Longtime Plaquemine resident John Morgan started his adult life as a serious college student and earned degrees in political science and English at USL in Lafayette.
So intent on getting a good education and so good at it that he became president of the Student Government Association (SGA) at the university now known as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
“I was a good student all the way through college,” Morgan said, adding in addition to being the head of the university’s SGA, he was on its board of trustees and the Louisiana Board of Trustees.
He never planned on becoming a comedian. “I think I just fell into it because of what I was doing at the time,” Morgan said.
“My comedy wasn’t being the product of being one of nine kids and I wasn’t the class clown,” he continued.
A part-time job he held to help pay his way through college, though, led him to become a standup comedian. And a quite popular one at that – he became the emcee at a local club for the nights where male dancers were featured.
“In the early ‘80s, there was a nightclub that needed a master of ceremonies, so I took the job,” Morgan said. “I’d cut jokes during the breaks and get laughs from the audience.”
That evolved into doing comedy routines at parties and eventually to an invitation from a Houma club owner.
“This guy in Houma came to me and said, ‘You’re pretty funny. You think you could do a show at my club’ and I said yes,” Morgan said. It didn’t go as planned.
“I went into this place in Houma and bombed, completely bombed,” he said. “But I felt something that was unbelievable.”
“I think when someone finds something within themselves or in a relationship or a job and you go, “Wow. This is it. This is something I love.’”
“The old saying is, ‘Find something you love and you’ll never work another day in your life,’” Morgan said. “That is true in what I do now, comedy.”
While he loves what he does, he says it comes with a cost. A loving family man with a wife and three children, Morgan said he spends about 40 percent of the year on the road to earn a living.
“The start of my comedy came from the necessity of making money,” Morgan said. “Back then you paid your tuition or you got a student loan. It was self-reliance back then.”
“So that’s how comedy hit me,” he continued. “It really was by necessity, but then it evolved into, ‘Wow, this is a wonderful, wonderful way of making a living This is a wonderful profession and I love it.”
Nicknamed the “Ragin’ Cajun,” in part because it’s the mascot of the college he attended, in part because he is indeed Cajun but the biggest part of it is likely his nearly manic stage presence, moving from joke to joke seamlessly and at a rapid fire pace.
Morgan’s comedy wasn’t an immediate success, but it’s evolved into a profession that keeps him on the road for at least 30 weeks a year and regular gigs with several charities and corporations.
He also does his show as a personal favor to close friends, like a woman he refers to only as Mama Sandra, who took him in years ago when he became seriously ill while in Birmingham, Ala.
Last weekend, Morgan traveled the five hours to Birmingham to provide the entertainment for Mama Sandra’s daughter’s wedding. “Mama Sandra took care of me,” so now the comedian was returning to repay her in part for her love and care.
He had recently returned from doing a show in Hartford, Conn., which seems like an unlikely place for a Cajun comedian.
“I don’t want to be the Boudreaux or Thibodeaux comedian,” Morgan said. “Oh, I’m proud of them and I love them. That’s my people, that’s my heritage, that’s my mother’s family.”
And while people who live far away from Louisiana have a preconceived idea of what Louisiana and its people are like, there’s no doubt in Morgan’s mind about the people of his home state.
“I realized that in Louisiana we are a great, great people beyond the crawfish boils,” he said. “The crawfish boils, the frog legs, the crabs and the camps and hunting – that’s who we are by nature. That’s in us and emotionally, I believe it’s a gift from God and that’s amazing.”
Morgan will be performing at The Texas Club in Baton Rouge next Friday night, Mar. 23. The club is owned by a pair of brothers he credits with much of his success, “my dear friends Mark and Mike Rogers.”
“I love them to death,” he said. “They fed my family for years and I would go through hell and high water for them.”