Tracy Morgan’s ‘Takin’ It Too Far’ Special Doesn’t Take It Far Enough
Welcome back, Tracy Morgan! A new stand-up special, Takin’ It Too Far (his first since 2017’s Staying Alive), drops later this week on Max, and he reminds us that he’s been gone for a minute by opening and closing the special with the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter.
What has he learned in the six years since we’ve last heard him? Not much — and that’s according to Morgan. He begins Takin’ It Too Far with a solemn monologue about his humble upbringing, his struggles with instant fame, and his harrowing collision with a Walmart truck. “I’m a new man,” he teases before hitting us with the proverbial record scratch. “Fuck that!” he growls. He’s still the same old Morgan, he insists, and he’s taking it too far.
“Too far,” in this case, is the same old places that Morgan’s stand-up has always taken us. Penis jokes figure prominently as Morgan never goes more than five minutes before taking up the subject of male genitalia — Idris Elba’s, Caitlin Jenner’s, and most prominently, his own. We learn about the expanding size of his aging testicles, with multiple descriptions of his own member’s appearance circa 2023. Hey, we like a good dick joke as much as the next guy, but the shock value wears off after a while.
Morgan doesn’t go the storytelling route here. Instead, he’s a comedy pinball machine, bouncing from bit to bit before any line of thought can be explored too deeply. As a comedy special, you wonder if Takin’ It Too Far might work better as a series of TikToks or Reels — standalone jokes about the Black Little Mermaid, Brooklyn gentrification, or an aging Bobby Brown at a New Edition reunion are very funny. It’s just when the unrelated punchlines are stacked up back-to-back-to-back with little in the way of transitions that makes me a little dizzy.
Like many 2023 stand-up specials, Morgan takes on topics that were played out months ago. Note to all comics: There is nothing left to say about Will Smith smacking Chris Rock that late-night monologues didn’t run into the ground back in March 2022. And when will new comedy specials stop yapping about the trials of Covid isolation? Yep, it sucked all right — can we move on now?
Takin’ It Too Far has its funny moments, but it feels like a step back from 2017’s Staying Alive. That special, his first back since his terrifying car accident, featured a comic who was just as foul-mouthed funny but with an added layer of introspection. “He relishes the chance to reflect on what he learned,” wrote Decider. “There’s a new softness and understanding,” agreed the Daily Dot.
But with a single “Fuck that,” Morgan has left the reflection behind for graphic descriptions of half-hearted sex with older women. It’s not as if he doesn’t have more of life’s troubles to digest — since we’ve last heard from him, Morgan’s wife left him and by his account, it was painful stuff. The triple-wallop of a pandemic, divorce papers and child support, he says, is worse than getting hit by a truck. But other than Covid complaints, we don’t hear much about it.
You can tell all that life drama, added to the pain of his 2014 accident, has taken its toll. Morgan looks tired at times, and there’s a chair on the stage so that his stand-up occasionally becomes sit-down comedy. He’s earned the occasional rest stop, one that reminds us of all that he’s been through and of Morgan’s own mortality. “Before we all leave this motherf***fer, let’s laugh,” he concludes. “Who wants to live in a world without Tracy Morgan?”
Not me. We'll always welcome back Morgan, the kind of comic who could read the phone book and get laughs. We just wish Takin’ It Too Far was takin’ it a little further.