Thursday night has always been the best night for television for me. As an adult, I think my favorite Thursday night line-up has been whatever combination of Community, Parks and Rec, The Office, 30 Rock (they all swapped times a bunch), and then watching Grey’s Anatomy on DVR. In honor of Black History Month (yes, it’s May, but every month is black history month!!!… or you can chalk it up to me operating on CPT ) I would like to take you into the living room of my household in the early 90s where my family’s Thursday night lineup was Martin, Living Single, New York Undercover, and the taped recording of Def Comedy Jam from the night before. We had a 42” wood grained Magnavox TV that my pops just kinda showed up with one day. It was the biggest television we’d ever had and we didn’t care that we could not quite make out the channel numbers from the digital dial on the right panel. It didn’t matter anyway. Our cable was “hood rigged” through the RCA VCR on top of it. We would have to walk up and change the channel from there until one day I saw my dad wiping down a very dusty Panasonic remote that had scotch tape securing the batteries in the back of it. This remote was somehow compatible with our RCA VCR and the Magnavox TV. It was in that living room, on that television via that VCR, both operated by that remote, that I would be introduced to a man who, in the future, Tina Fey would help make relevant to Emmy nomination committees. That man… is Hustle Man from FOX’s Martin - better known as Tracy Morgan.
Yes, before Tracy Jordan 30-rocked Liz Lemon’s world in 2006 as a millionaire movie star in New York City, Morgan hustled his way through the streets of Detroit popping in and out of the life of “Mar-iiiiinnnn” in the 1990s. Hustle Man could not only get you anything you needed, he could also do ANYTHING: deliver pizza, sell flowers, plan weddings, teach a dog to rap -- as he would tell you, “You want it, I got it. I ain’t got it, I’m gone get it. So get it while the gettin’ is good.”
In a show that mostly relied on character work from Martin Lawrence himself, appearing on the show as nine different supporting characters (sing with me: “Forever Shenehneh…”), Tracy Morgan’s appearances as Hustle Man were a well deserved endorsement from Mr Lawrence. Morgan owned every scene he was in with a commitment level that I aspire to. I was always excited when Hustle Man came through the door. My favorite time, though, was when he entered not as Hustle Man, but as saxophonist, Hustle Marsalis. To this day, I cannot hear Average White Band’s “Pick Up the Pieces” without doing his choreography.
I loved Hustle Man. I never got into it, but I remember feeling really good that there was a Tracy Morgan Show, and I was also very excited that Morgan got a spot on SNL even though I seldom watched him on it. I was happy for Tracy Morgan because Hustle Man had made me so happy. Also, I think maybe I believed that Hustle Man was a real person. Someone had to be helping my dad hook up our living room television viewing experience.
Enjoy these Hustle Man clips. Catch Hustle Marsalis at the end and dance with me.
Julia Cotton is a DCH graduate and TA. She currently performs with Dairy Based.