In the mid-'80s, worked at a Sears department store in Queens, along with members of Salt 'n Pepa and Kid 'n Play. Later reunited with Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin, a.k.a. Kid 'n Play, for House Party (1990) and House Party 2 (1991).
A 1987 appearance on Star Search launched his career, despite his loss in the second round. A role in the sitcom What's Happening Now!! soon followed.
In 1992, he landed his own Fox sitcom, Martin, which became a hit and made him a household name.
Made his directorial debut with A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996).
Spent three days in a coma after jogging in extreme heat to prepare for his role in Big Momma's House (2000), a role he reprised for Big Momma's House 2 (2006).
Used his off-screen tabloid adventures as material for the candid stand-up concert film Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002).
Took to the road first to play a middle-aged man on a motorcycle trip with his pals in Wild Hogs (2007), and then to portray an overprotective dad accompanying his daughter on a college interview in College Road Trip (2008).