How Tracy Morgan’s Near-Death Accident Made Him Funnier
Not for the first time, Tracy Morgan is getting a glimpse of heaven. “Look at this,” he says, pointing to a city-size mass of white clouds, framed against a marble-blue horizon, outside the window of his leased private jet. “Ain’t no war up here. Ain’t nothing going on up here. This is the friendly skies. This is calm. Ain’t no room up here for none of that bullshit from Earth.” He leans back in his tan leather seat, takes a breath, checks the color touchscreen of the high-end new insulin pump he just got yesterday. (“It’s basically my whole pancreas,” he explains. “It’s kind of complicated.”)
On a Friday afternoon in early March, Morgan is headed to a Michigan casino for a date on his first stand-up tour since the car crash that nearly killed him, capping a dramatic and hard-fought recovery. “We’re going to do comedy,” he says, then repeats the word with incantatory reverence. “Comedy.” A black do-rag is on his head, covering scars near his temples; he’s wearing a green hoodie, gray sweatpants and green suede sneakers.
Just 21 months ago, he was in a coma. “A doctor said, ‘The two biggest accidents in the world was yours and Princess Diana,’ ” says Morgan. “Think about it. That’s heavy shit.” In the early-morning hours of June 7th, 2014, near Exit 9 on the New Jersey Turnpike, a Walmart truck driver who hadn’t slept in 28 hours plowed his 18-wheeler into the rear of a chauffeured limo-van taking Morgan home from a gig in Delaware. Morgan’s longtime friend James “Jimmy Mack” McNair died in the crash; three of Morgan’s fellow passengers were also hurt and have also since recovered.
Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury; his coma lasted eight days. His left femur was shattered, his ribs were cracked and, he says, every bone in his face was broken. At first, doctors weren’t sure he’d live, much less get back to any semblance of his old self. “We really kind of thought he wasn’t going to make it,” says his then-fiancee, now-wife, Megan Wollover, 29, who would’ve been left alone to raise their now-two-year-old daughter, Maven. “We were praying and being hopeful, but we didn’t know what to say to the public.” The prognosis quickly improved. But then, Wollover adds, “everyone was more concerned with the brain injury – is he gonna be the same?”
When Morgan woke up, he was blind for six days. (“Where I come from, you don’t wanna be blind for a second,” he says onstage, referring to his childhood in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.) He doesn’t really remember any of it: not the Delaware show, not the accident, not the initial recovery. But he’s convinced that he paid a visit to the afterlife during his coma, where he encountered his father, Jimmy Morgan, a gifted musician who died of AIDS from contaminated-needle use when Tracy was 19. Though Tracy jokes that he turned away from heaven’s white light because he “thought it was the police,” he’s pretty sure that it was his dad who sent him back to Earth.
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