It's getting hard out here for a comedian. Just ask Tracy Morgan.
"People are ultrasensitive now," he says on the phone from Vegas, where he's making a stop on his Turn It Funny stand-up tour. "It seems like you can't say anything about anyone.
"Everyone has an opinion. People comment. That's social media," he says, hacking repeatedly. He took his hay fever with him on the plane from Jersey.
Morgan is more vulnerable to getting caught on tape than most. It's not that the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock veteran doesn't have a filter. It's just that it can't keep up with his imagination, which jumps tracks more often than a transit tunnel rat.
Ever catch the bumptious 45-year-old comedian on a talk-show couch? He's there and then he's not. Hilarious in spurts until his eyes and attention start wandering around the room.
Same on stage. He can seem momentarily distracted, disjointed even. Throwing out non sequiturs and seemingly random autobiographical anecdotes. Then he'll zero in and run off a brilliant, cogent, often provocative riff.
You get the same shake-and-bake rhythm in conversation. He's talking about some physical sports-related sketches he wants to work into his act, starting with a sexagenarian third-base coach and all his mannerisms in the dugout and on the field. Then he's describing in detail a base runner diving back to first base on a pickoff attempt, and "the guy getting up, shaking dirt out of his cup."
Without warning, Morgan, who is in talks for a new sitcom with Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is musing about a schoolyard fight he had at P.S. 59 in Brooklyn with a kid who took two of his Reggie Jackson baseball cards. Not a punch line in sight.
Just as suddenly, he pivots back to humor, blustering about Pete Rose. "Put Pete in the Hall" of Fame, he bellows. "Charlie Hustle has to go in! He's ghetto. He called his bookie using the dugout phone!"
That's the reason you want to catch Morgan live. Switch on. Switch off. His alternating current is electrifying.
Atlantic City, N.J. Tickets: $56.25-$59.50 Information: 1-800-THE-TROP, www.tropicana.net.