SXSW 18: ‘The Last O.G.’ is a Fitting Return for Tracy Morgan

Monkeypaw Productions / TBS

The comedy world had a huge scare a few years ago. On June 7, 2014, Tracy Morgan was involved in a huge traffic accident that left him needing years of physical therapy and left his friend tragically dead. At times it seemed like Morgan might never recover enough to return to performing, which would have been a shame and a huge loss. Whatever you feel about his comedy stylings, it cannot be denied that he is a singular voice and there’s no one else like him. Thankfully, he has recovered and is back on television with his show called ‘The Last O.G.’ which is premiering on TBS on April 3, 2018. The half hour, single camera sitcom stars Morgan, TIffay Haddish & Cedric the Entertainer. It’s directed by Jorma Taccone (Macgruber, The Lonely Island) and is co-created by Jordan Peele. Given all the names I just mentioned you would assume the show would be fantastic. And you’d be right. ‘The Last O.G.’ is the hilarious, long awaited return to comedy we were all hoping for from one of the greats.

The show centers on Morgan’s character of Tray. He’s a drug dealer in Brooklyn who was arrested in a drug bust on the night of American Idol’s first season finale. He never gets to see how the competition ended but he was sure Justin Guarini would win it all (as was I). Upon his refusal to snitch he is sentenced to 15 years in prison. When he’s released he decides he will act as a sage to all the young African American men from his neighborhood that are also caught up in the world of drugs and petty crime. However, the Brooklyn he returns to in 2017 is a different world. It’s succumb to a far worse fate than drugs and crime. Gentrification. His former girlfriend (Played by Haddish) has reinvented herself as community organizer who’s married to a white man. His former crack distributor is now a coffee franchisee. Tray can’t help but wonder how he can bring positive change to a neighborhood that everyone seems to feel has already been changed for the better?

The answer, of course, is that change will come from people like him. True residents of Brooklyn who made the borough so special in the first place. There are some scenes in the coffee shop where he eventually lands a job in episode two (from his old distributor). These moments show how much people love and enjoy Tray. All people. It’s almost autobiographical to how wide ranging Morgan’s appeal has always been. All the actors do a great job, but every time Morgan and Haddish are on screen together, ‘The Last O.G.’ feels extra special. These are two of the best comedic actors playing off one another and the results of their interactions completely deliver. Al Maldonado (Black-ish) is also hilarious stand out in the show that deserves recognition.

During the post screening Q&A, it was suggested that the show will take a look at systemic racism and income inequality and they definitely cover some more thoughtful issues in the first two episodes that were screened at SXSW. However, Morgan and everyone involved made the point that the show’s first goal is to primarily be funny. I think that might be the best strategy to talk about some of the harder issues facing America today. Humor disarms those who would initially be opposed to having their views changed. If the first two episodes are any indication, ‘The Last O.G.’ has the potential to be a hilarious show that receives both commercial and critical success. That entire evening at the Paramount felt like such a well-deserved triumph for Morgan.

I do want to talk about the Q&A a little bit in the vain of a triumph. I have really been a room that felt so celebratory. The moderator had to remind multiple people that the time was meant for questions. Which is a fair point to make, but it was room with hundreds of people who just wanted to tell Tracy Morgan how happy they were that he was back and tell Tiffany Haddish that she should be hosting the Oscars and she truly is America’s sweetheart. It felt like a room full of love and appreciation for all those involved and it was a lovely way to cap off my first experience at SXSW.

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