Staying Alive (1983 film)

Laughs and winces as Tracy Morgan returns to stand-up with Netflix special ‘Staying Alive’

Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive
Comedian Tracy Morgan, critically injured in a 2014 road accident, returns to the stage in the Netflix special “Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive.” (Cara Howe)

In June 2014, comedian Tracy Morgan, formerly of “Saturday Night Live” and lately late of “30 Rock,” was returning to New York from a show in Delaware when the minibus in which he was riding was struck from behind by a Wal-Mart truck. Fellow comic James “Jimmy Mack” McNair was killed; Morgan was hospitalized with broken bones and a brain injury. He was briefly in a coma.

Almost two years later, Morgan made his return to the stage with his Picking Up the Pieces tour; an October appearance in Red Bank, N.J., not far from where the accident happened, was filmed for Netflix, which has been investing in high-profile stand-up specials by comics including Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K., Amy Schumer, Maria Bamford and Jim Gaffigan. Morgan’s premieres Tuesday for streaming, under the title “Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive.”

The special begins with a filmed opening, with nods to “Saturday Night Fever,” as Morgan cruises Brooklyn with a Wal-Mart bag full of settlement money; he buys three slices of pizza instead of two, and he eats them piled one on top of another. A gag transports him into a John Travolta white suit and onto the stage of the theater, which is set with a table and armchair into which he occasionally collapses. One suspects this may be a matter of necessity, but mostly, he is on his feet and moving, encouragingly, and carrying an hour of material in his head.

There is a shape to it; with a few video projections and lighting cues, you could call it a theater…