Actor and comedian Martin Lawrence was born on April 16, 1965 in Frankfurt, Germany. Lawrence's father served in the U.S. military and left the family when Martin was 8 years old. As a teen, he pursued a love of boxing, but was also a gifted comedian. A teacher encouraged Lawrence to attend an open mic night at a local comedy club, and his career as a comic was born.
Shortly after moving to California, Lawrence got a guest spot on the television show What's Happening Now!!. This appearance led to his big break in television as the host of HBO's groundbreaking Def Comedy Jam. Def Comedy Jam gave many comedians (including Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle, Mike Epps, Bernie Mac and Cedric the Entertainer) mainstream exposure. Meanwhile, Lawrence launched his own sitcom for Fox, Martin, which ran from 1992 to 1997.
Martin was the flagship of Fox's Thursday-night line-up, which drew millions of viewers away from NBC's “Must See TV” line-up. He hosted Saturday Night Live on February 19, 1994, where he made crude remarks about women's genitalia and personal hygiene; the monologue was completely edited out of NBC reruns and syndicated versions, and Lawrence was banned from the show for life. Martin's ratings continued to skyrocket so much that Fox became more of a contender against NBC and came closer to being considered among the top television networks.
The actor has also parlayed his television success into a movie career; his films include Bad Boys, Big Momma's House, Big Momma's House 2, House Party, Boomerang, Wild Hogs, Nothing to Lose, Blue Streak, Life, and A Thin Line Between Love & Hate.
In 2012, Lawrence hoped to return to the small screen as part of his development deal with CBS. But the network decided to pass on his new show. He is reportedly going to reprise one of his most famous roles, Detective Marcus Burnett, in Bad Boys for Life (Bad Boys 3), which is currently in development.
April 16, 1965
- He was so much in love with boxing that he seriously considered making a career out of it. His mother frequently moved from place to place due to her jobs, and as a result, Martin attended four different schools before completing his education. He also developed a keen interest in acting, but boxing remained his first love.
- After looking around for auditions for a while, Martin went to The Improv, the legendary American comedy club franchise, where he was immediately accepted. In the late 1980s, comedy clubs had become a serious cultural phenomenon. Martin’s excellence in comedy had him winning a performance spot on the TV show Star Search, which had candidates competing in different genres of entertainment. Although he reached the finals, he could not win. However, this stint gave him a lot of exposure.
- A few executives of one of the biggest American studios, Columbia Pictures, saw his performance and asked him to audition for a role in What’s Happening Now!!, their latest comedy series. Martin was selected to play the role, and this turned out to be the first major breakthrough of his career. Martin remained a part of the sitcom for about a year, before it was canceled in 1987.
- HBO hired him to host their comedy show Def Comedy Jam, which was known to give new comedians proper mainstream exposure. Following his successful stint as a host, Martin started appearing in Martin, his own TV show on Fox. The show was a mega hit and became the most popular show on the entire Fox network and even helped the channel compete with NBC.
- In 1995, he starred in Bad Boys, a buddy-cop action–comedy film, which saw him appear alongside Will Smith. The film received accolades from both critics and audiences. Thus, Martin was at the peak of his career in the mid-1990s. In 1997, Martin aired its last episode. Martin soon started doing more films. His impeccable comic timing had him earning significant comedy roles.