Sam Kinison was a minister before he made the transition to comedian a generation ago.
“I can see how that can happen,” Preacher Lawson said. “You get a charismatic person up there and things can happen.”
Lawson, however, isn’t a preacher.
“But my mom’s friend thought I would become a preacher ever since I was an infant,” he said.
The animated entertainer does have a commanding presence. That’s part of the reason he was a finalist on season 12 of television’s “America’s Got Talent” competition in 2017, and place in the top five in the recent “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.”
The Portland, Ore., native’s magnetism and material clearly went over well with “AGT” judge Howie Mandel.
“I loved how Howie reacted to me,” Lawson said. “They were all great. Simon (Cowell) is amazing, too. He’s a great judge of talent. I owe ‘America’s Got Talent’ for giving me so much exposure.”
Lawson, who will perform Friday (4/12) at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City, is making the most of his opportunity by working on the road as much as possible.
“You have to put the time in,” he said. “It’s just like anything else. If you put the hours in, you get better. Now I’m way more confident than I was than when I was on (AGT) in 2017. I don’t rush through my set. I’ve carved out my identity as a comic.”
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Expect Lawson, 28, to deliver observational jokes, draw from his own life and offer self-deprecating humor.
“I talk about things from my own point of view, which makes what I do unique,” he said. “I like talking about ‘America’s Got Talent.’ I also like to poke fun at myself.”
Lawson noted how far he has come over a relatively short period of time.
“When you look back to where I was in 2015 and now, it’s just amazing,” he said. “That wasn’t that long ago, and I’m so much farther along than I was. I’m just thrilled that I’ve made this into a career. When I was growing up, I wouldn’t have told you that I would become a comedian.”
Like many comics, Lawson cracked up his peers while coming of age.
“I would make kids laugh so hard,” he said. “People would tell me how funny I was, but I had no idea that it could turn into a career.”
Part of his career is his popular YouTube channel, which has more than 150,000 subscribers.
“I’m not just there chatting,” he said. “I do cooking with comedians. I have fun with what I do. I have a good time with my podcasts. But what I’m about is just working hard. I put everything into my stand-up and I do the same with YouTube.”
He learned a valuable lesson about work ethic when he was on his high school’s football team.
“I remember doing a drill on my back that tears up your abs and legs,” he said. “When my football coach would turn his back, I would drop my legs. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter to me if you don’t give the proper effort. You’re not cheating me, you’re cheating yourself.’ What he said didn’t connect with me then, but it connected with me as an adult.”
Lawson’s role model is comic actor Kevin Hart, who is at the top of the comedy food chain.
“Kevin Hart has set the standard for comics,” Lawson said with admiration. “I’m just blown away by him. There is a reason he’s so successful. Yes, he’s funny, but it’s more than just being funny. How much he puts in comedy and well, everything, is insane.
“I remember years ago seeing him in Montreal. We were out late into the night and he was up at 7 a.m. working out. I saw it on his social media. The guy just goes all out with everything. ...
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“I’m not saying that I’m trying to be Kevin Hart. I just want to be the best that I can possibly be with everything I do.”
WHAT; Preacher Lawson
WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (4/12)
TICKETS: $25, limited availability, Englert Ticket Office, (319) 688-2653 or <URL destination="https://englert.org/">Englert.org
</URL>ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Preacherlawson.com/about