Martin Lawrence Addresses Dave Chappelle’s Comments About His Bizarre 1996 Traffic Incident

There was once a time when Martin Lawrence’s name was everywhere. After finding success as a comedian, Lawrence went on to star in his very own show and many box office hits such as Life and Blue Streak.

As the years ticked on, he started venturing away from the spotlight, taking a much-needed break with his lady and his kids. But now, he’s finally getting back out there.

As he embarks on a press run for his upcoming film, Bad Boys for Life, Lawrence sat down with GQ for an interview. While he addressed many things, his response to Dave Chappelle’s comments about his infamous traffic incident really stands out.

Martin Lawrence on the red carpet in 2019
Martin Lawrence on the red carpet in 2019 | Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

A look back at Martin Lawrence’s incident

On May 7, 1996, Lawrence ran into traffic in Los Angeles, screaming and “acting like a madman,” according to sources who spoke with The New York Daily News. The Big Momma’s House actor also had a loaded firearm in his possession. Lawrence was removed from the scene by law enforcement and hospitalized.

“[Martin] was yelling, ‘Fight you know, don’t give up, fight the power,’ or something like that,” a witness told the Los Angeles news outlet KCAL-TV. “He was shouting some obscenities or something. The police were forcefully putting their arms around him, like trying to hold him down, because he was fighting so much and yelling. He was like a madman. I was like, ‘That’s Martin Lawrence.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

Police told the Daily News that Lawrence might’ve had a seizure after failing to take a prescribed medication. But his publicist pushed back on that, saying in a statement that Lawrence had been suffering from “complete exhaustion and dehydration.”

People Magazine added in its coverage that Lawrence had been hospitalized two years earlier after a “wild outburst” on the set of A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and prescribed medication. His psychiatrist reportedly described him as “paranoid.”

The publication also noted that Lawrence was an alleged marijuana user.

What Dave Chappelle said about Martin Lawrence’s 1996 incident

In 2006, Chappelle appeared on Inside the Actors Studio, where he discussed how toxic Hollywood culture can be. As he spoke, Chappelle cited Lawrence’s incident.

“Let me ask you this, what is happening in Hollywood that a guy that tough would be on the street waving a gun, screaming, ‘They’re trying to kill me.’ What’s going on?” Chappelle asked the host.

He then pointed to his own experience. Chappelle had recently walked away from his hit Comedy Central series, Chappelle’s Show, and fled to Africa, prompting rumors of drug use and mental instability.

“What is happening in Hollywood? Nobody knows,” Chappelle continued. “The worst thing to call someone is crazy. It’s dismissive. … These people are not crazy. They’re strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.” 

Martin Lawrence addresses Dave Chappelle’s comments

GQ caught up with Lawrence and asked what led to the incident in an interview published on Jan. 6. In response, he said:

“Well, there’s no need to relive the past, but I was young and I made, uh, some irresponsible choices and, you know, carrying a gun when I shouldn’t have been carrying a gun. And just getting into things that I shouldn’t have gotten in.”

The reporter then brought up Chappelle’s comment: “These people are not crazy, they’re strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.” When asked whether he agreed, Lawrence said no.

“Whatever it is, if I was involved in it, or it didn’t put a good look on me—if it was my fault or somebody else’s fault—it’s just not a good look,” he said. “And I own up to that. When I was younger, I owned up to it, and I own up to it now. I’m a better person as a result of things I gotten into when I was young, ’cause I knew not to do them again. I know not to repeat that kind of behavior.”

He noted that he started “getting a handle on” his behavior after his family intervened.

“I think those things resonating with me is what made me start to get a handle on, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t want to be a failure. I don’t want to blow this. I’m a kid from the hood and I’ve made it all the way to Hollywood, and I’ve got my hands and feet imprinted in Hollywood and don’t want to go down negatively. I want to be held up positively,'” Lawrence added.

We’d say he succeeded.

Remember, Bad Boys for Life is out on Jan. 17. You won’t want to miss it.

Read more: Martin Lawrence Reveals the Real Reason ‘Martin’ Ended