Orlando fave comedian Preacher Lawson makes 'Tonight Show' stand-up debut

The funny and compelling comedian Preacher Lawson — who cut his comedy teeth in Orlando — made his debut Tonight Show appearance on Friday, June 24. (In case you were wondering, he was funnier than Jimmy Fallon.)

Lawson’s set was wonderfully paced and warm. He has a gift for making the audience feel good with brilliant, immersive storytelling. Plus, he just looks like a star.

Last July, Lawson was visiting Orlando and stopped by Bull & Bush to do a set at Shit Sandwich — where he performed regularly early in his career. Afterwards, walking around the Milk District and tolerating a series of questions that he seemed to find mundane, he finally opened up a little bit about his life.

click to enlarge Preacher Lawson at Shit Sandwich - Photo by Sarah Kinbar
Photo by Sarah Kinbar
Preacher Lawson at Shit Sandwich

“I’ve always joked around a lot since I was a kid," says Lawson. "I’ve consistently heard, ‘You play too much.’ ‘Yeah, you’re right, I do.’”

He generously credits his influences: “My mom is so silly, so silly. She’s so funny. I get all my humor from her, my brother, my family, Will Smith, Spongebob. That’s all my jokes.”

“My mom did a great job. She was very sweet. When I decided I wanted to do standup, I had been writing jokes for a year, I told her, I was like, ‘Hey, mom. I want to be a comedian.’ I was 17. And she goes, ‘That's what I'm talking about. That's what you need to be doing,’" continues Lawson. "Then when I was on America’s Got Talent and told that story, I found out she was lying. She told me, ‘I didn’t want you to be a comedian. I was just trying to encourage you because I felt like that was the best thing to do. I wanted you to be like a doctor or something.’"

“I want to be involved in fitness," Lawson says when asked about what's next for him. "I want to be involved in comedy. Those are my things.”

And so it makes perfect sense that his comedy set is now largely shaped around fitness activities. The lion’s share of his Tonight Show set was dedicated to the sport he loves. He drew us into his world as a newly-minted MMA fighter — taking a Tinder date to a fight, competing in his first MMA match time and describing it as a David and Goliath scenario where he was David, but unlike the Biblical figure, he lost. He adds to the bit with hilariously absurdist touches: using "Strawberry Kisses" by Amber-Simone as his entrance music, talking about his ticklishness being a major weakness ("If I'm ever choking you, goochie goochie goo, you out. I've got to let you go.").

Lawson is utterly dedicated to upping his comedy game. Day and night, he works on bits, mumbling to himself as he toys with angles and approaches, word choices and tone. His mind in overdrive, constantly in creative production mode, the content pouring forth is prolific. A skilled editor, Lawson masterfully decides which pieces are ready to share with the world. All his other ideas are safely stored in his solid memory, easily unearthed at a moment’s notice. You can imagine him recalling a snippet of something funny that he came up with 10 years ago, and making it relevant now as he sees it in a fresh light.

Lawson’s intuition for knowing what his audience will like is uncannily accurate, which is why he’s unstoppable. There’s no way in hell we should believe he is just like us, sometimes losing, suffering through embarrassing moments. In the David and Goliath conflict, he’s the David that wins with one strike.

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