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'SNL' alum Garrett Morris

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Way before Martin Lawrence, way before Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper‘s Mark Curry and other black comedians grabbed the TV spotlight, there was Garrett Morris. At least that’s the way Morris sees it.

”I have always been aware of black comedians,” says Morris, 56, who plays Stan Kemrite, Martin‘s tacky, tightwad station manager. ”I’m a comedian. It’s like someone telling me I’m a star after 17 years.”

Those 17 years, though, have not always been bery, bery good to him. As a member of the original Saturday Night Live troupe, Morris is best known for a few classic routines, including his portrayals of baseball ”great” Chico Escuela and Tina Turner. But on many weeks, even Laraine Newman got more lines. ”People didn’t write for me because they didn’t know how to write,” Morris says. According to the 1986 book Saturday Night, Morris also had a serious cocaine problem: On the set, he reportedly claimed he was being watched by an ”invisible hypnotist robot.” He left the show in 1980. While fellow SNL cast members went on to bigger and better things, he remained stuck in bit parts — in the short-lived 1984 sitcom It’s Your Move, and in forgettable movies. Morris fared somewhat better thereafter, with recurring roles on Hunter and Roc.

Now, on Martin, he mixes his disco-era delivery with Lawrence’s new-jack humor. ”The energy just bounces around off of us,” Morris says. ”I patterned the character after all the seedy, time-warped guys I know.”

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