BIST review: Tracy Morgan on Saturday Night Live

People are wondering, ‘Can he speak? Does he have 100 per cent mental capacity?’ The truth is, I never did. I might even be a few points higher.

Tracy Morgan on Saturday Night Live stage


The things we find humorous are inconsistent and strange. Perhaps this is no better illustrated then by Tracy Morgan’s opening joke as he took to the Saturday Night Live (SNL) stage last weekend.

In his anticipated return to the SNL show just over a year since a near fatal car crash left him with a traumatic brain injury, Morgan’s opening monologue started off by looking as though he lost his speech. (Is it less funny when we find a person acting like they have ‘half-a-brain’ because they actually have a brain injury? Where as before, it was funny to see a ‘full-brained’ person act like they have ‘half-a-brain?’ A curious riddle.)

Morgan truncated that bit shortly and moved on to gratitude – a very warm thank you to his comedy family of 30 Rock co-stars Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer, and nodding towards the gravity of the car crash that nearly took his life.

In his past work, a pleasure of Morgan was the randomness of his person. He would be so still  in the scene then issue forth with comic random hilarity, often times playing the simpleton who triumphs in the end.

Last Saturday, we saw Morgan doing some of his established characters that helped him reach his fame, including Brian Fellow and Astronaut Jones. In some numbers his eyes were reeling to keep up and we wonder if he seems to grasp just the coattail of the scene.

Yet in other numbers he sinks so deeply into character he all but disappears and delights us in his transformation. In the Safari Planet sketch, an un-cooperative camel took up the whole camera view, only to be taken off smoothly by Morgan in Brian Fellow character – hats off to him for cognitive flexibility!

Perhaps Morgan has gotten a peak from the front row seats of his own personal apocalypse, as so many brain injury survivors have. But the unraveling of our person, and the memory of that view is nursed and subdued with laughter. Humour is the nursemaid of terror, and it is heartening to see people who call in our laughs benefit from the same medicine.

This is not about whether Morgan has recovered or not. Many us living with brain  injury know recovery is never judged by one thing, and the success we had before may not be the same ones in store for us tomorrow. It is the effort to continue reaching for what we desire and working with what we have.

Tracy Morgan impressed and pleased me, working and striving to reach what he has reached. He stood up there with his quintessential Tracey Morgan style comedy and made me laugh. The ratings that night went through the roof. More importantly, he cracked me up.

Coire Langham had brain surgery just over a year ago. On his good days he remembers that a new world is out there to explore. On his really good days, he forgets the world entirely and plays make believe with his three-year-old daughter outside in the sun.


Will Tracy Morgan’s brain injury lead to more TBI awareness?

Comedian Tracy Morgan performing on stage
COMEDIAN TRACY MORGAN; photo credit: Mild Mannered Photographer via photopin cc


Regardless of public figures, such as Tracy Morgan, sustaining a brain injury from a car accident this past June, awareness (in my opinion) has not shone on this life threatening and/or life changing disability enough. I recall back in 2009 when film actress Natasha Richardson had a ski accident where she fell. She complained of a headache and a banged up forehead but refused medical attention, thinking it was not serious. Paramedics on the scene obliged her wishes. She eventually died of a traumatic brain injury.

At the time the news that came out of this story said that things must change, that we must become more aware. What happened? Is Tracy Morgan’s current situation now going to bring about the brain injury awareness that was meant to happen then? I guess only time will tell how much relevance is put onto this injury that affects so many more lives than just the one who sustains it.

Natasha Richardson

As a brain injury survivor (from a viral infection) and a caregiver to my mom who lives with her own ABI, (sustained from a fall) I can tell you that I have seen awareness grow within the medical community as well as acceptance from individuals and family members affected by brain injury; but awareness (true awareness) should go beyond that. It needs to.

I do believe that these ‘a’ words: awareness and acceptance, are gaining momentum in the form of advocacy through forums, social media, print media, etc. But I do not think the impact is making any sort of wave to society as a whole. Richardson’s tragedy did not open as many eyes as hoped, but maybe Morgan’s will. Ongoing education on a large and public platform might be the answer, because I don’t think celebrity status alone will do it alone.

Accidental tragedy cannot really be prevented, I mean, it is an accident; but having brain injury properly recognized and understood can help needless suffering. The spotlight has to change.

For more coverage of Tracy Morgan’s brain injury:

Daily Mail, Dec 3, 2014  – Heartbreaking video shows a weak Tracy Morgan limping 

Toronto Star, Nov. 19, 2014 – Tracy Morgan battling severe brain injury

People Magazine, Oct. 1, 2014 – Attorney for Injured Tracy Morgan Says It’s Unclear if He’ll Ever Perform Again

PageSix, Sept. 30, 2014,  Tracy Morgan may never perform again 

What do you think? If you’d like to write a blog post about how Morgan’s story – and how brain injury in general – is portrayed in the media email us –!