Tag Archive: martin lawrence


 

K-CI-and-JoJo

It’s not the greatest movie, but Martin & Eddie did a movie together years ago.  Because they really wanted to do a movie together as much as anything else.

This was the theme song.  Also underrated in my opinion.

Enjoy!

 

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Spike Lee’s third film takes place on the hottest day of the summer in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York.  I heard Spike say in an interview this week that while he didn’t know what he was doing on his first film, She’s Gotta Have It, and was finding his way with School Daze, with this film he finally felt like a ‘director’.  And it shows.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  Fade in on a solo jazz version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  Follow that up with Rosie Perez working it out to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” as the opening credits kick in.  And that’s (literally) just the beginning…

Legacy:  Yes, this was the film debut of Rosie Perez and Martin Lawrence, but is that really the first thing you think about with this film?  As noted, this wasn’t Spike’s first film, and there were (and continue to be) black independent films with equally strong messages.  But moreso than any other film of its generation, Do the Right Thing really put Spike Lee and modern black cinema on the map.

Craft:  You know how you can watch a lot of 80s movies today and cringe at how dated they feel?  Not this film.  The 80s elements here feel (as they do in many classic films) as snapshots of the time they were created.   Radio Raheem’s massive boom box.  The box haircuts of Raheem and Mookie.  The conversation about how certain black celebrities (and now President’s?) go beyond the racist definition of what a ‘n—er’ is.  And how about the cast list?  Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Harris, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Frank Vincent…yes sir!  And that’s just the talent in front of the camera!

Crossover:  In a big way.  The film was nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes, it made noise at the Cannes Film Festival, it was widely regarded as one of (if not) the best film of the year.  Kim Basinger made a point at the Oscars to tell the worldwide audience that it’s a shame that Do the Right Thing wasn’t nominated for Best Picture.  (And it was a shame.  Spike’s never been close to winning an Oscar, how is that possible?)  Anyway, the moral of the story is Spike Lee had arrived.

Apollo:  In the event you the reader haven’t seen the film yet, I won’t ruin the biggest ‘Apollo’ moment of the film.  Instead I’ll focus on the film’s coda:  two very good quotes.  The first from Dr. King, which references his belief that an eye for an eye eventually leaves everyone blind.  The second from Malcolm, which argues that self-defense is not violence; as a matter of fact it’s common sense.  The film does not in an explicit way express which way ‘is the right thing,’ it’s up to the viewer to decide for him or herself.  An argument that can continue into infinity…

The film countdown ends shortly…

Def_Comedy_Jam

Dating back to the days of Redd Foxx (and earlier), black stand up comedians would pay their dues on a different route than their white counterparts.  Affectionately known as the ‘chitlin’ circuit’, the black stand ups of the 80s and 90s would tour the country for years, decades even, performing blue material that catered directly to a specific audience.

Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam essentially brought the chitlin circuit to the mainstream.  A staple of HBO in its pre-Soprano days, Def Comedy Jam in its heyday showcased more black talent in one episode than most broadcast network shows do in a season.

Enough prologue, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  As described in the intro, Def Comedy Jam became an instant sensation with fans of black comedy.  Hosted by Martin Lawrence and DJ’ed by Kid Capri, the show ‘became’ the chitlin circuit I mentioned earlier.  With the freedom that HBO still provides to this day, no subject matter was taboo, and I’d love to reprint some of the jokes here, but sadly this is PG rated blog.

Legacy:  From a TV show point of view, BET’s Comic View was obviously the direct attempt to capitalize on this with a cleaner set of language.  When I think of legacy in terms of this show though, my first thought was ‘how many black comedians who went on to bigger things appeared on Def Comedy Jam?  A quick fact check made me realize the better question would have been, ‘Who DIDN’T appear on the show at some point?’  The only big name 90s black comedian who I think never came close to crossing that stage (for fairly obvious reasons when you think about it) was Sinbad.

Craft:  The first few years of the show, that comedy was superb.  And I don’t say this to put down some of the stand ups who appeared when the show started to lose steam, but everybody is not as funny as Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Joe Torry or Dave Chappelle.  You throw in Comic View starting to dilute the talent pool and it was inevitable that the things would change.

Crossover:  It was known I think.  Chris Rock did a pretty funny parody of the show when he hosted SNL once.  Hip hop was in its Golden Age, so it’s not a stretch to think the white kids who were buying Public Enemy albums were also watching Def Comedy Jam. 

Apollo: 

The TV show countdown continues later with the making of a future movie star…

richard_pryor_live_on_sunset_strip

Richard Pryor is universally recognized as the black comedian who set the stage for the onslaught of African-American stand ups who followed him in the 80s, 90s, and present day.  An argument can be made that there are funnier stand up films by some of the comedians that came after him, but Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip set the standard for almost every black comic stand up film that came after it.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  While he certainly wasn’t the ‘first’ (Redd Foxx also comes to mind as someone who made a dent in the mainstream), Richard Pryor is held in such high praise by comedians and entertainers alike that it’s hard to imagine someone hitting that level of reverence today, working mostly as a standup.    You don’t need to have an eagle eye to spot a young Jesse Jackson in the crowd during this show, so um, Rich was at the heart of the community to say the least…

Legacy:  Wow.  Where to begin?  On a superficial level, it’s probably not a coincidence that in his first big stand up film Delirious, Eddie Murphy rocks a bright red leather suit that mimics that bright red suit Rich wore in this film.  The way Rich prowls the stage when he delivers his jokes, it’s easy to see Chris Rock mimicing his movements.  Rich’s confession that he’ll stop using the N-word to tear down his people has echoes of the reason Chappelle said he quit his own mega popular show.  Rich’s comedic telling of his nearly life ending episode is definitely reminiscent of Martin talking about his notorious mental breakdown in his own stand up film.  And how about the whole going back to Africa bit that Jamie all but stole word for word for his best standup special from back in the day (though I’ll be the first to admit that bit is still hilarious)?  Safe to say, every black comedian worth his salt watched this film more than once…

Craft:  I make no claims to be a comedian, but watching this film you really appreciate how many different types of comedy Richard Pryor did really, really well.  There’s the straight silliness/the storyteller (the animals in the jungle), the black comedian (the bit about brothers in the pen), and the self-deprecating (the whole bit about lighting himself on fire).  Even the comedians of my generation can usually only master one or two of these skill sets.  Richard Pryor really was the Man.

Crossover:  It wasn’t just black people who loved Richard Pryor of course.  Sequences like his story about working for the Mafia illustrate how Rich’s comedy went well, well past being just a black thing.  He was just one really, really funny motherf—–.

Apollo:  

An all time classic comes in next at #9.  But now that we’re in the top 10 that wasn’t much of a hint was it?  Guess you’ll have to come back later to check it out…

bhcop

Originally written for Sylvester Stallone (who would take parts of the original idea to make Cobra), Beverly Hills Cop is universally agreed to be the film that made Eddie Murphy a movie star.  Don’t need much more for the intro, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  In terms of African-American ‘movie stars’ (which I’ll define as people who you can put the name on the top of the marquee and people will show up regardless of the film), that list is still pretty short more than 20 years later.  Denzel.  Will.  I’d argue those may be the only two who can do anything and everybody will show up.  And both of those brothers came along after Eddie Murphy.  Easy to forget now.

Legacy:  Essentially, every one of his starring vehicles after this, as well as every movie starring Chris Rock or Martin Lawrence to name two.  And those are just headliners.  Let’s not forgot about the Mike Epps’ and Bernie Macs who also benefitted. (As a sidenote, I know ALL these guys were inspired by Richard Pryor, but I would argue Rich’s legacy will always be as a stand up comedian who did a few movies.  Eddie was a FANTASTIC stand up comedian who completely stopped doing it once he became a movie star.)

Craft:  All reports indicate that this was one of those films where the script was just kind of ‘there’, and a lot of the best scenes and jokes were improvised by Eddie and the cast.  So does that make it better or worse from a craft point of view?  I could see either side…

Crossover:  Oh yeah…that’s why it’s ranked so high.  The highest grossing film of the year (narrowly beating out Ghostbusters I believe, you fact-checkers are welcome to correct me if I’m wrong on that point.)  It seems silly now, but in the 80s there were ‘three black celebrities’: Eddie, Michael, and Prince.  This film went a long way to putting Eddie in that company.

Apollo:  

The countdown continues later this month…

 

martin

This one makes me reminisce how good we had it in the 90s.  I can pick up the phone right now and start quoting from this show to put my people into a laughing fit.  For the uninitiated, Martin told the story of a Detroit DJ (Martin Payne) and his comical relationships with his girl (Gina) and their friends (Pam, Cole, Tommy).

Alright, on to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The show was set in Detroit, with five black principal characters.  As my militant partner in crime likes to point out, there was a Do the Right Thing poster hanging in Martin’s apartment.  We’ll stop there.

Craft:  I might be a little biased since this show is also a personal favorite, but in my opinion if you want to do laugh out loud comedy that doesn’t get stale with time, you could do a LOT worse than watching Martin. 

Legacy: Everyone who watched Def Comedy Jam knew how funny Martin Lawrence was.  Among other things, this show proved Martin could still be hilarious without ever cussing.  Which opened the door for Big Momma’s House! 

Crossover:  I’m not sure how much Martin’s career hit the mainstream because of this show.  Martin was always up against NBC’s ‘Must See TV’ lineup (Seinfeld, Friends) so I imagine that the ‘mainstream’ people watching Martin were the same types who were watching him on Def Jam anyway.

Apollo:  This could SO easily be its own post.  I’ll list my own personal top five while you reminisce on yours…

5. In the first season, Martin introduced the character of Jerome: a permed out, gaudy jewelry wearing brother with a thick goatee, straight playa.  What made this character so funny to me was I have a second uncle in Louisiana who looked AND acted exactly like Jerome.  One of my cousins picked up on this at a funeral when we were kids and I felt so guilty for busting out laughing in the middle of church.

4. Among Martin’s other characters was a white guy named Bob.  His most notorious moment was probably when he started wilding out a party with Gina and Pam.  “Gina’s outta control, Pam’s outta control, THIS WHOLE FREAKING PARTY’S OUT OF CONTROLLLLLL!!!!”

3. Later in that same episode, Martin (who thinks Gina’s creeping on him) hides under the bed when Gina has the maintenance man fix her ‘clogged vent’.  By the time the maintenance cat says, “When I finally pull this out, you are going to LOVE me!”, I was dying laughing without Martin’s facial expressions.  This is immediately followed by one of the five worst ‘fake beatdowns’ you will ever see.  Martin was a clown!

2. Maybe the greatest ‘little man paranoia’ story ever, had Martin having to stand up to Tommy ‘Hitman’ Hearns.  The whole episode is classic, but when Martin feels slighted and calls out Hearns with the line.  “Hey Tommy, I talked to Sugar (Ray).  He says you’re the Get Hit Man!”  Then he turns around and says ‘What?’ trying to punk some random dude out; that still kills me.

1. Martin’s CD player is missing.  This leads to what to this day is still probably the best New Jack City parody you’ll ever see.  Having everyone dressed in black, Martin plays the Nino role, threatening his friends with a toy Doberman.  This was a taped television show, and you can still clearly see damn near the whole cast bust out laughing throughout the scene.  Oh, and for story purposes, ‘Bruh Man’ borrowed Martin’s CD player.  Remember Bruh Man?

Alright, as I debate whether my need to be objective is preventing me from ranking this show higher, I can tell you another classic sitcom awaits next month…

boomerang

Boomerang is one of the enduring black films of the 90s.  On the surface it can be categorized as just ‘another Eddie Murphy movie,’ but really it’s so much more.  The story revolved around a player named Marcus Graham, who gets the tables turned on him.  Most of you probably know the story, so let’s get to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: Directed by House Party’s Reggie Hudlin, here’s a quick rundown of a few members of the cast: Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Tisha Campbell, Robin Givens, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon…MAN!!!  I know there’s been talk of doing a black ‘Ocean’s 11,’ but I’d argue Boomerang was it!

Legacy:  Take your pick.  Allegedly after House Party and this movie, Martin decided to cast Tisha as Gina for his new sitcom, a little show called Martin.  There’s John Witherspoon taking it to the next level with his ‘coordination.’  There’s Halle Berry officially taking the crown of ‘woman every brother in America wants for a girlfriend/wife’.  (It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time long ago when Halle Berry wasn’t ‘Halle Berry’ yet.)

Craft:  Ahh, this was the ‘Golden Age’ when you were expected to be both technically sound and entertaining as a black film.  Good times.  Still a pretty watchable film today.

Crossover:  Do you remember the soundtrack?  Yeah that’s still a great album: ‘Love Should Have Brought You Home Last Night’ (the introduction of Toni Braxton), ‘Hot Sex’, ‘I’d Die Without You’, and one of the biggest songs ever, ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men.  It’s actually a nice song again now, but if you were around that year and you heard it at least twice an hour for four months straight, it became unbearable.  But it is a nice song.

Apollo:  The Grace Jones perfume commercial?  The perfect feet?  The seduction scene with Eartha Kitt (and her butler)?  Again, with this much talent (comedic and otherwise), take your pick.

Alright, back next month with the next piece.