From his gig as the original host of Russell Simmons’ Def Jam Comedy and a series of smash stand-up specials, to creating the relationship comedy series Martin, and acting his way through the classic cop-action-comedy Bad Boys (with Philly’s Will Smith), his Big Momma’s House, and his supremely underrated A Thin Line Between Love & Hate, Martin Lawrence is a legend. He could stay home, never do another thing, and his career would be set. Yet, the rarely touring (or talking) comedian is out, now, with his LIT AF Tour which hits Philly, Saturday, September 22 at the Liacouras Center with DeRay Davis, Deon Cole, Adele Givens, and Benji Brown. Lawrence graciously gave me his time, but sadly didn’t answer my Bad Boys reunion question for the rumored, upcoming Bad Boys for Life and Bad Boys 4 sequels. Here’s hoping he was keeping mum because an official announcement is forthcoming and all the details on his LIT AF Tour.
Martin Lawrence is back with his LIT AF Tour
Having watched what you do for so long, and in so many different circumstances – stage, film, television– what’s changing now about your comic outlook and why has it changed; enough so that you’d want to get back on the stage with your LIT AF Tour?
Getting back out on the road has to do with a lot of things. Inspiration, material, timing and, of course, if I have something to say. This go around is a bit different because I am back to my roots of what gave me my start in the stand-up biz, hosting. I am out there now with a group of talented comedians with who I’ll share the stage – comedians who make me laugh and who are all doing great things on their own. So when we all get together, it’ll be like a party. The show isn’t a traditional Martin Lawrence show where it’s just all me doing stand-up. It’s all of us out there, giving you our best.
You go away for quite a while between stand-up tours, Is it about recharging, taking the temperature of the world? What are you seeing out there now?
It’s all of that, and life in general. Being able to do what I do, I am truly blessed. For that alone, I am grateful. I am also a father, so spending time with my family is the number one priority for me. Spending time with my girls, that’s what I am doing when you don’t see me. I am a family man at the core of it all.
OK, let’s step back for a few questions. Do you, in your Big Momma guise where you dressed as a woman, feel at all responsible for Tyler Perry’s Medea, and what do you say about his characterization? Should he send you some money for what he owes you?
There always has to be someone who does it first. And it wasn’t me. I always have a lot of love for people doing their thing, Tyler included.
You were the first-ever host of Def Comedy Jam – it has recently returned without its one-time namesake. What did you bring to that show that it would not have had without you? How do you feel as if bolstered your career especially considering that this tour features you as host-presenter and comedian?
That was a special moment in time when the stars aligned and we were able to get the people something that was missing. It was one of the most fun times – and to see the doors opened because it was truly a gift. We just had the Def Jam 25th Anniversary special on Netflix. To be part of and witness all that love in the room was incredible.
Talking about 25ths, Martin’s anniversary may just have passed, but, Kendrick Lamar, Issa Rae, and Nicki Minaj all make mention of it and you in their work? Why do you believe that show lives on so deeply and prominently within the hip-hop community and the currency of black culturalism?
When you set out to do a project you just hope it works. You hope you are funny and that people like it. To know that it still touches on people, or that people are inspired by it blows me away. Often people tell me about shout outs or I hear them and I am truly touched since I am a fan of those people too. At the time the community didn’t have anything like it and to open doors for others to come has been truly incredible.
I’m guessing you touch on family and friends in your LIT AF Tour – what wouldn’t you hit on in your life? What is taboo?
All the comedians offer something different. I can’t speak to their experiences or what is taboo for them, but for me, I speak about what’s going on in life.
Do politics – or how does the currency of the political landscape – enter into your act at this time? Or do you not bother as nothing could be funnier and more outrageous than the actual truth?
You have to come see the show to find out.
Do you think you do stand–up comedy – where we first saw you – for the same reason you did it when you started?
Yes, but like anything you grow, and you evolve.
I mentioned Issa Rae, you have Deon Cole with you on this tour, both who are involved in two of television’s best shows, black, white and color or creed. What is your take on where TV is going for young black comedians? AND would you do another series if the circumstance was right?
We have a lot of shows now that are great, and that is good. Like anything, there could always be more. Good TV is good TV And, I am always open to exploring anything that could be right for me.
What do you think an audience wants from Martin Lawrence now and what are you prepared to give them with you LIT AF Tour?
They just want to laugh. Life can present you challenges and be hard. If I can give someone one hour to just check out and enjoy themselves, laugh a little and leave happy I have done my job.