Tracy Morgan is the host for the 27th annual ESPY Awards Wednesday night in Los Angeles. The former cast member for “Saturday Night Live” accepted the gig with his trademark absurdist humor.
“I am very excited to be hosting The ESPYs,” Morgan said in a statement. “I hope my Uncle Sidney Poitier is there with my biological father Tony Dorsett and my second cousin Herschel Walker. And Bo Jackson, I want my two dollars back!”
The comedian turned actor is hosting a year after Danica Patrick was the MC in 2018.
“Tracy is effortlessly funny and deeply passionate about sports,” added ESPYs executive producer Maura Mandt. “He’s a natural choice to host The ESPYs and we’re thrilled to have him. Few people can own a room like Tracy Morgan, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the show.”
The ESPYs help raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded in 1993 by late college basketball coach Jimmy Valvano. According to Fox News, ESPN has helped raise nearly $97 million for the V Foundation in 26 years, which inspired Morgan to assume the hosting duties.
“The main reason I really wanted to do it is the fight against cancer,” Morgan said in a recent phone interview, explaining that his grandparents and former wife, Sabina, died of the disease. “I have an opportunity to fight their cause and I’m all in.”
“We’ll have a great time, but the most important thing is Jim Valvano. I’ll never forget watching him at the ESPYS,” Morgan said. “We forget sometimes the cause, we enjoy being there, but we got to understand the reason why we’re there. It’s an opportunity to give back. I’m in service to others.”
The show airs on ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern time at the Microsoft Theater. This is the fifth time a former SNL cast member has hosted, including Rob Riggle, Seth Meyers, Norm MacDonald and Dennis Miller.
2019 Has Been a Year of Redemption for Morgan
Eight years ago, Morgan was dealing with outrage culture well before the current era of “woke” political correctness.
In June 2011, while a star for the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” he did a comedy set at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville where a bystander reported that he made several anti-gay jokes. This included material such as stabbing his son if he were gay and that homosexuals that endure bullying need to stop whining.
In an interview with Russell Simmons, Morgan apologized profusely for his jokes, going on to say: “Of all the sicknesses, there is probably none more abusive than homophobia. My heart is committed to giving everyone the same rights that I deserve for myself. I don’t care if you love the same sex as long as you have the ability to love someone.”
The show ended two years later. In June 2014, he nearly lost his life after a Walmart truck crashed into his limo van at 75 miles per hour. He lost his friend James McNair and entered into a coma for two weeks.
According to CNN, Morgan said he “went to the other side” while he was in his coma and that God told him his time on Earth wasn’t finished yet.
“This is not something I’m making up,” Morgan said. “Do you know what God said to me? He said, ‘Your room ain’t ready. I still got something for you to do.’ And here I am, doing an interview with you.”
He slowly worked his way back into the spotlight. He starred in small roles in movies such as “Top Five” and “The Night Before.” He made a successful turn as a host on SNL in 2015. Now, he is about to enter his third season as star on TBS’ “The Last O.G.,” which premiered to record cable ratings in 2018.
From his wife’s death from cancer, his friend’s death in a car crash, plus his own struggles in life, Morgan’s resurgence as a comedy star is indicative of his approach as an artist: He’s wants people to laugh to help deal with their pain.
“You know why I became famous?” he asked quietly to Kelley L. Carter in The Undefeated. “Because the kids of the playground could be mean. When they be mean, you go get your big brother, your big brother got your back. … I couldn’t do that. I go get my brother, he come, hey, he crippled. They start laughing. So I had to learn how to be funny to keep the bullies off my a–. All of my life, turned into business.”
Morgan continues his redemption tour Wednesday night in Los Angeles.