Garrett Morris to receive star for 87th birthday 

By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

HOLLYWOOD — Actor-comedian Garrett Morris, best known as a member of the original “Not Ready For Prime Time Players” on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on his 87th birthday, Feb. 1, the first day of Black History Month.

The ceremony, honoring Morris in the category of television, takes place at 11:30 a.m. at 6411 Hollywood Blvd.

“I never thought I’d get a star,” said Morris, who began his career in 1958 as a background singer and arranger for Harry Belafonte. “I never thought about it in any way but I am grateful that Providence has me here. A whole lot of us in showbiz don’t get it. I appreciate it.”

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce selected Morris to have his name embedded in the landmark sidewalks that stretch more than a dozen blocks along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards.

 “Garrett Morris is a true entertainment icon and is ready for prime time on the Walk of Fame,” said Ana Martinez, producer of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “He joins other SNL stars who are Walk of Famers. Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Gilda Radner. We are so happy to honor him on February 1, 2024, which is his 87th birthday and the 136th birthday of our beloved Hollywood.”

Scheduled speakers at the ceremony include Morris’ friend and “Martin” co-star actress Tichina Arnold, his “2 Broke Girls” co-star Jennifer Coolidge, and director-producer Oz Scott, all of whom worked with Morris on TV or film productions.

Morris, whose family is “coming from down South,” said other celebrity guests set to commemorate his career milestone at the event include Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Bill Duke, Obba Babatunde, Kym Whitley, Jackee Harry, Freda Payne and his “Cooley High” co-star Glynn Turman.

“I wouldn’t miss this wonderful recognition,” said the Emmy-winning Turman. “It’s well-deserved. Garrett is a staple of the Hollywood family who has contributed so much.”

Turman said he and Morris met either on the set of “Cooley High” or while doing Ron Milner’s play, “What The Wine Sellers Buy.”

“I can’t remember which one came first,” Turman said. “What I do know is that Garrett is the stuff that Hollywood is made of. His story contributes to the mystique of Hollywood. He’s a multi-talented performer. He’s what we call the ‘real deal.’ A true thespian. The best thing about him is that he’s my friend.”

On March 3, Morris, who is well-versed in both comedy, drama and music, will receive the Hollywood Legacy Award at the sixth American Black Film Festival Honors. He’s being honored alongside Taraji P. Henson, Jeffrey Wright and Mara Brock Akil. The ABFF recognizes excellence in the motion picture and television industry.

Ever since he can remember, Morris, who owned the now defunct LA Blues & Comedy Club from 2009-2020, wanted to be an actor, singer, writer and composer.

“I’ve been doing it all for more than 60 years,” said Morris. “I’ve managed to do all the things I wanted to do.”

Even after decades in the industry, Morris’ passion and respect for his craft remains steadfast. He still has the same excitement for all things entertainment that was ignited decades ago.

A Buddhist since 2009, Morris, a New Orleans native, was raised a Christian by his Baptist minister grandfather, Thomas Phillips, and his grandmother, Gertrude Phillips.

He spent his childhood singing in the church choir and eventually trained at the Julliard School of Music. His first professional break was performing with the Harry Belafonte Singers, with whom he remained for about 10 years.

“He hired me as a backup singer and arranger,” Morris said. “I was with a great man. I watched him. He was a mentor. He did a lot of work for the cause. I’m a great admirer of his. He didn’t just talk the talk. He actually walked the walk.”

During that time, Morris branched out into acting, appearing in Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals including, “Porgy and Bess,” “Show Boat,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death,” “The Great White Hope” and “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummer.”

Morris’ television credits include “Martin,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “The Wayans Brothers,” “Married With Children,” “Family Guy,” “The Jeffersons,” and “2 Broke Girls” as well as “Saturday Night Live,” where, as the only Black actor in the cast, he portrayed such popular characters as Chico Escuela, the Dominican baseball player whose catchphrase, ‘Baseball has been berry berry good to me,’ entered popular culture. He also performed in ‘News for the Hard of Hearing.’

His other television credits include the animated series, “Fairfax,” “Grand Crew,” and the Netflix limited series, “Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker,” “This is Us,” “Scandal,” “Station 19,” “According to Jim,” “Justice League,” “The Hughleys,” “Noah’s Arc,” “All of Us” and “Shameless.”

In the 70s, Morris hit the big screen with Carl Reiner’s “Where’s Poppa?,” “The Anderson Tapes,” “Jackpot,” “Connecting Dots,” “Cooley High,” “Who’s Your Caddy?,” “Comeback,” “Bedridden,” “Sonny Dreamweaver,” “Valley of the Sun,” “Pawn Shop” and Marvel’s “Ant-Man.”

Morris was also a civil rights activist who played an important role in the desegregation of Actor’s Equity and was part of the Black Arts Theater movement with poet and playwright Amiri Baraka.

Today, Morris said he’s working on his autobiography with the working title “Black Creole Chronicle.” He hopes to publish the book within a year. He also is working with his friend Bill Duke on the show Morris wrote called, “The Secret Place.” The two previously did the show in the 70s.

A veteran funny man, Morris said he only occasionally watches “Saturday Night Live.”

“It has lost some of its courage,” he said. “In ’75, it was a radical approach to comedy. They attacked the problems in funny ways and weren’t afraid to attack. It’s not as courageous as it used to be.”

As he looks back on his career, Garrett said he is proud of his contributions to the entertainment industry.

“I loved doing the Broadway shows like Melvin Van Peebles’ ‘Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death,’” said Morris. “I’m proud of SNL and the television shows I was in. Most of all, I’m proud of lasting this long.”

Morris said he’s not interested in resting on his laurels. He enjoys staying busy. He said he would even entertain doing another comedy series.

“Are they paying money?” he asked. “Hell, yeah, I’d do another one. I’m trying to keep busy. I can’t sit down. When you sit down, your body will stay down. I hope I can be here a while longer. I want to continue to be happy and bring happiness to others.”

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at