There’s not much that uber-talented Garrett Morris has not accomplished during a career that has spanned parts of six decades. From his pioneering role as an original cast member of Saturday Night Live to his more than decade-long stint as a soloist and arranger with the Harry Belafonte Singers, Morris’ versatility in the industry has been matched by few. A true comedy legend, Morris also spent ten years as a stage performer and playwright, with numerous Broadway credits under his belt, and has co-starred on television and in film alongside some of America’s most recognizable talents.
While still entertaining the masses on the CBS hit series 2 Broke Girls and through his continuing roles on the silver screen, Morris has added entrepreneur to his long list of credits. For years Garrett Morris’ Downtown Blues & Comedy Club has been a downtown Los Angeles original, where Morris can be found entertaining generations of fans with his unique comedic and entertainment prowess as the shows’ host and emcee. Whether it’s his quick wit, his melodic Blues vocals, or simply his powerful presence, Morris maintains the rare ability to entertain audiences of all ages.
Born Garrett Morris on February 1, 1937, in New Orleans, La., Morris was raised by his grandfather, a strict Baptist minister. His propensity for entertaining came early, as he began singing in the church at age 5. A graduate of Dillard University in his hometown, Morris would soon travel to New York to begin a career on stage while also studying under a Julliard professor. Over a span of ten years, Morris who at the same time performed with and arranged for the Harry Belafonte Singers (1958-68), collected numerous credits on and off-Broadway before transitioning to film.
Morris’ first film appearance came via small parts in feature films Where’s Poppa (1970) and The Anderson Tapes (1971), starring Sean Connery. After minor television roles on Roll Out and M.A.S.H., Morris’ first large supporting role came in the 1975 movie Cooley High. It was at that time when Morris met Lorne Michaels, who was developing what would become Saturday Night Live. Michaels was so impressed by the performance of the little-known Morris in Cooley High that he hired Morris as an original member of the Saturday Night Live cast.
Morris’ tenure on Saturday Night Live (1975-80) had its ups and downs. The only black cast member proved difficult, as was his older age as compared to many of his younger cast mates. Morris often felt he was shoehorned into stereotypical roles and struggled for better material and more diverse character from the writers. Nonetheless, Morris was able to develop several memorable characters while on Saturday Night Live, including a spot on the Chevy Chase “Weekend Update” segment where Morris conveyed the night’s top stories for the hearing impaired by merely echoing Chase’s lines via a high-volume shout through his cupped hands. Morris also played the role of retired Dominican baseball player Chico Escuela, where he often used his catch-phrase “Base-a-boll been berry, berry good to me.” Along with his SNL cast mates in 1979, Morris was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy in a Variety or Music Program.
After Morris left SNL he turned back to his stage roots, producing his play Daddy Picou and Marie LeVeau in 1982. He then landed recurring guest spots on shows like The Jeffersons, Hill Street Blues, and Hunter and also had parts on films such as The Stuff and Critical Condition. In 1991 Morris landed a recurring role on the television show Roc before joining the cast of Martin Lawrence’s Martin. Unfortunately, Morris had to be written out of that role after suffering a near-fatal gunshot wound during an attempted robbery in Los Angeles in 1994.
After recovering, Morris would continue to receive small roles in feature films before landing the part of Uncle Junior on The Jamie Foxx Show. Since then Morris has appeared in films such as Vivica A. Fox’s Salon and Ice Cube’s The Longshots. In 2002 Morris was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male. He can now be seen every Monday night on the CBS hit 2 Broke Girls playing the role of Earl, a 75-year-old former jazz musician and current ladies’ man who is the cashier at the Williamsburg Diner.