Ask Martin Lawrence if he feels like he had something to prove with the release of his newest special and he’ll shut down the notion faster than Sheneneh can say, “Hold up!” In his words, “I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. I’ve done it all.” And he’s kind of right. With 30 years in standup comedy, lead roles in box-office smash films, and a hit television series, Martin has accomplished what many only dream about. But a desire to give the people what they want prompted him to set out on a nationwide tour that would lead to the filming of his third comedy special, Doin’ Time. The special premiered in September on Showtime and is now available on digital and DVD. Doin’ Time is a raw, rowdy whirlwind of energy and physicality, an impressive feat for the 51-year-old comedian. Martin’s work ethic is on full display and if there was any question about whether or not he’s dedicated to his business, he kept our appointment to chat despite the tragic passing of his friend and Martin co-star Tommy Ford the day before. We discussed what Doin’ Time means to him, his advice for newer comics, and the possibility of Bad Boys 3.
I’m sorry to hear the news about Tommy.
I appreciate it, brother. Thank you.
I was at a wedding recently where a bunch of comics were all staying together in the same house. A few of us sat around the living room one night watching a Martin marathon. Most of us hadn’t watched the show since we were kids. We were laughing so hard. I forgot how funny it was. You and Tommy had such great chemistry.
Yeah, we took our friendship from off screen and put it on screen as well.
I just watched your new special Doin’ Time. I was impressed by your physicality. You were working the hell out of that stage. What’s your secret?
Just giving the people what they want. I like to get physical. I want to be funny. I want to give them all I’ve got.
There was a period in the 90s where you were overworked and having issues with exhaustion, blood pressure, and dehydration. It was good to see you putting so much physical work into your act. There was one part where after you had just done an elaborate act-out you went over to the stool, grabbed a bottle of water, and asked the audience if they minded if you stopped to take a drink? Was that a clever nod to the dehydration stuff from the past?
I was just thirsty. That was me messing with my audience to buy myself a minute to get some water.
The audience was matching your attitude that night for sure. When you asked if you could get a drink of water somebody shouted out, “Yeah, hurry up.”
[Laughs] Yeah, yeah.
It had been 14 years since your last special. What made you decide to do another one?
It was time. After 14 years it was time for another one. I’ve been in the game damn near 30 years. To have my third concert film now was perfect timing.
You reference how long you’ve been in the game in the special. You say that you’re doing time in Hollywood. Can you elaborate on what that means to you?
It’s a metaphor. I’m working out, doing time, putting in my work, putting in hours.
You said that sometimes Hollywood acts like they don’t know who Martin is. Do you really feel that way?
That’s just a joke. I know they know who I am. I’m talking to you right now, right? You know that I am.
You toured for a while before you filmed Doin’ Time and now you’re doing a bunch of dates in support of the special.
Yeah, I’m still doing the Doin’ Time tour.
What are these crowds like? Do you have time to talk to people before and after the show?
I meet and greet. They enjoy it. They come out with good energy, lots of love, and laughter. When I’m taking pictures with them after the show they tell me how much they enjoyed it, that they miss me, that they’re glad I’m back out. It’s a lot of fun.
I know you said that the timing was perfect for the tour and special, but did you also feel like you had a little something to prove?
No, I didn’t feel like I had anything to prove. I’ve done it all. The only thing I felt like I needed to do was be funny and give the people some entertainment.
The first time you saw Eddie Murphy live was what inspired you to do comedy, right?
Yeah and Richard Pryor.
Who is doing comedy now that you really admire and enjoy their work?
I like what Kevin Hart’s doing right now. He’s changing the game. I like what Mike Epps is doing with his humor and his style of comedy. There’s so much talent out there that I can’t name them all.
Comedy has definitely changed since 30 years ago when you first started. What kind of advice would you give to a newer comic now?
If this is what you want, put your whole heart into it. Be confident. Don’t waver. If you’re going to be raw, be raw. If you’re going to be clean, be clean. But do what you want to do and do it the right way. Put your all into it.
You referenced the possibility of another Bad Boys movie saying that if they wait too long it’s going to be “Sad Boys.” Do you have any news on Bad Boys 3?
I don’t have anything official, but we’re working on it. We’re thinking about a March start date. We’re just trying to get everything lined up and get the script right.