Martin Lawrence

Martin Lawrence

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Lawrence was raised by his parents. In 1973, his parents divorced, which forced his mother to work numerous odd jobs in order to support her six children. When he was a teenager, Lawrence was an amateur boxer and seriously considered going pro until he suffered an eye injury that prompted him to reconsider. After graduating, he began doing stand-up comedy on the Washington, D.C. circuit before moving briefly to New York City where he worked the crowds at Washington Square Park. He also worked at a Sears store in Queens, where he counted among his fellow employees, future stars Salt-N-Pepa and Kid 'N' Play. After moving back to Maryland, he incorporated his Manhattan experiences into his act and toned down his raunchy language for a shot on the once-popular "Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995). Though Lawrence only won once on the competition, a tape of his performance found its way to Columbia Pictures, where he was cast in the recurring role of Maurice, a smart-mouthed busboy during the last season of the spin-off "What's Happening Now! !" (syndicated, 1985-88). Moving on to make his feature debut, Lawrence had an hysterical bit as a determined pizza joint patron in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" (1989) and also scored as the tone-deaf D.J. in the Hudlin brothers' sleeper hit, "House Party" (1990), which reunited him with old Sears coworkers Kid 'N' Play. After appearing in the sequel "House Party 2" (1991), he had a co-starring role as Eddie Murphy's over race-sensitive sidekick in "Boomerang" (1992), followed by his first appearance on the stand-up comedy series, "One-Night Stand" (HBO , 1988-1993). Having attracted the attention of HBO executives like Chris Albrecht , the pay cable network developed his very own sitcom, "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97), which received a boost from Lawrence's stand-up special and a two-season hosting gig of the new series, "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" (HBO, 1992-2008). But it was the popular Fox sitcom that brought Lawrence to prominence. On the show, he played Martin Payne, a wise-cracking radio disc jockey who exudes a macho exterior on air, but displays his sensitive side while at home with his wife, Gina (Tisha Campbell-Martin). Lawrence also had a knack for playing a wide array of characters, many of which required prosthetics and which showed his particular penchant for performing in drag, including Sheneneh Jenkins, a flashy girl from the ghetto; Edna Payne, Martin's overprotective mother; Jerome, an aging pimp; and Bob, a white surfer-dude. "Martin" was embraced by audiences and became a significant hit. Lawrence's insightful edginess often raised his sitcom work above the level of stereotype, enough so that the NAACP honored "Martin" with its Image Award, while the series allowed him huge improvisational freedom. Following in the footsteps of Richard Pryor and Murphy, he branched into comedy albums with Talkin' Shit (1993) and concert films with You So Crazy (1994). He raised his profile further by co-starring with Will Smith in Michael Bay's feature directorial debut, "Bad Boys" (1995). He co-wrote, starred in, served as music supervisor for and executive produced "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate" (1996). After taking a break from Hollywood, Lawrence returned with two features, reuniting with Eddie Murphy to play a pair of convicts for "Life" (1999), and then playing a diamond thief pretending to be a cop in "Blue Streak" (1999). Following a health scare, he roared back to the forefront in the hit comedy "Big Momma's House" (2000), playing an FBI agent who dons a fat suit to impersonate a 300-pound woman in order to nab a violent bank robber (Terrence Howard). His follow-up project, "What's the Worst that Could Happen?" (2001) pitted him against Danny DeVito as a thief and billionaire, respectively, in a battle to see whose evilness would triumph. In 2002, Lawrence took his comedy stint to the big screen, resulting in "Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat." The following year, Lawrence joined Steve Zahn for the comedy feature "National Security" (2003), before reuniting with Will Smith and director Michael Bay for the uninspired retread sequel "Bad Boys II" (2003). Lawrence lightened his image with the broad, heartwarming comedy "Rebound" (2005), playing a basketball coach looking for a second chance with a middle school team of misfits after being banned from the college level for his bad temper. After voicing Boog, a 900-pound domesticated grizzly bear with no survival skills trying to survive the wild in "Open Season" (2006), Lawrence once again donned a fat suit for the inevitable sequel, "Big Momma's House 2" (2006). Lawrence went on to co-star in "Wild Hogs" (2007), a critically-panned, but hugely successful ensemble comedy about four down-and-out men (Lawrence, John Travolta ,Tim Allen and William H. Macy) who go through respective mid-life crises by embarking on a freewheeling, cross-country motorcycle trip in order to prove their manhood. Despite bad reviews, "Wild Hogs" dominated the box office its opening weekend, eventually taking in over $250 million worldwide. Meanwhile, he returned to his stand-up roots to executive produce " Martin Lawrence Presents: 1st Amendment Standup " (Starz, 2005-10), an uncensored showcase of the day's best under-the-radar comedians. Back on the big screen, he starred in "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" (2008), and then teamed up with director Neil LaBute for the remake of the British black comedy, "Death at a Funeral" (2010). Since then, Lawrence has been in "Bad Boys for Life" (2020) and "Mindcage" (2022).