By Jerome Langston
The subject of comedian Preacher Lawson’s lengthy locs, comes up quite early in our recent phone chat. His hair is even alluded to in his most recent comedy tour name, Loc’d And Loaded, though I guess the tour name didn’t stick…as he quickly explains to me. Getting back to the hair though, when a national audience is first introduced to Lawson via Season 12 of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, he’s sporting a standard, low effort short fade. That hairstyle remains throughout his successful stint on the show, and for quite some years afterwards. I jokingly tell him that some people think that the current locs are fake, but he’s very adamant that they were earned the old fashion way — he grew them. “The beginning was rough. No one believed in me,” he says, with a slight laugh. “They were like ‘let it go,’ this relationship is not gonna work out.” He says it took like three years to grow them, but he likes them now, as they’re at a good length.
Preacher Lawson is scheduled to play Norfolk’s historic Attucks Theatre in January, and I share with the Portland, Oregon born comic, that the theatre he’ll be performing in, was once known as the “Apollo of the South,” and featured the likes of Moms Mabley and Red Foxx during its initial heyday. Lawson was unaware of the theatre’s iconic history, but responded to the information by stating that it was “awesome.” The comedian and actor now calls Los Angeles home, following a year living in New York City. He just moved to LA this past April.
“I wanted to be on a sitcom,” he says early on in our convo, more so than initially trying to be serious about stand-up. That changed though, once he got serious about being a comedian — some six years into his career. He started stand-up in Memphis, Tennessee, but didn’t have a good experience there, as one.
“I never felt comfortable in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve never felt comfortable in Portland, Oregon,” he says, rather seriously. “And when I moved to Orlando, I felt comfortable. That was the first time I felt comfortable anywhere.”
His artistry, as a comic, really grew in Orlando. After winning some prestigious comedy competitions, his time on Season 12 of AGT in 2017, is credited with launching him into stardom, as he made it to the final rounds. Since then, he’s made numerous TV appearances, and hosted high-profile events. He filmed a major comedy special for BET+, and has built a huge following on TikTok, and has even amassed over 600,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. And of course, he tours often — selling out popular comedy clubs and theatres, throughout the states.
“I don’t think it’s hard to be a comedian, I think it’s hard work, to be a comedian,” Lawson later says, after I complimented him on his work ethic. “It’s an exhausting lifestyle. I’m on four planes a week,” he continues. He admits though, that he wouldn’t trade his life as a popular comic, for anything. People just don’t realize how much work goes into it.
I’m not generally a fan of stand-up comics, but I do really enjoy Lawson’s work. Unlike some of his contemporaries, his jokes tend to veer away from the potentially offensive, and lands squarely on what is universally funny. I grew up on the remarkable storytelling of great comedians like Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, but they were the exceptions to me, and my enjoyment of their work rarely extended to others. I ask Lawson if he has a comedy “Mount Rushmore,” but he says that it’s hard to determine who comedy’s GOATs are, as so much of that depends upon one’s generation. He enjoys the work of many other comedians though and mentions Bill Burr and Arnez J as a couple of his favorites.
“I think being a good comedian is trying to make it universally funny, for everyone, ” Lawson says, towards the end of our chat. Besides excelling at comedy, Preacher also plays the piano, and practices MMA. “I think, like most people, there are things that come easy for us,” says the comedian. “I just know what comes easy for me, and I try to stay in that lane.” He also obsesses over those things, so that he can get even better at them. He’s obsessed with comedy, for example. “I watch three specials a week, at minimum.” And he doesn’t watch these comedy specials for simple enjoyment as a fan, but rather to fixate on the details of each comic’s performance.
Lawson’s show at The Attucks will follow the tried-and-true setlist that he’s developed for this current comedy tour, as he tells me that he does the same jokes in each market. “For my crowd, I just do my jokes, cause they’re coming to see me. They know who I am,” he says. And for the Norfolk crowd in particular, “let’s have some fun,” says the comedian. “And I’m excited to be there.”
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