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See Original "Saturday Night Live" Cast Member Garrett Morris Now at 85

The actor, comedian, and musician has no plans to retire.

The cast of the early seasons of Saturday Night Live was packed with future comedy legends who went on to become superstars, but just as many whose careers never quite reached the same heights after they left the show. Garrett Morris, SNL's first Black cast member, falls somewhere in between those two groups. Though he never became a headliner like Bill Murray, Steve Martin, or, later, Eddie Murphy, his 1975 to 1980 stint on the popular variety series kicked off a career that has endured to this day. Keep reading to find out what happened to Morris after he left SNL, and what's keeping him busy now.

RELATED: The Worst SNL Guests Ever, According to the Cast.

SNL launched a busy acting career.

Garrett Morris in 2001
Jeff Vespa/WireImage

After leaving Saturday Night Live in 1980 after 5 years on the show, Morris worked nonstop in films and on television—and no job proved too small, and no film too cheesy. He took on everything from the title role in the black comedy The Census Taker to a small role in the Richard Pryor comedy Critical Condition.

He laughed about his willingness to do any project, including some B-movies, speaking to CBS News in 2014. "One of my horror movies was a thing called The Stuff," Morris recalled. It's [now] a cult favorite. And at the end, my head gets knocked off!"

On TV, he appeared in a string of classic '80s and '90s series, including Diff'rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, Murder She Wrote, Hill Street Blues, The Love Boat, and Married…with Children, and played a smart-mouthed street informant in 28 episodes of the crime drama Hunter.

He spent the rest of the '90s doing long stints on two popular sitcoms. He appeared in more than 50 episodes of Martin between 1992 and 1995, and played Uncle Junior King on The Jamie Foxx Show from 1996 to 2001. In-between, he appeared on the big screen in the SNL spinoff film Coneheads, the low-budget superhero comedy Black Scorpion, and the indie hit Twin Falls, Idaho.

Since 2000, he's appeared in small roles in 16 films, most notably the 2015 Marvel hit Ant-Man—a nod to his having played the hero in an SNL sketch decades earlier. He also landed a lead role in the CBS sitcom Two Broke Girls playing Earl Washington, an ex-jazz musician turned diner cashier, playing the character for the show's entire six-season run.

He overcame addiction and recovered from a major injury.

Garrett Morris in 2015
Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Despite regularly landing jobs, Morris has dealt with some hard times. Even as his star was rising as a cast member on SNL, he was using drugs frequently, which made it hard for him to connect to his castmates.

"I was very much an introvert," he told CBS News in 2014. "And I had a cocaine problem, too, which was adding to it. So a lot of what I did was counterproductive for myself in terms of really connecting with the group."

He struggled with addiction for 30 years before getting sober in 2005, he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021.

Morris's time on the show Martin was cut short by tragedy after he was shot during a robbery attempt in 1994 and required the use of a wheelchair for several years afterward. While he was in the hospital, he learned his character had been cut from the series, Morris revealed in an interview with the Archive of American Television (per Comedy Hype).

He opened his own jazz and comedy club.

Garrett Morris in 2019
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Whenever he's not acting, Morris indulges in his two great loves: comedy and jazz. In 2005, he opened his own Los Angeles venue, the Garrett Morris' Downtown Blues & Comedy Club, where on weekends, he played master of ceremonies to a lineup of up-and-coming comics. After the club closed in 2016, he moved his show to L.A.'s Catalina Jazz Club.

A lifelong musician who studied classical music at Dillard University in New Orleans and played with the Harry Belafonte Singers in the 1950s, Morris also recorded two blues albums: 2014's Black Creole Chronicles and 2018's Legacy.

In 2007, Antonio Villaraigosa, then the mayor of Los Angeles, named the Downtown Blues and Comedy Club the official club of L.A. and proclaimed Feb. 9, 2007 as Garrett Morris Day, according to Fox News.

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He has no plans to retire.

Morris was 80 years old when 2 Broke Girls ended, but he didn't take the opportunity to slow down after that. He's recently appeared in episodes of MacGyver, This Is Us, Scandal, A Black Lady Sketch Show, and the Netflix series Family Reunion and Self Made.

When CBS News asked whether he had plans to retire, Morris answered with a resounding no.

"It keeps me going, you know?" he said. "If you're thinking what you gotta do the next day, your body's gonna say, 'Let me be here to do that,' right? So I want my body to keep saying, 'I gotta be here to do that,' until at 98 or 99 it says, 'OK, I'm not gonna do that any more, all right?'"

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Joel Cunningham
Joel Cunningham is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn. Read more
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