Garrett Gonzalez Morris (born February 1, 1937) is an American comedian 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.
Early life and careerEdit
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 memorable cult classic film Cooley High. He had a small role as a police sergeant in The Anderson Tapes (1970).
Saturday Night LiveEdit
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. In the late 1970s, he began to freebase cocaine on a regular basis, and began to experience hallucinations and symptoms of paranoia, telling other cast members and writers that an invisible hypnotist robot was following him. This culminated in a bizarre outburst in front of Kirk Douglas during rehearsals for a sketch in February 1980, when Morris allegedly stripped to the waist and began to scream at the top of his lungs.
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."
Recurring characters on Saturday Night LiveEdit
- 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 shouting.
Celebrity impersonations on Saturday Night LiveEdit
- Alex Haley
- Andrew Young
- Anwar Sadat
- Bob Marley
- Chubby Checker
- Diana Ross
- Ella Fitzgerald
- Hank Aaron
- Idi Amin
- James Brown
- James Meredith
- Jesse Owens
- Joshua Nkomo
- Ken Norton
- Leon Spinks
- Louis Armstrong
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Mary Fitzpatrick (Amy Carter's ex-con nanny)
- Mickey Rivers
- Morarji Desai
- Muhammed Ali
- Pearl Bailey
- Richard Pryor
- Rubin Carter
- Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Sherman Hemsley
- Tina Turner
Later life and careerEdit
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 Garrett's who happened to be inmates there teamed up and beat up the robber in revenge.
In 2002, Morris made a cameo appearance on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Brittany Murphy.
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.
- Colfax roasting Garrett Morris
- SNL Player:The Official Garrett Morris Fanlist
- SNL People Entry
- Morris as Chico on Weekend Update
- The Downtown Comedy Club
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