Over the last week, Tracy Morgan has gotten a verbal tongue-lashing from friends, co-workers, gay rights groups and a horde of internet users thanks to some homophobic comments he made during a stand-up routine. Of all the artistic pursuits, stand-up comedy has become perhaps the last unchecked bastion for uncensored and politically-incorrect conversation. That freedom is worth having, and it’s worth defending. Nearly all of the best and most historically important stand-up routines over the last five decades have offended someone, somewhere, but with that openness to spew without a filter comes a responsibility to advocate things you stand for. Lenny Bruce may have gotten government officials all hot and bothered with his f-bombs, but he willingly did so in order to stand up for an anti-censorship ideal he believed in. Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Chris Rock and handfuls of others have done much the same thing with separate issues. Stand-up comedians need to have the right to say what they think, but without purpose, point or humor, they sometimes can come off like jackasses spewing hateful rhetoric for no reason in particular. Such was the case with Tracy Morgan.

Attempting to clarify and apologize, Morgan sat down with Def Jam founder Russell Simmons this week for a candid conversation about where the routine came from. Published by Global Grind, the frank sit-down discusses the precarious line-stepping that can occur when a comedian works without a filter. Take a look at an excerpt below:
I guess the reason I am successful is because I am so unfiltered. And sometimes as a result I say really stupid shit. The truth is if I had a gay son, I would love him just as much as if he was straight ... I might have to try to love even more because I know of the difficulty that he would have in society.

I don’t think Tracy Morgan is a hateful person. I don’t even really think he’s homophobic, but he’s made a career out of saying the shocking. With his trademark goofy voice, he opens his trap and puts the audience on edge thanks to the very same unpredictable nature that got him in trouble. If you were offended by Morgan’s comments, by all means voice your displeasure, but don’t pretend to be shocked or claim he didn’t have the right to say it. Stand-up comedians say whatever the hell they want, which is precisely why society needs them. Even if the statements are sometimes hurtful or offensive.

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