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Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 5:42 am

By: Tonya Pendleton,

How cool is it to do a show based on the show you used to do and pretty much play the guy you played on the first show? That’s what comedian Tracy Morgan does.

After seven years as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live,” Morgan – on the Emmy-award winning series, “30 Rock” – now plays a comedian on a fictional (wink, wink) TV show that seems very close to the actual “Saturday Night Live.” Even his fictional boss on “30 Rock,” Tina Fey, was once a head writer and performer at “SNL.”

Morgan, 41, has had his share of struggles that are often used as comic fodder for the show, with his permission. In his book, “I Am The New Black,” he openly discusses his struggles with drinking and his divorce from his high school sweetheart. He stars with Bruce Willis in the new crime comedy, “Cop Out,” which opens on Friday.

Here are a few things we bet you didn’t know about Morgan.

1. Martin Lawrence’s wife discovered him.

It wasn’t Martin Lawrence himself that discovered Tracy; it was his ex-wife, according to In 1984, while doing stand-up at The Apollo, Lawrence’s wife caught his show and introduced him to her husband. The two comics got along, and Morgan eventually became a recurring character on “Martin,” playing Hustleman. Hustleman is among the many memorable characters Morgan has played over the years, including “SNL” characters Astronaut Jones, animal lover Brian Fellows, Tate Witherspoon and “Judge Judy” bailiff Bert.

2. His overnight success took 20 years.

It seems like everyone knows who Tracy Morgan is now, but he’s been doing stand-up since 1984. Lawrence gave him his first big break, he was well-known on “SNL,” and even had his own self-titled show on NBC in 2003, but unfortunately for Morgan, it was up against “American Idol.” (It only lasted one season.) Morgan’s biggest mainstream success has come with his starring role on “30 Rock.” That’s almost 20 years after he first got started. It just shows you that in entertainment, it can sometimes take a long time to have people consider you an “overnight” success.

3. Oprah Winfrey was his valentine.

I’m not sure if anyone told Winfrey, but Morgan says that he celebrated this most recent Valentine’s Day with his baby, Lady O. We’re not sure of the accuracy of this claim, however, you can check out this clip from “The Late Show with David Letterman” last week and judge for yourself. Wonder what the two of them would talk about. We’re not entirely sure if this will help him make Oprah’s book club, something Morgan has said he’d like to do, but maybe it will at least put him on her radar.

4. He’s had his struggles.

In his book, “I Am The New Black,” Morgan is more serious than funny, sharing his poverty-stricken childhood growing up in the Brooklyn projects. He says he developed much of his comic skills from childhood. One of the things he says is that when bullies tried to pick on him, he couldn’t summon his older brother because of his disability (his brother has cerebral palsy), so he learned to be funny.

His father’s death is one life experience that hit Morgan particularly hard. His father, Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, was emotionally scarred by the experience and was banished from the family. He became a heroin addict and died of AIDS when Morgan was 17. “Before he left, he gave me knowledge of self and told me that was the key to the universe, and I’ve always kept him with me,” Morgan told “I always feel his presence around me.”

5. For him, success was easy; fame was hard.

Morgan told that as a married father of three with no job, he decided to walk into a comedy club. Four months later, he was on TV. “Success fell into my lap,” he says. But it was dealing with fame that was particularly difficult. Morgan has been honest about alcohol problems that were at the root of the demise of his marriage and threatened to derail his career. He says he hasn’t had a drink in over a year. “Thank God I didn’t hurt nobody, and thank God I didn’t hurt myself,” he told Morgan was diagnosed with diabetes in 1996 but wasn’t taking care of it until he got sick on the set of “30 Rock.” Now, he takes much better care of himself and his condition has improved.