Comedy aficionados who like to know “Whassup?” take note: Martin Lawrence will perform at the Grande Exposition Hall at Reno’s Silver Legacy Resort Casino on Jan. 15. The show is just one stop on the comedian’s “Doin’ Time” tour currently crisscrossing the U.S.
Lawrence, 50, is said to be at the top of his game. Demand for tickets has been so high that extra shows have been added in several cities.
The comedian generally starts his set with a montage of funny moments from films like the smash hits “Big Momma’s House” and “Bad Boys.”
In a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, he said people ask him every day about the latter franchise, wondering when he and Will Smith will reprise their roles as officers Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey.
Fans of the buddy cop series, whose last installment was released in 2003, will be happy to hear that “Bad Boys 3” is in production and set to be relased in 2017.
After the movie footage ebbs, “Doin’ Time” consists of a take-no-prisoners set with material ranging from moments of self-deprecation to roasting of tarnished celebrities like Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby.
The name of the tour is apropos, considering that Lawrence -- one of the rare stand-up comedians to win success on television, in film and on stage -- has done his time in the industry.
Lawrence was born in West Germany, where both of his parents were stationed in the military, and was raised in Queens, N.Y., and Landover, Md. His parents divorced when he was 8, and his mother, Chlora, was left to take care of their six children. Young Martin hated seeing his mother struggle, working several jobs to make ends, and vowed to do whatever it took to find success.
Lawrence showed some early signs of the charisma that would bring him fame.
He attended the Thomas G. Pullen School of Creative and Performing Arts in Landover for a time and enjoyed his first drama class in 10th grade. He was already a dyed-in-the-wool class clown; an art teacher once told him that if he shut his mouth during class, he could have the last few minutes before the bell rang to entertain his peers.
But Lawrence was initially more interested in fighting than performing. When he started boxing at 15, he was so skinny he was a light flyweight soaking wet. He showed so much promise in the sweet science, however, that he became a contender for the Mid-Atlantic Golden Gloves tournament.
After suffering an eye injury, the teen decided to pursue a less physically brutal path. When another teacher prompted him to attend an open mic night at a local comedy club, he caught the comedy bug.
He truly feels a sense of avocation when gunning for laughs. The comedian said, “I don’t want to sound facetious, but humor is the key to the soul.”
Lawrence, whose often-raunchy performances draw inspiration from pioneering comedians like Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, quickly became a standup standout.
He moved to California and in 1988, nabbed a guest spot on the third season of the TV show “What’s Happening Now!!” The job was followed by a career-making turn as the host of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. In 1992, his own Fox sitcom, “Martin,” aired.
The show, which ran until 1997, was tremendously popular. It ended on a sour note, however, when Tisha Campbell, who played Gina, filed a lawsuit against Lawrence and fellow producers, accusing them of sexual harassment and verbal and physical abuse.
By the end of the show’s run, Lawrence was actually banned from the set of “Martin” when scenes featuring Campbell were being taped.
Hollywood had also come courting, beginning with Spike Lee, who cast Martin Larence in the role of the neighborhood teen Cee in “Do the Right Thing.” Follow-up roles included parts in “House Party” (1990), “Boomerang” (1992), “Bad Boys” (1995) and “A Thin Line Between Love & Hate” (1996).
Just as his career was taking flight, however, Lawrence’s personal life began to devolve. Overwork likely played a part and, while he has said any past issues with substance abuse have been overblown, he has admitted drugs did as well.
In July of 1995, he erupted in rage while on the set of “A Thin Line” and was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Less than a year later, he was arrested after brandishing a pistol in the middle of an LA intersection insisting, “They’re trying to kill me!” He was booked again in 1997 after allegedly punching a man in a Hollywood nightclub.
Lawrence’s dark night of the soul culminated in August of 1999 when he collapsed from heat exhaustion when jogging in 100-degree weather while wearing a plastic suit intended to help with weight loss. He had a body temperature of 107 degrees when he was admitted to the hospital, where he lay for three days in a coma.
His near-death experience was a rock bottom if there ever was one, but Lawrence asserts that it also spurred an epiphany.
“I felt like, in the coma, God laid me down and woke me up to be able to see a lot more clearer, and it's humbled me a great deal, you know?" he told ABC News this past August.
“We fall down but we get back up,” he said, quoting lyrics by gospel singer Donnie McClurkin.
Lawrence has continued to have his trials, especially in the notoriously fickle world of television.
For the most part, however, the multi-talented performer has risen from the ashes, continuing to be a presence on the big screen in films like “Blue Streak,” “National Security,” “Wild Hogs” “College Road Trip” and the FBI-agent-in-drag franchise “Big Momma’s House.”
And now, after some time away from standup, Lawrence is pleased to be back where he started. It hasn’t taken him too long to get back in fighting form. Luckily, though, the game is rigged in his favor.
“All audiences just wants to laugh,” Lawrence said in a recent article on Black America Web. “Whether it’s 1984 or it’s 2015, people just want to laugh.”