Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Tracy Morgan in "Coming To American Part 2"

Well, not really...

The gentleman on the left, also known as Tracy Morgan, has signed on to star in a new comedy feature called Freshman Roommates, a film revolving around the idea that those scam emails from supposed Nigerian princes and princesses, that have been flooding the web in recent years, might actually not be scams after all.

So when TJ Miller – best known as the deeply annoying Hud from this year's Cloverfield – answers one of those emails, but in a drunken stupor, he gets the shock of his life when, soon afterward, the spoiled son of a deposed African dictator (played by Tracy Morgan) shows up at his door, and moves in with him. And together, the two work to regain Morgan’s stolen inheritance.

The film is written by stand-up comedy veterans, Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. Mulaney worked with Morgan on Saturday Night Live.

No director is yet attached, but Paramount will sign the checks.

Sounds like Coming To America Part 2 - except, this time, Prince Akeem isn't in search of a bride; he's looking for his loot.

I actually like the idea; it hasn't been done yet. However, it's the execution that I'm worried about. And the team assembled for this, both in front and behind the camera, doesn't do anything to calm my fears.

I assume Morgan will put on an "African" accent (whatever the hell that is), sounding and looking like a buffoon... much like Eddie Murphy did in Coming To America.



  1. Invisible Hand said...

    This post actually brings up something I've been thinking a lot about. I understand the cultural and historical significance of buffoonary and the legacy it has on black images in the media. At the same time, as Steve Martin said, comedy isn't pretty. And the desire by a certain segment of the black viewing audience to find dignified comic characters seems to defeat the purpose of what comics are most trying to achieve, which is to make people laugh.

    I guess I've always seen it as a double standard that Jim Carey can play a clown like Ace Ventura and just be a comic, but Tracy Morgan's tomfoolery is a discredit to his race.

    I understand there are sensitivities and people take offense to certain portrayals intended to be comic (Eddie Murphy and his fat black woman schtick in Norbit comes to mind), but at the end of the day I keep flashing back to Sturgis' "Sullivan's Travels" and the scene at the end where we see laughter being the best medicine.

    I don't know... maybe I'M being too sensitive as a professional dealing with both black and white comedy audiences. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

  2. The Obenson Report said...

    Did you mean too "INsensitive?"

    I've also thought about much of what you stated in your comment, but my post is actually about something more. I should have been clearer, so I'll do so now...

    It's not Tracy Morgan's tomfoolery that I'm lamenting - nor our usual choice of black comic routines - but rather their often cartoonish impersonations of Africans in their comedy sketches, TV shows and movies, as well as their broad all-encompassing use of the descriptor, as if all Africans speak, look and act alike.

    And since it's coming from African Americans, it feels like a kind of "second-hand" offshoot ignorance, that blacks in America have experienced under the thumbs of white America, and should, quite frankly, know better.

    I have absolutely no problems self-mockery; but when it's at the damaging expense of another person or group of people, I'm not so quick to laugh - especially when one considers the dearth of portrayals, and the often one-sided representations of, in the case, Africans in American media.

    Of course, being an African, I have a personal interest in this, even though I've lived in the States for the bulk of my life - over 20 years. I remember when "Coming To America" was released in the late 80s - I was in highschool then, and only a year or two removed from Cameroon. I couldn't believe the amount of ignorance that the film inspired in those who saw it, often at my expense, and I was offended in several ways.

    But all that aside... to address your overall point... maybe we do need to "lighten up" a bit, as many have taken the liberty to tell me. But, we should acknowledge what the costs of doing so might be.

    Overall, I think we should also acknowledge the power of volume and variety. Jim Carey and Steve Martin can be clowns in every film they make and not have to carry that burden of being a "discredit to their race," because their race has a monopoly on the two Vs - volume and variety - with regards to representations of of themselves in every kind of media.

    We (black people of the Diaspora, not just Africans, or African Americans) don't enjoy that privilege. So, every portrayal by a black performer, whether in front or behind the camera, is laden with expectations from our community, and heavily scrutinized.

    And maybe that's completely unfair... and you could be right in saying that... but this is the predicament we find ourselves in.

  3. Invisible Woman said...

    Wow, what great comments. From the ummm "unintellectual" peanut gallery (me), the idea sounds funny to me...but like you said--it's all in the execution.

  4. The Wendilicious Wonder said...

    Nothing much to add here.

    My first response to reading about an African-American playing an African prince was to groan.

    It's much like the post you did on August Wilson asking for a black director for the film adaptation of his play, "Fences." It's unlikely that getting an African actor to play the part was even considered, but then I'm guessing this wasn't even written with any great sense of authenticity or cultural awareness or sensitivity so, as a Brit-Nigerian, I don't expect too much from this.

    Cue laughter at the "African" speaking, eating, rolling his eyes and saying "ah-ah!" every other word...


    Good spin on the whole 419 thing though...

    Cue Osuofia singing "I go chop your dollar"

  5. SolShine7 said...

    This is a clever film idea but like you said the execution makes me nervous. Tracy Morgan is no Eddie Murphy (I actually liked Coming to America). I hope the film ends up coming out well made instead another one of those poorly crafted black films like Soul Plane.

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