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Picking Up the Pieces: Tracy Morgan: Back from the edge, returning to stand-up

FRAZIER MOORE | 1/29/2016, 7:39 p.m.
A gruesome highway accident followed by months of pain and rehab. That’s no laughing matter.
Tracy Morgan and wife Megan Wollover at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 18, 2015 Owen Sweeney of Invision

NEW YORK (AP) – A gruesome highway accident followed by months of pain and rehab. That’s no laughing matter.

Not unless you’re comedian Tracy Morgan, who’s mining this ordeal for laughs with his “Picking Up the Pieces” stand-up tour. After its current warm-up phase, the tour officially launches Feb. 5 at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, and continues through May. Among other dates, he will perform three shows in New Jersey, including a New Brunswick theater about 20 miles from where the accident occurred.

“I’m in a good place in my life,” Morgan said during a recent phone conversation. “When I first got back on the stage, I had to work on my confidence. But I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited!”

It was June 7, 2014, when a Walmart truck slammed into the limousine Morgan was riding in. The crash killed a close friend and fellow comedian, and left Morgan with broken bones and brain damage. He was in a coma for two weeks.

“I was basically knocking on the door,” he said, but added with undisguised gratitude, “I came back. That’s the spirit moving me.”

That was plenty impressive. But still it held no promise that Morgan, who has long scored laughs in concert, on 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, would ever be able to perform again.

On the Today Show last June, in his first public appearance since the accident, Morgan sat clutching a cane and, with a tear streaking down his cheek, acknowledged he wasn’t “100 percent yet.”

“When I’m there, you’ll know it,” he said. “I’ll get back to making you laugh, I promise you.”

He made good on that promise three months later with a surprise appearance on the Emmy telecast.

By then he had made good on a promise to himself to wed his fiancee, Megan Wollover, on his own terms: walking her down the aisle with no cane.

Then, in October, he returned triumphantly as guest host of SNL, where he had been a cast member from 1996 to 2003.

“I felt so good going back home to SNL,” he said. “It was like the first day I was there many years ago. That first time was crazy, but to have the opportunity to have the feeling all over again – wonderful, man! And I said, ‘I want to (tour) again.’ That was the end” of any doubts.

He admits to grave doubts during his long convalescence and therapy.

“I remember being visited by a good friend I’ve known all my life, and I said, ‘Why did God let this happen to me?’ And with the meanest look, she said, ‘Never question God!’

“I said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And she said, ‘Okay, baby. That’s all right.’

“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do,” Morgan sums up. “We’re ALL here ‘cause we’re tough.”

Morgan, 47, has made amusing use of a lifetime of tough challenges, including a harsh childhood and health issues that included a kidney transplant in 2010. So it’s no surprise that he’s dressing his latest wounds in humor.