Hey you! Yeah you over there. Are you sitting down? If so, great! Stay sitting down. If not might I suggest you find a nice comfy lumbar-supporting transcendental meditation cushion and commence to sitting your ass all the way the hell down because I’m about to drop a truth bomb on your said seated asses.
Okay, here goes…
Martin Payne, the beloved character from actor-comedian Martin Lawrence’s hit show of the same name, is garbage. Bag him up, put one of those little twist-ties on him, and sit him out at the curb because the man is trash. Yes, the man who made, “Oh my goodness”, “Jerome in the house” and my personal favorite, “Don’t be alarmed, we’re Negroes.” famous played the most trash character ever in the history of Black television. And I’m including Lamont of “Sanford and Son” fame.
Also, note that I am not referring to any of the other characters that Lawrence played on Martin. I think most of us can agree that Otis was comedy cold. But Martin Payne? Yeah, he was actually the worst part of his own show.
1. Because “Wazzup, Wazzup, Waaaaaazzzzuuuuuppppp”
Is there anything more early to mid-nineties than hearing Martin Lawrence screech his most popular catchphrase every 7.4 minutes on camera? I’ll admit that initially, before Martin ran it into the ground, I chuckled at it through the first half of season one. “Wazzup!” was a joke of diminishing returns, however. I don’t care if Payne’s radio show was on a station called WZUP. That radio show was basura and you know it. You know what would have been “wazzup”? Basically anything else. Twenty-two minutes of nothing but the City of Detroit b-roll would have been more wazzup than “Wazzup!” Shea butter on ashy Hotep ankles is wazzup. You know what’s not wazup? Screaming in people’s faces. Cut it out and use your inside voice, Marty-Mar.
2. Because “Get to steppin, insert your name here!”
What kind of narcissistic sociopath throws a party, invites their dear friends over for food and drink, and then proceeds to emotionally abuse them by kicking each person out before their car engines can even cool off? Martin Payne, that’s who. One of Martin’s favorite gags was pulling the social rug out from underneath his friends nearly every episode, lulling Pam, Cole, and Tommy into a false sense of security and then flipping the script quite ceremoniously whilst reneging on the very invitation he had so disingenuously extended in the first place. Martin would seemingly fly off of the handle at the smallest infraction. Then it was all, “I know you drove all the way from across town and brought out your good fake fur for this but get to steppin’, Stan and Myra!”
No wonder Bruhman used to sneak in from the fifth flo. Can’t get kicked out if nobody knows you’re there.
3. Because “Not my mamma’s biscuits!”
I recently went back and rewatched the episode where Martin’s live-in, long-suffering girlfriend Gina Waters attempts to seduce her man with a plate of raisin-butter biscuits from his mother. Although Ms. Payne was rude 10/10 times, audiences loved her theatrical pre-Madea antics and “not my mama’s biscuits” is still my go-to reaction whenever I’m having a bad day. Ms. Payne’s relationship with her son and the horrific way she treated Gina, god bless her lighskinneded heart, were a different story, however. No woman was ever good enough for Ms. Payne and sadly Martin could never see how evil his mamma really was, opting to side with his mother at every turn. Mama Payne and Martin’s almost oedipal codependency was always the worst part of any season and made viewers question why Gina chose to stay with a man who would always put another woman before her. Martin’s inability to stick up for his woman and stand up to his enabling mamma is just another reason why Martin Payne was the weakest link of his own show.
4. Because “Yes, Gina. I will marry you. Damn! Are you happy now?”
After fifty-eleven long seasons of waiting with baited breath, audiences were finally treated to the proposal that almost wasn’t. Every Black kid who grew up watching Martin remembers where they were when Martin finally popped the question to Gina and proved to America that Black love does still exist. We conveniently forget that the proposal only came after Martin bungled his relationship with Gina so badly that it caused her to leave him after suffering so much embarrassment and heartbreak. No woman wants to feel like she’s forcing a marriage on a man unready to commit. Gina was a catch and Martin nearly missed the boat. And no, Brian McKnight guest- starring to help Martin with his mulligan does not negate that garbage. Nope. Nawl. Nein.
5. Because “Beedeebees!”
Lest we all forget, Pam was Gina’s best friend, and Martin was projecting his own racial self-hatred onto his girlfriend's best friend every episode. How was this cool? Even for the mid-nineties. How did Gina just shrug this off every episode? What kind of friend was she? Okay, okay okay. I hear you saying, “But Pam was dishing out as good as she could take it. She called Martin short all the time!” First off, this is a false equivalency. Calling a man that is taunting you “short” when he is in fact short is not the same as going out of your way at every turn to humiliate your so-called friend for being too promiscuous, having hair that’s too “nappy” and intimating that her more Afrocentric-looking features made her a man or worse an animal. You can disagree with me and then you can fight me on the schoolyard because ish is not the same.
They say hate is the other side of love so it was quite possible all of that hate came from a latent desire to smash because I mean, come on… datass… but alas viewers were left with episode after episode of a Black man berating and ridiculing a Black woman in much the same way the world does and other than that one time he called Pam “Ripley’s Be-Weave-It-Or-Not” I didn’t laugh once.
Okay, maybe twice.
Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.