Reflecting the rising popularity of the Fox network throughout the 1990s, Martin was one of the network's highest-rated shows during the sitcom's five-season run. In contrast to the popularity of NBC's "Must See TV" on Thursday nights in the 1990s, many African American and Latino viewers flocked to Fox's Thursday night line-up of Martin, Living Single, and New York Undercover. In fact, these were the three highest-rated series among black households for the 1996–1997 season. (In order of popularity, Living Single, New York Undercover, and Martin.)
Set in Detroit, Michigan, the series stars Martin Lawrence in the role of Martin Payne, a disc jockey with a girlfriend named Gina Waters played by Tisha Campbell-Martin. Martin works for the fictional radio station WZUP and later for local Public-access television station Channel 51. A common theme of the series is Martin's ornery and wayward nature; episodes often center on Martin's inconsiderate, yet smart-mouthed attitude towards his friends, neighbors, and whoever else might find themselves in his presence. When all is said and done, though, Martin loves his family and friends—it just takes dire situations to bring it to light.
As the series progressed, plotlines saw Martin eventually move on to become the host of the talk show "Word on the Street," which aired on the small Detroit Public-access television station Channel 51. He retained this position until the series' final episode, in which he and Gina prepared to move to Los Angeles, from where his show would be syndicated nationally. The move coincided fortuitously with Gina's promotion by her boss Mr. Whitaker to head up his company's new Los Angeles headquarters, after having shut down the Detroit office. Pam, whom Whitaker let go two episodes earlier due to this consolidation and downsizing, went on to pursue a career in the music industry as an artists & repertoire (A&R) executive at Keep It Real Records. (This plotline is the subject of a backdoor pilot episode that was included in the Martin series for a planned sitcom on Fox starring Tichina Arnold to be called Goin' for Mine [Episode 129, "Goin' for Mine"]. This sitcom never materialized, though.) And at series' end, Cole proposed to his even more dimwitted, but attractive and devoted girlfriend Shanise (portrayed by Maura McDade), and they made plans to move into their own place.
In early episodes, Lawrence began with a monologue of him speaking to the camera and audience from the darkened radio studio.
In 1996, Tisha Campbell filed a lawsuit against her co-star Martin Lawrence and the show’s producers for sexual harassment and verbal and physical assaults. HBO Studios eventually settled the case with Campbell so that the show’s last season could be completed. Campbell did return to the Martin set to film the last two episodes of the show’s last season under the condition that she would not appear in any scenes with Lawrence.
Characters[edit source | edit]
Main character[edit source | edit]
Martin (Martin Lawrence) Martin is a sweetheart deep down, but on the outside is a very melodramatic, macho, ornery, blustery, conceited, inconsiderate, selfish, and insulting wise guy. Martin carries himself in a typical urban youth manner, using "Ebonics" and urban mannerisms. His girlfriend turned wife, Gina Waters, has sometimes tried to straighten him out or expostulate with him, but this had rarely worked what with Martin's ornery waywardness. Ever the paper tiger, Martin is not much of a physical fighter despite trying to come off as such. He has a particularly antagonistic relationship with Gina's best friend/co-worker, Pam. Every time Pam's in his presence, Martin antagonizes her, most often with degrading zingers that animalize her. Martin has many commonly used locutions on the program from "Get to stepp'n" (when ousting guests from his apartment) and "Damn that Gina" (dismissing his wife's ideas) to "Damn, Damn, Daaamn!" (disappointment), etc.
Supporting characters[edit source | edit]
Gina Waters-Payne (Tisha Campbell) (Seasons 1-5; appears for a short time in Season 5), Martin's professional and occasionally silly/misbehaved, but eternally romantic, forgiving girlfriend and later his wife. Gina works for a public-relations firm. She complements Martin's street savvy, with her constant voice of reason and sentimental thoughts. She is also Pam's best friend, but comes across as snobby (along with Pam) to many of Martin's other recurring characters, due to herself being the college-educated opposite.
Tommy Strawn (Thomas Mikal Ford), Martin's level-headed best friend. Intelligent and charming, he serves as the voice of reason, especially during Martin's schemes. He would often coin himself as a ladies man, and often would flirt with Pam and other women on the show. Had a romantic relationship with Pam during Season 3, but retained their friendship for the remainder of the series (see Pamela James, below). His mysterious employment status was an occasional gag on the show.
Cole Brown (Carl Anthony Payne II), Martin's other best friend. Dimwitted but well-meaning, and known for his eclectic taste in headgear, he proudly cleans jets at the airport for a living, drives an AMC Pacer, and lives with his mother Maddie (portrayed by comedienne Laura Hayes) until Season Five. For a time, Cole appeared to be attracted strictly to plus-sized women, and until the final season dated a security guard named "Big Shirley" (who is fully seen in only one episode; another episode only showed "her" below the neck to portray her as being much taller and bigger than Cole). In that final season, he moves into his own apartment in a rough neighborhood, and dates Shanise, who appears to be even more dimwitted than he is. During the series finale, he becomes engaged to Shanise. Notably, Cole is absent in several episodes in Season 3 without any explanation.
Pamela James (Tichina Arnold), Gina's sassy, fiery best friend, who is consistently portrayed as Martin's antagonist. Pam worked at the PR firm where Gina is employed, as Gina's subordinate. Pam has a very adversarial relationship with Martin. She antagonizes him typically through belittling zingers that emasculate Martin and make him appear physically short and small. Pam and Tommy were occasionally flirtatious with each other in the beginning, and this developed into a romantic relationship for a brief time, during the Season 3. They later broke up near the beginning of Season 4 and remained good friends for the rest of the series, though he retained a slight obsession with her. During the first season, Cole harbored a crush on Pam and was consistently rebuffed.
Shawn McDermott (Jonathan Gries) (1992–1994), the white, scatterbrained radio station engineer at WZUP, Martin always finds himself having rather strange conversations with him. Shawn often does things that upset their boss Stan, and once even tried to secure a record deal from Snoop Dogg when he was at an engagement party for Martin & Gina. Shawn was later fired, along with Martin, when Stan sold the radio station. It is revealed in a later episode that Shawn was retained by the new station as an engineer. Shawn's final appearance on the show was in the Season 2 season finale episode where he says farewell to Martin. That particular episode showed a more serious side of Shawn as he gives Martin some advice on life that actually made sense. After this episode, Shawn is never seen or mentioned again, with the exception of the Season 4 clip show "The Best of Martin" in which he appears via archive footage.
Stan Winters (Garrett Morris) (1992–1994; 1995 guest role) was Martin and Shawn's boss, the owner and founder of radio station WZUP. He perpetually used too much cologne and wore woefully outdated clothing from the 1970s. Martin knew Stan to be cheap and quite untrustworthy, and just when Martin didn't think Stan could sink any lower with his schemes, Stan was always able to surprise him. Furthermore, Garrett Morris' real-life shooting resulted in his unexpected departure from the series and a major change in the series, regarding Martin's career. Therefore, Stan is written out of the series close to the end of Season 2 when he gets into trouble with the IRS due to a debt of $20,000 in unpaid taxes, precipitating his sale of the radio station and subsequent flight to parts unknown. He returned for one episode in Season 3 to form a partnership with Martin, and together they opened a restaurant—Marty Mart's Meatloaf and Waffles. Needless to say, their joint venture was a failure, whereupon Stan left and was never mentioned again in the series.
Shanise McGullicuddy (Maura McDade) (1996-1997, recurring role) is Cole's girlfriend (and later fiancée) during the fifth and final season. Shanise is a very friendly woman. She always has a positive attitude. However, she is even more dimwitted than Cole. She and Cole briefly break up in one episode but this occurs because when she told Cole she needed more space, he assumed she meant she wanted to break up but she actually wanted a bigger apartment. She is also thoughtful and willing to help others. In the episode Over the Hoochie's Nest, she assists Martin, Tommy and Cole in rescuing Pam from an insane asylum. In the series finale, Cole wanted to ask Shanise to marry him. He had a hard time asking her due to him losing the ring. Shanise was even taken to get X-rayed in order for Cole to find the ring after he stuck it in cupcake. Finally, they become engaged when she is tricked into reading a letter that says "Will you marry me?" and Cole says yes to her. At the end of the episode, she is last seen helping the Paynes move out of their apartment as well as saying farewell to them. She is the only minor character to only be on the series in a recurring role.
Bruh-Man (comedian Reginald Ballard): Bruh-Man is a friendly, yet extremely presumptuous man who lives on the fifth "flo" (yet he always puts 4 fingers up when relating this fact) directly upstairs from Martin. Whenever Martin asks what he is doing, Bruh-Man replies, "nuttin' ....just chillin'." He often climbs down the "f-a-a-a-ah 'scape" (fire escape)[What he seemed to have said happen when he tried to exit Gina's fire escape] to enter Martin's apartment, taking food, borrowing assorted items, and generally lounging around as if he lives there. At first, this greatly annoyed Martin but he eventually got used to it. In fact, fire escapes seem to be his only means of movement throughout buildings—he is seldom seen entering or exiting the apartment through the front door. When he attended Martin and Gina's engagement party at Gina's apartment, he went as far as climbing the building since there was no fire escape. Bruh-Man always wears badly fitting clothing a size or two too small (frequently, items he's "borrowed" from Martin), and has a characteristic gait consisting of a slow and lazy, rather limping, plodding walk, with his head cocked to one side. Martin, as Bruh-Man was heading toward the window to make his exit, once referred to it as his "slow bop." Bruh-Man speaks in a deep voice and with a long drawl, not unlike that of Shaquille O'Neal. Despite being a popular character, Bruh-Man was quietly phased out of the series, along with most of the secondary characters played by Martin Lawrence. His last appearances were in the fourth season, and he explains his absence by stating that he only comes around when Martin and Gina are away out of respect for their marriage. This is proven true as he does not appear in the fifth and final season of the series, however he is mentioned briefly. In episode 13, "Ain't That About a Ditch", when Gina's mother locks Martin out of his apartment, he pauses to think, then whispers "Bruh-Man" to himself as he walks off to climb in through the fire escape.
Nadine Waters (Judyann Elder): Gina's doting and somewhat over-protective mother, who comes on as sophisticated, sweet and mild-mannered on the surface, but has shown a dark side on occasion—such as once getting immediately turned on by a brief scene from a porn video, and generally becoming quite flustered whenever conversation or situations turned to sexual subjects.
Dr. Cliff Waters (J.A. Preston): Gina's overbearing and overprotective father who works as a chiropractor. Instantly disliked Martin because he didn't feel he was good enough for his daughter. During the wedding rehearsal dinner, he threatens to start "capping" people, instantly inciting a major fight with members of the Payne family.
Ms. Geri (Jeri Gray): A tough, trigger-happy senior who, regardless of her age and diminutive size, has no qualms about "whoopin' ass." Most of her assaults are committed on Martin in everyday situations, such as standing in line at the DMV or at the unemployment office. On one occasion, her opponent was Dragonfly Jones (Lawrence), whom she soundly defeated as well, taking his money for good measure.
Hustle Man (comedian Tracy Morgan): The neighborhood purveyor of questionable products and services "at a discount rate! I don't do dat for erra'body! I'm just tryna help YOU out!" He always greets Martin with his trademark "What's happenin', chief?" In one episode, one of Hustle Man's more outrageous items for sale was an 'appetizing' array of roasted pigeons impaled on a tree branch (as if barbecued on it), which he attempted to sell to Martin and his friends while they were snowed in and starving. In another episode he served as Martin's cut-rate "wedding planner," armed with a shopping cart brimming with plastic flowers, chitlin loaf, and a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor—Martin's retaliation for Gina's choice of a more elegant and ridiculously overpriced wedding planner.
Nipsey (Sean Lampkin): The rotund, good-natured bartender who owns Nipsey's Lounge, the group's favorite hangout.
Mr. Jim (John Wesley): Martin's barber since childhood, and proprietor of Jim's Barber Shop. Greatly respected by everyone in the neighborhood, he seems to take a paternalistic interest in Martin, and tries to advise him as best he can when called upon to do so. Mr. Jim takes pride in the fact that he can remember the nickname he has given each and every "regular" that ever sat in his barber's chair.
Lil' Dawg (Adrian Tibbs): A tall, lanky barber at Jim's Barber Shop whose unorthodox personal style is the subject of much ribbing in the workplace—he keeps his head nearly shaved, but grows a long mane of hair in back, and wears Coke-bottle-thick glasses. He is often seen at Nipsey's trolling for women (successfully!), and despite his looks and demeanor always seems to come out on top whenever he and Martin have a disagreement.
Buckwhite (Ray Massara): A very easygoing, tall white boy with a huge dark-coloured Afro, Buckwhite has been seen hanging out at Jim's Barber Shop, at Martin's apartment for various sporting events on TV, and at Nipsey's Lounge. He speaks Ebonics in an unaffected "normal" white manner. (Massara is actually a property master and special-effects assistant in the film and television industry; at the time of his appearances on Martin, he was that production's property master.)
Brother For Real (Charlie Murphy): A faithful audience member of Martin's "Word on the Street" television program, and quite possibly Martin's number one fan. Brother For Real attends every of Martin's taping for his show and encouraged Martin to be himself during one of the show's taping (Season 3, Episode 14).
Angry Man (David Jean Thomas): A fellow audience member of Martin's "Word on the Street" television program, and often can be found in other locations such as the DMV. He is prone to stand up and shout "Man.... SIT-CHO ASS DOWN!!" when a guest (or anyone else, for that matter) says something he disagrees with.
Mr. and Mrs. Booker (Jeris Lee Poindexter and Ellia English): A married couple and audience members of Martin's "Word on the Street" television program. The Bookers are constantly arguing. Mr. Booker appears to be somewhat goofy and dimwitted, while Mrs. Booker is loud and aggressive. Their most prominent appearance is in the Season 4 episode "Kicked to the Curb", where they assist Martin and Gina in getting their apartment back, by scaring off the new tenants after Mrs. Booker pretends to be a scorned wife looking to fight the woman who was "creeping with her husband".
Maddie Brown (Laura Hayes): Cole's gossiping, no-nonsense mother who still supports him. She's known for talking about other people and spreading their business around. For example, Martin being broke and having Gina support him.
Evelyn Porter (LaWanda Page): A senior resident who lives in Martin's apartment building who is also friends with Mama Payne and Cole's mother, Maddie.
The Reverend Leon Lonnie Love (David Alan Grier): A local fire-and-brimstone preacher whose brand of religion doesn't seem to frown upon avarice, lying, cheating, stealing, and philandering—even with his own cousin Pam.
Marian (Roxanne Reese): A seemingly well-heeled, middle-aged neighborhood alcoholic who often appears at parties, nightclubs, and gatherings, such as the audience on Martin's show "Word on the Street" and The Ladies League of Detroit. However, in one episode, she reveals that she isn't drunk that she is instead on medication.
Laquita (Simbi Khali): The nail stylist at Sheneneh's Sho' Nuff Hair Salon and Sheneneh's even-more loudmouthed best friend.
Keylolo (rapper Yo-Yo): A hairstylist at Sheneneh's Sho' Nuff Hair Salon. She is also Sheneneh's sidekick.
Bonquisha (Kim Coles): Another one of Sheneneh's friends who always has bad breath. Bonquisha routinely claims that Keylolo is the one that has bad breath stating that was "eatin chicklins".
Luis (Luis Antonio Ramos): The superintendent of the apartment building where Martin lives. In one episode, he marries Pam to avoid deportation.
Titus (Bentley Kyle Evans): A handsome well-dressed guy who is Gina's hairdresser, and seems to be attracted to Martin—affectionately calling him "Almond." (Evans was the executive producer of Martin; he made several cameo and voice-only appearances throughout the series, including one of the callers on WZUP, a guest at one of Gina's parties, and the only guy who appeared at an all-male fashion show that Pam and Tommy sponsored.)
Myra (BeBe Drake-Massey) - Stan's girlfriend; they once double-dated with Martin and Gina (while Martin was on the outs with Cole, Pam and Tommy). She was a customer of Shenehneh's hair salon, and went bald after Gina treated her hair. While working for the unemployment office, she got several jobs for Martin - then nearly gave up on him since he kept quitting each job he received.
Gloria Rodriguez (Angelina Estrada) - Station director and Martin's supervisor at television station Channel 51.
Bernice (Kymberly Newberry) - a producer at Channel 51 who is always at odds with Martin. (Kymberly Newberry also briefly played an entirely different part of a shoe-saleswoman in episode 8 of season 2 "You've Got a Friend")
Other roles played by Lawrence[edit source | edit]
One of the trademark running gags of Martin, especially early in its run, was Lawrence playing multiple characters, utilizing various costumes and prosthetic appliances. Season Four was the last season to feature Lawrence as multiple characters on a regular basis. This technique was rarely used in Season 5, which was the final season of the series. The only characters that appeared in Season 5 were Sheneneh, Roscoe and Elroy. Most of the other characters were last seen in Season 4 and the episodes they last appeared in seemingly wrote them out of the series.
Sheneneh Jenkins: A stereotypical "ghetto girl" who always has on flashy clothes/fashion accessories, hair weaves, and a big butt. Sheneneh is the owner/operator of Sheneneh's Sho' Nuff Hair Salon, whom Lawrence played in drag. Mama Payne and Sheneneh were the only two characters Lawrence played as women on the show, and both characters hated Gina. Though Sheneneh is awkwardly tall and thick in build, she often described herself as a "la-a-a-dy." Some of her other locutions included "Oh mah goodnehhh!" and "Aw-iight?" at every other word. Sheneneh's portrayed as being very mouthy, confrontational, and feisty. She lived in the apartment across the hallway from Martin's and factored into many of the plots by picking fights with Gina and especially Pam out in the hallway. Sheneneh has several girlfriends who occasionally appeared in the program, those being Keylolo (Yo-Yo), Bonquisha (Kim Coles), and Laquita (Simbi Khali). Of all the secondary characters played by Lawrence, Sheneneh is the only one to make an appearance in the final episode, though only her voice was heard.
Edna (Mama) Payne: Martin's shrill, extremely frenetic, and easily excited mother, who is insanely over-protective of Martin, and who dislikes Gina immensely. Comically, Lawrence's mustache was never covered with stage make-up while in this role. Mama's mustache was occasionally the subject of a sharp retort by Gina when she and Martin argued. She has a brother named Junior (portrayed by John Witherspoon). Mama does not appear in the fifth and final season. She has the same catchphrase as her son Martin, "Damn! Damn! Daaaaamn!"
Otis: An abrasive, strict, potbellied old man, who is always seen in uniform while on his job as a security guard. Otis is usually seen melodramatically and hyperactively attempting to keep order whether there's trouble or not. Because of his immense gut, advanced age, and oafish appearance, Otis is often taken for a weak old man who just acts tough. Because of this, he's often challenged in some way, usually to physical altercations, which he is more than willing to engage in. Surprisingly, his buffoonish style of wrestling and unexpected strength always catch his "antagonists" off guard, and he is invariably the victor, easily defeating all challengers. In his final episode on the show, he moves to an unnamed island. Otis does not appear in the fifth and final season.
Jerome: A loudmouthed, aging, somehow well-funded, once-flashy but now-faded Detroit pimp. He runs an illicit casino, sports a family-heirloom "gold toof-es" in his mouth, was once voted Detroit's "Player of the Year," and has his sights set on Pam, as when he occasionally calls her "Junk in the Trunk." He often speaks in rhyming sentences. Usually Jerome appears on the scene with his signature spiel, "Oooh, oooh, oo-oo-ooh, I say Jerome's in the house, I say Jerome's in the ah-um-ah-um...watch yo' mouth!" Jerome's final appearance on the show is in the episode Uptown Friday Night (which parodies Uptown Saturday Night), in which his final line is "And that's the eeeend!" Jerome does not appear in the fifth and final season.
Roscoe: A 10-year-old kid with a perpetually runny nose and a very smart mouth. Lawrence played the role by standing on his knees, with shoes attached to his kneecaps. Roscoe only appears once during the fifth and final season.
Dragonfly Jones: A martial arts "expert" who is beaten up in nearly every appearance. He always seems to owe money to a real martial artist, who is actually a student of Dragonfly's named Kenji, who would often beat Dragonfly up when he refused to pay him some small sum he was owed. Dragonfly does not appear in the fifth and final season.
Bob: A white man who works in an unknown capacity at the marketing firm where Gina is employed, Bob is best described as a stereotypical surfer-dude-cum-redneck. He speaks in a Southern Californian accent mixed with a Southern twang, and often uses words like "dude" and "man," even in professional settings. Lawrence achieved his appearance as this character with stage make-up and a prosthetic nose appliance to make him appear caucasian, as well as wearing a long, blond mullet wig to complete the look. Bob only appears in 2 episodes, once in the first season and again in the second season.
Elroy Preston: The fictional "Godfather of Black Surf Music" who is now completely forgotten and washed up. Preston works as an auto mechanic, and is best known for randomly breaking into song while performing his mechanical duties. He often distracts himself and irritates others when reminiscing on things that involve his trademark song, which consists only of Preston singing "Don't you know no good!" over and over. He is seen mostly in the first three seasons. He makes one appearance in the fifth and final season.
King Beef: Cole's favorite 1970s blaxploitation movie actor, which is actually Lawrence in a huge bodysuit. Whenever trouble arises, he feels the overwhelming need to dance. It doesn't matter if he is on the run from Godzilla—he always finds time for dancing, and always with his scantily clad female co-stars flanking him. He is only seen during the first two seasons.