When Preacher Lawson was two weeks old, his mother’s friend declared that the animated baby was going to become a preacher.
“I’m not sure what I was doing besides saying ‘goo goo, gaga’ at that point but this woman was certain I was going to become a preacher, and that was what I’ve been called ever since,” Lawson says calling from his Los Angeles home.
Lawson, 27, never became an evangelist but he does speak before an audience every week. The playful humorist is a comic.
“I can see the connection of being a comedian and a preacher,” Lawson says.
The late comic Sam Kinison was a minister before breaking into stand-up a generation ago.
“I can see how that can happen,” Lawson says. “You get a charismatic person up there and things can happen.”
Lawson, who will perform Friday and Saturday at Goodnights, was magnetic on Season 12 of “America’s Got Talent.”
The Portland native, who was a finalist during the 2017 season, impressed such tough customers as Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel. “They’re all fair judges,” Lawson says. “I loved Howie Mandel. He was so down to earth. He was so cool. A lot of people believe that Simon is mean. The reality is that Simon is just being honest when he’s judging..”
The popular show put Lawson on the map. “I’ll always be appreciative since ‘AGT’ gave me so much exposure,” Lawson says. “Once I became known due to the show, it was up to me to take it to the next level with my stand-up.”
When Lawson returns to Raleigh he’ll crack wise about what’s going on with his life. “I’ll talk about my experiences,” Lawson says. “I’ll talk about ‘America’s Got Talent’ and make fun of a few people but the person I’ll make fun of most is myself. I love talking and more than anything making people laugh.”
A ‘gift’ turned into a career
Lawson was aware that he had the gift when he was in elementary school. “I would make kids laugh so hard,” Lawson says. “People would tell me how funny I was. But I had no idea that it could turn into a career.”
Part of Lawson’s career is his YouTube channel, which has over 150,000 subscribers. “I’m not just there chatting,” Lawson says. “I do cooking with comedians. I have fun with what I do. I have a good time with my podcasts. But what I’m most about is just working hard. I put everything into my stand-up and I do the same with YouTube. You’re nothing if you don’t put the work in.”
Lawson learned a lesson in effort when he was part of his high school football team in Portland.
“I remember doing a drill on my back that tears up your abs and legs,” Lawson says. “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 believes work ethic is part of the reason Kevin Hart is the most successful comic-actor on the circuit.
“How much he puts into comedy and well, everything is insane,” Lawson says. “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. He’s a role model. I’m not saying I’m trying to be Kevin Hart. I just want to be the best that I can possibly be with everything I do. When I get to North Carolina, expect me to give it all. It’ll be a memorable show.”
When: 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Goodnights, 861 W. Morgan St., Raleigh
Tickets: $23 Friday and $25 Saturday.
Info: 919-828-5233, www.goodnightscomedy.com