When Greg Morton isn’t working the clubs in America, he’s watching with fascination from his perch north of the border. The Canadian comic is gripped by the political and social turmoil plaguing the United States.
“It’s crazy about what’s happening down there,” Morton said by phone from his Toronto home. “I kept up with the Cosby (trial) every night. I was watching with great interest with the news coming out about the (#MeToo) movement.”
Morton, 60, is a veteran parodist and an equal opportunity offender. “Take a Load Off Hillary,” is a shot at former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, sung to The Band’s “The Weight.”
President Donald Trump is the target of “Uptown Trump,” sung to Mick Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.”
“When I wrote that song, it just came to me immediately,” Morton said. “Trump is a very inspiring president for a comedian.”
Morton has been mocking presidents for the past 30 years, but he has noticed that audiences are more sensitive these days to his subject matter.
“It’s sad but true,” he said. “When I was performing in Tulsa, they were groaning every time I joked about Trump in ‘Uptown Trump.’ It got to the point of ridiculousness. C’mon, it’s just a joke. But there are more PC police out there today than ever. Some people take things literally. Get a sense of humor. I like it how it was back in the day.”
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Morton is all about going back to the ’70s with his classic “Star Wars” bit, which features spot-on character impersonations.
“I’ve done my “Star Wars” thing so much over my career that I’m always asked why I still do it,” he said. “It’s because I love ‘Star Wars.’ I’m still a huge fan, and I love that my fans go crazy when I do it.”
Morton’s most popular bit arrived by accident.
“It was just one of those crazy things,” he said. “A lot of fans don’t know this, but what happened many years ago was that I was picking up my stuff onstage after a show. It was just me and a bartender. I started goofing around doing the ‘Star Wars’ voices and the bartender said, ‘That’s hilarious. You should do that in your show.’ Of course, you want to do new stuff when you come back to a place like Iowa. But I have no problem doing the favorites. If I didn’t do ‘Star Wars,’ it would be like my favorite band not playing their big hit when I see them.”
Morton gives the people what they want, and perhaps that’s not a bad idea, since over the past few years it’s about instant gratification.
“I remember seeing George Carlin about 10 years ago and he pulled out a notebook and said, ‘My apologies, Where else am I going to work this material out?’ It was material for his next HBO special. I was so excited. The guy next to me was upset and said, ‘This is ridiculous. I paid $40 for this.’ I was thinking, ‘Dude, you’re getting to watch Picasso create his art right in front of you.’ It reminds me of how a friend was watching ‘Tonight Show’ reruns with me and he was complaining about the clunker jokes Johnny Carson was delivering. What I tried to explain to him was that the bad jokes were given to Carson on purpose because his mastery was digging himself out of the hole. The problem today is that we want everything presented in a perfect manner.”
However, Morton is a very polished comedian, who has a seamless delivery.
“I guess I do it right, since I’ve been a comedian for a very long time,” he said. “If I can’t do this job well by now, well something’s wrong.”
WHAT: Greg Morton
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (10/19) and Saturday (10/20)
TICKETS: $15 advance, $17 show day, (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Gregmorton.com