Lawrence Confronts Troubled Past

ByABC News
August 1, 2002, 4:51 PM

Aug. 1 -- Remember back in 1996 when Martin Lawrence was picked up at a busy Los Angels intersection, screaming obscenities at motorists, with a loaded pistol in his pocket? Lawrence sure does.

Having been turned into a tabloid oddity, Lawrence lashes back in a soul-baring concert documentary film, recorded in January and opening Friday, Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat.

Of course, the former host of TV's Def Comedy Jam is still doing raunchy routines, the sort that drew enormous success not to mention an NC-17 rating for his last concert film, 1994's You So Crazy.

But Lawrence also is out to set the record straight and blast the media, which he says exaggerated his drug use and made up facts just to sell papers and boost ratings.

"They're the scum of the earth to me," he says.

Of course, Lawrence isn't so fed up with the press that he won't sit down with reporters to plug his movie.

Should I be scared? I ask him, considering that he uses nearly every dirty word in the book to describe journalists.

"You should be," he says, with an amused grin, "if you are one of the f----d up media!

"Not that I'm going to do anything to you," he reassures me.

With a $20 Million Payday, Why Take Risks?

At 37, Lawrence still has an edge. In 1994, he was temporarily banned from NBC for remarks on Saturday Night Live that sent network executives through the roof.

Still, he went on to prove himself as the star of his own hit sitcom, Martin. He's had mixed success at the box office. But studios may allow for stinkers like Black Knight after a $100 million surprise blockbuster on the order of Big Momma's House.

Things are going pretty well. He's earning a cool $20 million for his next film, National Security. So why dredge up events that faded from the tabloids years ago?

Perhaps Richard Pryor has something to do with it. Pryor brought confessional comedy to new extremes. If Lawrence's hero could joke about how he nearly died freebasing cocaine, finding life-affirming humor in a mistake that nearly claimed his life, Lawrence could do likewise.