Two years ago this weekend, after a Friday night gig in Delaware, Tracy Morgan and his entourage were on their way home when a Walmart tractor trailer slammed into their SUV on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing comedian “Jimmy Mack” and almost killing Morgan and his opening act, Ardie Fuqua.
Morgan and Fuqua remained in comas for weeks, before emerging and undergoing more than a year of grueling, private physical rehabilitation.
That they’re alive is a miracle in itself.
That now, two years later, they’re both back on comedy stages performing in clubs and theaters — truly a blessed thing to witness.
I see Fuqua once more, all dressed to the nines, hosting late shows at New York City’s Comedy Cellar and The Village Underground (you can see him standing in his suit, off to the side of the giant crowd hoping to get into the Cellar last Saturday night). He also served as sidekick for Big Jay Oakerson’s Seeso series, What’s F@%king Deal? I saw Morgan headline a special event this March in Austin at the compound Funny or Die took over during SXSW, and his comeback tour, “Picking Up The Pieces,” finishes up its run this weekend here in NYC at Carolines on Broadway.
They’re not exactly as you may have remembered them.
But that’s not a bad thing.
Fuqua sat down with me at the beginning of this year in the Olive Tree Cafe to talk about how his life and career were different before and after the accident. He told me about how the past two years have made him an even warmer, more lovable guy and friend to others. And I’ve borne witness to that love and kindness personally, as he introduces to me to new and old friends of his every time I see him.
Morgan’s public re-emergence has come in stages. A surprise appearance at the end of the 2015 Emmy Awards, followed a month later with a guest hosting gig back at Saturday Night Live, where he first broke through as a cast member from 1996-2003. Even that SNL appearance in October, though, featured a lot of help from his 30 Rock friends as Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, plus the first of what would be several Larry David as Bernie Sanders cameos on SNL this season, so Morgan wouldn’t have to overexert himself.
On February, Morgan’s real test came with the start of his “Picking Up The Pieces” tour.
When he made a special stop deep in the heart of Texas during the SXSW festival, the private Funny or Die crowd gave him a roaring standing ovation of a welcome when he appeared after his opening acts Marc Theobald and Tracey Ashley.
“I don’t know if I can reciprocate that shit. You make me feel like the Desmond Tutu of show business,” Morgan said.
Morgan had to sit down for much of his act, and kept two pages of typewritten notes on a stool next to the chair as his prompter. The pages flew off the stool at one point. Morgan shrugged, stood up, and slowly bent over and retrieved his notes. “I may not be Louis CK, but I’m smart!” Morgan shouted.
He joked about who he had met in heaven during his coma. He joked about God saying “shut the fuck up.”
A far cry from Funny or Die’s special private SXSW comedy show in 2014 — which starred Bill Cosby — Morgan has long been known for being so raunchy in his stand-up act that he routinely walks audience members. They’re always shocked to learn that his 30 Rock character of Tracy Jordan may have been an even milder form of crazy than the Tracy Morgan they’re seeing in front of them.
And so it was, on this night in March, that Morgan confided to this Texas audience: “The secret to a good marriage is licking her butthole.”
As Morgan jokingly described how much he loves “drunk, sloppy queefs,” he stared directly into my eyes in the front row, comparing female discharge to Big Mac sauce.
That’s when I knew Tracy Morgan was back.
On an interview yesterday with “The Breakfast Club” on Power 105.1 FM in NYC, Morgan said: “There’s so much goodwill out there and love for me, man. People are just happy I survived.” He continued: “The doctors gave me less than 2 percent chance of living. God gave me a second chance. And that’s what’s going down.”
Morgan also spoke with WABC-TV’s Sandy Kenyon yesterday about meeting the first responder who came to Morgan’s aid that early morning of June 7, 2014, on the New Jersey Turnpike.