On this day in comedy in 1992 Martin premiered on FOX.
Created by Martin Lawrence, Topper Carew and John Bowman, the timing was impeccable. As the fledgling Fox network grew, Martin grew right along with it and was a consistent ratings champ for them.
Starring Martin Lawrence as a Detroit radio station DJ and later a public access television host, the sitcom showcased his talent and wide array of characters weekly. Lawrence played Mama Edna, his own mother complete with moustache; his ghetto girl neighbor, Sheneneh with too many weaves and too much back talk for Martin’s liking; the pot-bellied security guard, Ol Otis; gold-tooth sporting, Jerome, the pimp from the bygone era; snotty-nosed, Roscoe, the little boy who Lawrence plays by standing on his knees with shoes at the end; Dragonfly Jones, the martial arts instructor who gets beaten up by his students; Bob, the white surfer, redneck who is Gina’s boss; Elroy, the mechanic who claims he was the Godfather of Black Surf Music and King Beef, Martin’s favorite Blaxploitation superstar with a penchant for dancing under any harrowing circumstance.
Martin was popular with all age groups. It had catchphrases (“Get to Steppin”). It had funny writing. It had a perfectly balanced cast. Tisha Campbell co-starred as Martin’s college educated (and knowing it) girlfriend (and later wife) Gina. Tommy Mikal Ford played Martin’s childhood, job unknown, buddy, Tommy. Tichina Arnold was Gina’s friend and Martin’s non-friend and verbal sparring partner, Pam. Carl Anthony Payne II had the role of Martin’s other diaper buddy Cole, not-too-smart with a thing for the big girls, but a man with a steady job cleaning jets at the airport. The common theme being Martin’s friends love him but he’s an inconsiderate, self-centered, arrogant kind of guy and not too in touch with his feelings. In other words he talks too much trash and always has to eat it.
The show was on top of Fox’s heap for five seasons. It had a talented supporting cast including Reginald Ballard as Bruh Man from the fifth flo, who’d climb through Martin’s window to fetch whatever he needed. Tracy Morgan as Hustle Man who once tried to sell Martin and his friends fried pigeon on a branch when they were snowed in and starving. Garrett Morris was Martin’s cheap boss, Stan at the radio station. Comedians Charlie Murphy, John Witherspoon, Laura Hayes, Lawanda Page, David Alan Grier, Roxanne Reese, Kim Coles and rapper Yo-Yo had recurring roles.
Martin won a number of awards. It was recognized with a People’s Choice Award for Best Comedy Series and Acting (Lawrence – Best Actor; Marla Gibbs – Best Supporting Actress) and an NAACP Award to Tisha Campbell for Best Actress. Unfortunately the show’s longevity was cut short in 1996 when a lawsuit was brought by Tisha Campbell for sexual harassment against Lawrence and the show’s producers. The studio settled and the final season was completed with neither co-stars making any contact. The show went off the air May 1, 1997
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton