicapped woman, one of the least funny finales I've seen in stand-up. Now, sure, I'm a liberal, but I have no issue with non-PC comedy. Some of my favorite comics trade in the impolite. If these gags were funny (and admittedly, one of the gay jokes drew a smile) it would be one thing, but they just don't work. And it's pretty obvious that timing is one of Morgan's main foes, as his bit about trying to find Osama Bin Laden is a tad pointless now.

Morgan is at his best when he's being goofy, which is evident when he pretends to be a cocaine-addled penis or demonstrates the silliness of a guy's O-face. In fact, when he's telling a long, not-very-funny story about a guy in a wheelchair, he nearly saves the entire bit by miming a fight. There's nothing wrong with being a clown if you're good at it, and Morgan's physicality lends itself to some very funny gags, but he just keeps going back to the same old. Here's a breakdown of the act: Black audiences, getting old, black people, sex, drugs, black people, black anger, black superheroes, hoes, Black people, black president, black people on planes, lesbians, gay people, handicapped people, sex, black sex, handicapped women. I'm not expecting topical humor or clever wordplay from Tracy Morgan, but playing to his strengths and adding a little variety would go a long way.

A one-disc release packed in a standard keepcase, this DVD has a static, anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to play the special, select chapters and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks quite nice, with rather vibrant colors on the stage behind Morgan and impressive black levels, with the folds in Morgan's black velvet jacket coming across clearly. The level of fine detail in the close-ups is very good, but the other angles are a bit soft. There are no issues with digital artifacts.

This disc offers a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, which is good, keeping some nice separation between Morgan and the audience's reaction, and delivering his voice clearly. There's nothing to complain about with this presentation, but nothing worth honoring either.

The Extras
After finally making it through the special, the last thing I wanted was more Morgan, but that's all you get in terms of extras, with 14 minutes in cut footage. The strange thing is, these jokes were better than what was in the actually special, as he talks about Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson and the differences between young and old people, as well as more about cocaine, President Obama, terrorism and the Hulk. Perhaps it's because it's a small chunk of Morgan, but this section was far better.

The Bottom Line
Morgan's recent mis-steps certainly wouldn't help how his comedy would be viewed, but the fact that his act is simply unfunny doesn't help matters. With jokes about race, women and disabilities that just fall flat again and again, it's just uncomfortable to watch him ramble on the stage. The disc at least looks and sounds good, and offers an extra that improves on the main content, but this is not a set that's going to inspire a lot of laughter (and didn't for the audience on-screen.)

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