March 14, 2009

Tracy Morgan: The End of Post-Modernism?


We all know that Tracy is the clown, but what kind? Is he Perdrolino, the naive Italian? The Tracy who experiences a child's joy in destroying rational expectations? Is he just a celebrated birthday clown? The Tracy that reads the lines on the cue cards? Is he a postmodern Charlie Kaufman buffoon? The Tracy that tapes a wheel to his foot to know what it will be like when his character doesn't have a foot from losing it to diabetes, while Tracy, the man, is a diabetic.

He's all of them and none of them at the same time. He is our comedic savant, the American Cervantes. He creates such a stir because we cant understand how the clown Tracy, the character Tracy plays of himself, uses race as a vehicle without perpetuating stereotypes. We also don't know how he ticks and that makes us mad. Tracy, the real Tracy, knows what he is saying is funny without having cognitive access to its comedic justification.

In an era of Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswald and Zach Galifianakis, Tracy is a breath of fresh air. The would-be transformative comics are, however, a hail to the end of the postmodern movement. The PoMo gang critique societal conventions with humor, but they also refer to those conventions while poking fun. Tracy on the other hand, takes those conventions out in the open and breaks them, out in the open, but without referring to them. When he looks at the camera it isn't to say to an audience 'I know you're there and you get the joke,' he looks at the camera for comfort, direction and inspiration.

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