On August 27, 1992, Martin debuted on Fox.
Comedian/actor Martin Lawrence was the show's main protagonist and namesake. Lawrence plays Martin Payne, a Detroit radio personality who encounters comically bizarre situations with his girlfriend, Gina (Tisha Campbell-Martin), and their friends Tommy, Pam, and Cole (Thomas Mikal Ford, Tichina Arnold, and Carl Anthony Payne II).
Not only did it become one of Fox's highest-rated programs, but Martin also proved the young, Black creative movement powered by '90s Hip-Hop wasn't just a fad. Actors like Martin Lawrence, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and Will Smith were instrumental in bringing rap's vibrant energy to prime time television.
Martin Lawrence's acting brilliance expanded across his nine alter egos. His ability to convincingly play different genders and races made him a stand-out amongst other Black comedians and actors.
Here we rank each of them from the least memorable to most iconic.
King Beef is a parody of the leading man in a blaxploitation film. Lawrence dresses in a muscle bodysuit covered in body hair and tacky animal prints. Gina and Pam find his movies as repulsive as his wardrobe.
He's Martin's least popular character because he's not in many episodes. The only time he's present is when the gang is suffering through one of his straight to VHS bombs.
The jovial mechanic with a southern twang is Martin's take on a Black Elvis Presley. But instead of being hailed as the King of Rock and Roll, Elroy spends his time serenading clients waiting for him to fix their cars.
Gina and Pam's run-ins with Elroy always end up with him singing his hit song "Don't Know No Good." Martin's over-the-top delivery and the song's catchy hook make it a favorite in the "Best Songs by a TV Character" category.
Bob, from Marketing
Bob, from Marketing
We all have that one coworker that's too energetic and always looking to party. Whenever there's an office gathering, they're going overboard with the dancing and small talk. Lawrence brought this character to life in the form of Bob, from Marketing.
Bob works with Gina and Pam. He's a bleach-blonde California surfer type who never says "no" to a good time. Martin dressing up in Whiteface showed his commitment to making audiences laugh, even if it did come with potential backlash.
Gina's neighbor, Roscoe, is a juvenile delinquent who lacks supervision. He's only a child but has the tendencies of a troublesome adult twice his age. The four-foot future felon is known for running his mouth and his runny nose.
Roscoe's flippant remarks and crassness were the banes of Gina's existence. He would drop by unannounced, and their conversations never ended on a good note. (In fact, the majority of the characters Martin plays have some conflict with Gina).
Otis the Security Guard
Otis the Security Guard
Most experienced security guards want to sit and count out the days until their retirement. In Otis, the security guard's case, the day he retires is the day he dies.
The rotund senior citizen may have been a threat to shoplifters in his youthful days, but his aggressive policing is an inconvenience to anyone under 50. His contempt for people much younger than he and desire to de-escalate any potential situation make him a liability as well as an asset.
Martin Lawrence is notorious for his physical comedy. His goofy facial expressions and flailing are synonymous with his style of comedy. The Martin character that showcases this best is Martial Arts instructor Dragonfly Jones.
Dragonfly touts himself to be a world-renowned fighter, but he can't defeat his student/assistant, Kenji. Kenji's physical assault on his sensei is from Dragonfly not paying him on time or in full.
It's common for a mother to dislike her son's girlfriend. The idea of sharing their son with a strange woman who's threatening to replace her puts them on the defensive. Unfortunately for Gina, Martin's mother takes it to the next level.
Mama Payne doesn't understand what her son sees in Gina. Despite Gina working relentlessly to earn her respect, she thinks Martin can do better. When she's not threatening to cut Gina, she's giving her a hard time about not being a domesticated woman, like herself.
The self-proclaimed Playa from The Himalayas named Jerome is a Renaissance man. He's a ladies' man, an entrepreneur, and the go-to guy for anything seedy and underhanded in Detroit. He also refuses to conform to wearing clothes that aren't from the '70s or practice good oral hygiene.
Jerome has a heart of gold beneath his outdated exterior. There's the soul of a hopeless romantic beyond the cheesy pickup lines. He has a special place in his heart for Pam, whom he affectionately refers to as "Junk in the Trunk."
Martin's colorful yet outspoken neighbor Sheneneh Jenkins is a television character that was ahead of her time — not only because of Martin's willingness to dress in drag but because of her depiction of the liberated Black women we now see in abundance.
Sheneneh owned a salon and never hesitates to let her opinions be known. At the time, many considered her to be a stereotype, but Sheneneh was more endearing than she was insulting. It never felt like you forgot that she was Martin.
Martin as Sheneneh was a must-see. Her appearances made for some of the show's funniest moments. She is undoubtedly the best character that Martin played during the show's five-year run.
Did we nail the ranking of characters played by Martin?
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