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Aug. 27, 1992. That date would change television, pop culture, and hip hop culture forever. Martin Lawrence’s hit television sitcom, Martin, premiered and became an instant hit for Fox for five seasons. While the show’s legacy lives on today, it’s just one of the career-defining marks on Lawrence’s illustrious career résumé.
If nothing else, Martin’s career is a blueprint for young comedians to try and replicate. Martin got his first big break hosting HBO’s hit Def Comedy Jam, lighting audiences on fire with his ability to roast just about anyone brave enough to sit in the front row. From there, Martin received a few supporting roles in movies like Do The Right Thing, House Party and Boomerang. And later, he’d become a superstar after stand up specials like You So Crazy and RunTellDat and in movies like Blue Streak and Bad Boys.
Lawrence’s legacy always hinges on his show, Martin, though. And for good reason. The jokes, the willingness to talk about social issues and its ubiquitous influence on hip hop culture still shine today, 25 years after the show premiered. What Martin left contemporary comedians with was a template on how to build characters that mattered.
Lawrence once said that “humor was the key to the soul”, and the key to good comedy is always character building. And what made his show so much fun aside from its main characters were the reoccurring roles of minor characters, often played by Martin himself. No one who watched Martin will forget Bruh Man, Dragonfly Jonez or Shenene, and it’s these characters that took Martin from good to legendary.
Today, we see Charlie in Black-ish (Dion Cole) or Thug Yoda on Insecure (Tristen Winger) carry on the tradition that Lawrence helped build with Martin.
Whether young comedians are writing for themselves or writing for others, this basic principle developing memorable characters is the key to becoming the success that Lawrence has become all these years later.