A year and a half ago, the world wasn’t sure whether comedian Tracy Morgan would survive.
A Walmart truck rear-ended his limo in June 2014. The accident would kill Morgan’s friend, comedian James McNair, and leave Morgan in a coma for nearly two weeks.
The comedian has spent the last year or so recovering from his injuries, which included a broken femur, several broken ribs and a broken nose.
None of these things were apparent when Morgan made his triumphant return to the stage at the Whiskey Roadhouse in the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs on Friday night. The show was the first warmup date before Morgan officially begins the “Picking Up the Pieces” tour on Feb. 5. Morgan occasionally peered at pages on a small table beside him, exclaiming at one point, “Everything worked on that page!” as he flipped to a new page of jokes.
Morgan used his personal trauma to farm laughs. The opening of his set clung heavily to jokes about the accident and his recovery.
“You know what they say — the good die young,” he said. “That’s why the (expletive) I’m still here.”
He joked about seeing rappers The Notorious B.I.G. and ODB in heaven.
“I saw the white light,” he said. “But I didn’t go near it ’cause I thought it was the police.”
Morgan talked about developing feelings for the woman helping him rehabilitate from his injuries, much to the chagrin of his wife. He made jokes about speech therapy. The material was realistic but not depressing or dark.
From his wheelchair, he watched his 14-month-old daughter take her first two steps, he joked. He was inspired, so he got out of his wheelchair and took his first steps.
“I remember one day she was running down the hallway of the house in her doo-doo Pampers,” he said. “And I started running down the hallway with my doo-doo Pampers.”
After that, much of the show delved into X-rated territory with jokes about sex, poop and anything else taboo. He went into detail about his married and single life. The comedy seemed unexpected for many, whose primary exposure to Morgan was through his more PG-rated TV show appearances.
Meeae Tillwick, 25, and Schuyler Dougherty, 24, both from Omaha, came to the show expecting comedy more like Morgan’s television roles.
“Most people know Tracy Morgan from ‘30 Rock,’ ” Tillwick said. “It’s very family-friendly comedy. But this is the real Tracy Morgan.”
Dougherty said he didn’t expect the show to be as funny as it was.
“I didn’t think it would be so crazy and out-of-control and outrageous,” Dougherty said.
Yamaneika Saunders opened the show with a series of raunchy jokes about being single, Weight Watchers, online dating and bikini waxing. She was followed by Sherrod Small, a New York-based stand-up comedian. The pair set up strong for Morgan’s nearly one-hour set.
Morgan will continue his stint in Council Bluffs with two more shows tonight at 7 and 10 p.m. The 7 p.m. show is sold out. Tickets are $38, available at www.ticketmaster.com.