Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Martin Lawrence has deep comic roots, stemming back to his childhood. The former Air Force brat used to entertain his mother, who was raising six children alone, with jokes and silly antics to brighten her day.
In school, Martin was the quintessential class clown. An art teacher, who had grown tired of his interruptions, gave Lawrence the chance to do five minutes of stand-up comedy at the end of each class. But there was a condition attached. Martin had to promise not to disrupt the class. The laughter of his classmates gave Lawrence the push he needed to set his sights on becoming a full-time comic.
Post high-school graduation, Martin took a big step closer to attaining his goal. He appeared on the TV show, Star Search. His performance then was tame, but soon grew bawdy and risqué. He scored a gig as emcee of HBO's Def Comedy Jam. After numerous club and cable-TV appearances, Lawrence caught the attention of filmmaker Spike Lee, who gave him a small part in Do the Right Thing (1989).
Martin finally found fame and fortune as the star of the self-titled TV series Martin. The show had a successful five-season run and gave him ample opportunity to launch a film career.
The comedian has had some well-publicized run-ins with the law. In May 1996, Martin was yelling at passers-by at a busy Los Angeles intersection while waving a pistol. He ran into trouble again when he tried to take a gun on board an airplane. He has had problems on the set due to violent outbursts and charges of sexual harassment.
Despite his troubles, Martin has racked up a string of successes and is establishing himself as a talented, comic leading man. Married in 1995 to Patricia Southall, a former beauty pageant queen, they have one daughter, but the marriage dissolved in 1996. In 1999 he passed out while jogging due to heat exhaustion and was in a coma, but recovered in hospital. His salary for Bad Boys II (2003) was a staggering $20 million.
Martin found short-lived success on television with the 2014 FX legal series, Partners, co-starring alongside Kelsey Grammer. More recently, he played a supporting role in the indie film, The Beach Bum (2019), starring Matthew McConaughey. In 2020, he returned to reprise his role in Bad Boys for Life, alongside Will Smith.
In 2019 his second marriage to Shamicka Gibbs, with whom he has two children, ended in divorce.