By Rick Cawley
For the Review
Here’s a challenge, but one that will inevitably result in failure. Try to spend two minutes with homegrown actor/comedian Chris Morris and not bust up laughing. He doesn’t even have to be trying to make you laugh … you just do. Bottom line … he’s just a naturally funny guy.
Morris recently had his latest indie flick “Stealing A Survivor” released on the streaming services. The film, which was shot in area locations, co-stars George Wendt of “Cheers” fame, as well as former “Survivor” contestant Gervase Peterson, hence the title of the movie. Morris has an important role in the picture playing an endearing screwball named “Tanner” in the middle of a zany plot involving Peterson and the main character Ray Martin, who also directs the feature.
In early October Morris finished wrapping up work on another indie with the working title of “Sagacity” that was shot at the Jersey beach, primarily in North Wildwood. The fact that Roxborough’s own has gotten some recent parts belies the point that his career has been a direct flight to the stars. In reality, it’s been a downright struggle at times.
Morris, who grew up on Houghton Street in a devout Catholic family, has lived his life in the long shadow of his legendary coach/dad/hero, Speedy, and his more athletically accomplished siblings. His two brothers, Keith and Brian, both followed in their father’s footsteps and have had successful ventures coaching in the high school basketball world.
However, during his years at St. John the Baptist School, Chris Morris found the comedy bug after got to see some old school comedians up close, and soon after discovered that he had a hidden talent that eventually allowed him to gain equal footing in the Morris household. He could do spot-on impressions and make people laugh. A few of his favorites included the late Saturday Night Live cornball, Chris Farley, the renowned comedic whiner, Rodney Dangerfield, and the acclaimed South Philly entertainer, Cozy Morley, of “On The Way To Cape May” fame.
While at Archbishop Carroll High, Morris further developed his comedic chops by cracking up his classmates doing comic bits in assemblies and talent shows. During his years at LaSalle University, the “Communications” major would further refine his stand-up routine. Over time, Morris and his dad would develop a comedy act, with Speedy showing impeccable timing as the straight man with Chris getting big laughs as the brunt of the set-ups. A crowd favorite was always Morris leading the audience in an over-the-top rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” Over the years, this side-splitting stage coupling would bring smiles to thousands in our community, most notably at the Valley View Inn owned by their good friend, the late Billy Keenan.
The first major break in the world of show business for Morris after college came when he traveled to Los Angeles after landing a part in a 2005 release titled “Kids In America.” In the movie Morris took on the role of a punk-rock fanatic named Chuck McGinn and nailed it to a T. Although Morris’ contribution to the film was noteworthy, the film was a dud at the box office. It nonetheless gave Morris some valuable acting experience and a first hand look at the moviemaking process.
A few years later, his next foray into the movie world came closer to home when Morris was awarded a supporting part in another indie project called “99 Percent Sure” where he masterfully portrays a pivotal character named Guy Paige. Although the film is technically solid and got decent reviews, it didn’t make a big splash in the filmdom universe. Still, the movie will catch the eye of locals in that it includes scenes shot “back the crick” along Forbidden Drive and at Devil’s Pool.
While getting the occasional part in the cinematic domain may have seemed like a worthy pursuit, Morris began to take into account the endless frustration brought on by a revolving door of repeated auditions and turn-downs and what that can do to one’s psyche. While keeping his dream alive, he decided to look for something more substantial.
While doing a series of comedy gigs and odd jobs, including one at the Adventure Aquarium, Morris took advantage of an opportunity to train to become a Therapeutic Staff Support (TSS) worker with the Phila. School District and got matched with an autistic student at the Cook-Wissahickon, and later Dobson, schools. Working in a situation with special population groups helped Morris develop a deep empathy for children with special needs and gave him a foundation to explore the temperament and personality spectrum of his latest role in the recently shot “Sagacity” film, where he plays an autistic adult.
More recently, Morris had been involved in customer service at the Nieman Marcus branch in the King of Prussia mall. However, following the pandemic shutdowns, the store had to scale down and many employees, including Morris, had to be let go. Another casualty of COVID-19 for Morris was the postponement of the planned extension of a hilarious comedy bit that Morris and his longtime friend Tom Burgoyne (aka the Phillie Phanatic) had pulled off at Citizen’s Bank Park in 2019 with Morris playing along in the hysterical part of a dancing umpire. The duo did conspire to shoot some clever promos this spring with Morris in the umpire role being the rib-tickling foil of the Phanatic.
Morris has also been busy promoting a book that he wrote and self-published on Amazon, called “Planet LEGASY.” The premise for the story involves two students, Chris and Lori, as well as their teacher, Miss Nancy, being magically whisked to the planet L.E.G.A.S.Y (Let’s Everyone Get Along, Start Young) by a big, cuddly Phanatic-like creature called Lunar, where bullying is not tolerated and all citizens are treated with decency and respect. The anti-bullying issue is a sentiment near and dear to the heart of Chris Morris.
The book was dedicated to his beloved Uncle Dave Morris, a decorated Vietnam hometown hero and a treasured friend to scores in our community who tragically passed away earlier this year. The fabulous artwork in the book was the handiwork of talented 12-year-old Tristan Ferraro who is the son of Morris’ cousin, Kimberly Morris Ferraro. Morris readily acknowledges that the book would not be the same without Ferraro’s artistry. He boasts that “Tristan brought the pages to life.” Ferraro was the subject of a recent TV interview by Fox 29 News.
In the post-COVID world, Morris would like to use the LEGASY platform and his Lunar character’s costume to make an in-road into local schools and other community organizations to spread the anti-bullying gospel and help foster a positive evolution of social awareness in the lives of young people. In the meantime, he’s planning on utilizing his “Lunar” alter-life to make some Halloween drive-by appearances in the neighborhood to get the ball rolling. An appearance can still be booked on his Facebook page (Christopher G. Morris).
Down the road, Morris is unsure of his next steps. Ideally, he’d like one of his auditions to lead to a role in a major movie. In a perfect world Morris envisions himself working side-by-side with his idol Adam Sandler, but he reasons “that’s in God’s hands.” Regardless of what path Morris takes, he’s still driven to reach for the stars and pursue his dream. “I’m never gonna stop doing what I love to do.”