Garrett Morris

Gonzalez Morris (born February 1, 1937) is an Americancomedian and actor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He was part of the original cast of the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live, appearing from 1975 to 1980.

Contents


Early life and career

Morris was a church-choir singer from his youth, trained at the Juilliard School of Music, and graduated from Dillard University in 1958. Early in his career, he soloed with the Harry Belafonte singers. He performed in a number of Broadway musicals, including Hallelujah, Baby! and Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. He also appeared as a high school teacher in the film Cooley High. He had a small role as a police sergeant in The Anderson Tapes (1970).

Saturday Night Live

Morris has appeared in numerous television shows and movies since the early 1970s, but is best known as one of the original cast members of NBC's Saturday Night Live. At least twice on SNL he sang classical music: once a Mozart aria when guest-host Walter Matthau designated him as a "musical guest...in place of the usual crap", and once a Schubert lied while the titles on the screen purported to express his colleagues' displeasure at having to accommodate a misguided request by him. Morris appeared in five episodes of The Jeffersons playing a character named Jimmy.

One of Morris's best known characters on SNL was the Dominican baseball player Chico Escuela. Chico spoke only limited and halting English, so the joke centered on him responding to almost any question with his catch phrase: "Baseball... been berra berra good... to me." Another recurring bit, used in the newscast segment "Weekend Update", involved Morris being presented as "President of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing" and assisting the newscaster by shouting the main headlines, in a parody of the then-common practice of providing sign language interpretation in an inset on the screen as an aid to the deaf viewer.

According to the book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Morris was frequently unhappy during his tenure on SNL from 1975–1980, and expressed the opinion that he was usually typecast in stereotypical roles.

African-American performers who have followed Morris on Saturday Night Live have at times been publicly concerned with not experiencing the same fate Morris did. Eddie Murphy, for example, told TV Guide in the early 1980s that SNL producer Jean Doumanian "had tried to Garrett Morris me... turn me into the little token nigger."[1]

Recurring characters on Saturday Night Live

  • Chico Escuela, a Dominican baseball player for the New York Mets
  • Cliff, the streetwise friend to the Festrunk Brothers (Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin)
  • Grant Robinson, Jr., one of the Nerds
  • Hodo, one of Miles Cowperthwaite's cronies
  • Merkon, the leader of the Coneheads
  • Weekend Update's "News For the Hard of Hearing" translator, who simply repeated each line while speaking very loud. This was referenced in the Family Guy episode Barely Legal.

Celebrity impersonations on Saturday Night Live

Later life and career

He starred in the 1984 film The Census Taker, a 1984 black comedy directed by Bruce R. Cook.[2][3]

In 1985, he appeared in Larry Cohen's science fiction horror film The Stuff, playing cookie magnate "Chocolate Chip Charlie", a parody of Famous Amos.

In 1986, Morris began playing a regular occasional character, "Arnold 'Sporty' James," on the NBC cop drama Hunter, starring Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer. Morris continually appeared as "Sporty" on "Hunter" through 1989.

In 1994, he was shot in an apparent robbery attempt but went on to make a full recovery. In a radio interview, he mentioned that the robber who shot him was eventually incarcerated, and in prison some fans of Morris's who happened to be inmates there teamed up and beat up the robber in revenge.

Morris starred on Martin as Martin's first boss Stan. Morris's shooting had caused him to be unable to continue in the role, and he was written out of the show by having the character become a national fugitive. The scene where he is about to undergo plastic surgery was shot on the hospital bed Morris occupied while recuperating from the 1994 assault. He later reprised the role one last time in a guest appearance during the show's third season. In that particular episode, he is seen walking on a cane (due to his shooting) but the incident was comically parodied by saying Stan was in a police chase and had a car crash.

Among later television performances, he had regular roles on Diff'rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, Hill Street Blues, Martin, Roc and The Jamie Foxx Show.

He was a regular and fan favorite on The Jamie Foxx Show. He played hotel owner, and uncle of Jamie Foxx, Junior King for the entire run of the show.

In 1999, Morris appeared as himself in the fifth episode of the fifth season of the TV series, Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

In 2002, Morris made a cameo appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Brittany Murphy.

In 2006, Morris reprised his role as "Headmaster of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing" in a cameo on the TV series Family Guy, in the episode "Barely Legal".

As of 2006, he continues to perform regularly in films. He also operates and is the host of his own comedy club, The Downtown Comedy Club in downtown Los Angeles.

On February 9, 2007, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa honored Garrett Morris for his work and contributions to the black community. He declared February 9, 2007 Garrett Morris Day and named The Downtown Comedy Club the official club of Los Angeles.

In August 2008, Morris played the role of Reverend Pratt in the family comedy drama film, The Longshots, starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer.

In 2009, Morris appeared in two TV commercials for the Nintendo DS--one featuring Mario Kart DS, and the other featuring Brain Age.

In 2010, Morris appeared in a television commercial for Miller Lite. The national commercial, titled "PopPop," features Morris alongside actors Stacey Dash and Jason Weaver. The commercial takes a light-hearted look at a family relationship with Morris playing the grandfather, PopPop, and Weaver as his grandson.

, Morris has appeared in an ad for Orbit gum in the United States. [4]

References

  1. Hill and Weingrad, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. New York: Random House, 1986
  2. . New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/86893/The-Census-Taker/details. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  3. Bob Michals (January 3, 1985). . The Palm Beach Post. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=N_QiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Fs0FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1339,1505753. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  4. http://friendsoftom.com/forum/index.php/topic,7014.msg157073.html?PHPSESSID=la85gqfmtp7rku7vtb1oavd7p7#msg157073