Martin Lawrence was born in Frankfurt, Germany, where his
father, John Lawrence, served in the US military. When Lawrence
was six, his father left. His mother relocated the family to the
projects in Landover, Maryland; when he was eight years old.
After his father and mother split, he rarely saw his father. His
mother, Chlora, worked two jobs to try to support her family.
She oftened worked as a cashier at various department stores to
support Martin and his five siblings.
During his teen years, Martin excelled at boxing. While living in Maryland, he attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School and became a Mid-Atlantic Golden Gloves boxing contender. Although he was reputedly a good boxer, comedy is where Martin found his greatest success, even early in life. In school, Martin would poke fun at others during breaks and recess, and teachers would routinely let Lawrence have a few minutes of class time to tell jokes and make classmates laugh. It was a teacher who suggested that Lawrence give his comedic talents a shot on stage, at a local comedy club during open mike night. He took on the challenge and was successful.
Martin Lawrence moved to California and found his way to the legendary Kings Wood comedy club. Shortly after appearing at the Wood, he won a performance spot on Star Search, a popular show in the United States. He did well on the show and made it to the final round before ultimately losing. However, executives at Columbia TriStar Television saw Martin's performance and offered him an appearance on the television sitcom What's Happening Now!!; this was his first acting job. Following What's Happening Now, Martin had bit parts in various films and television roles before entertainment mogul Russell Simmons personally selected him to host the groundbreaking series Def Comedy Jam on HBO. Def Comedy Jam gave many comedians (including Chris Tucker, Steve Harvey and Cedric The Entertainer) their start, and it offered Martin his largest audience to date.
Around the same time Martin was cast in the Def Comedy Jam role, Martin appeared in his own sitcom, the hit series Martin, which aired on Fox. The show ran from 1992 to 1997 and was considered a success. Lawrence also hosted Saturday Night Live on February 19, 1994, where he made crude remarks on women's genitalia and personal hygiene. The monologue was later completely edited out of reruns and syndicated versions. As a result, Martin was banned from the show for life. After Martin ended its run, Lawrence worked on many film projects. He starred or co-starred in many movies along side such talents as Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, and Tim Robbins. Many of his films were blockbusters (including Bad Boys (1995) and Big Momma's House (2000) and his salary increased dramatically to over $10 million per role. He continues to work in film, with his new movie Big Momma's House 2 (2006) opening #1 at the North American box office in late January, grossing almost $28 million its first weekend.
Although Martin Lawrence was once engaged to actress Lark Voorhies, he married Patricia Southall, a former Miss Virginia, on January 7, 1995. They have a daughter, Jasmine, but were divorced in 1996. She later married Emmitt Smith. The divorce led to many personal problems in Lawrence's life. In August, 1996, he was arrested at Burbank Airport for carrying a loaded gun in his suitcase. On March 28, 1997, he was again arrested outside a Hollywood nightclub, after a man claimed Lawrence punched him. While directing A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, he reportedly had violent outbursts and took drugs on the set. Martin's Martin co-star Tisha Campbell sued him for s--ual harassment and left the show during its final season. He went into a coma after collapsing from heat exhaustion while jogging in August 1999 but eventually recovered in the hospital.
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