Michael Priest: Pay Attention

 

Photo Credit Elizabeth Spears
Interviewer Valerie Lopez
  Article Richard Goodwin

Live from a [televised] viewing of the World Cup, this week Valerie Lopez finally executes on an interview a year in the making. With an album due to record this summer, the timing couldn’t be better, and Michael Priest arrived charged and ready to let her in on the state of his world, and provides the warmest welcome ever for sometimes-co-host Ms. Purrington.

When pondering the state of the world in general, Priest is an intellectual fount. I mean that less in the manner of your high school history teacher, and more like the radical college professor that has decided he’s going to tell you how it really is. With the podcast he co-hosts with Kat Ramzinski, Fox and Foes, the former law student from San Antonio lets loose on the current political and social climate, with the occasional extended detour across a spectrum of topics. And by political climate, I mean “a lot about Trump & Russia”; that’s what dominates the news now, and far too much of the mindspace of the populace to be healthy.

 

 

Detour is the name of the game with Priest. One of seven siblings, he jokes that he had stiff competition getting a word in. “I don’t think I was necessarily funny. I tried to be funny,” he says. It’s impossible to pinpoint whether that’s the source of the light-speed timing he’s developed, whipping commentary into his conversation and comedy in an impressive fashion. Priest has been described as “devilishly wicked”. I agree, but there’s a dimension to his delivery that is razor sharp, equal parts darkly deprecating and unflappable self-confidence, whip-lashing with no warning, in a way that just plain works. For example, on the topic of comparing your performance to others, he instantly drops maudlin philosophy–“They say nothing robs joy like comparison, right?”–followed instantly with a brazen “that just means you need to do better!”.

“They say nothing robs joy like comparison, right? That just means you need to do better!” — Michael Priest

Priest’s been working at comedy since 2009, essentially non-stop. His early exposure was to big names from his youth, like Sinbad, Chris Rock, and Wendy Liebman. But his nature is to obsess, and continue to soak up comedy and iterate on it daily, to the tune of multiple hours a day, for long periods of time, with friends like past CW guest David McQuary.  

When asked about his style, that some people (cough, Valerie, cough) call “edgy”, he responds that “I try to talk about things I find interesting, and to ‘de-fang’ them.” With comedy like that, there’s an easy path, just taking something recent and horrific and literally joking about it, leeching a response from the sheer shock value. While that isn’t the core of his material, when he does go there Priest sweats the details to ensure there’s a lesson in the laugh: that you have to be able to accept the absurdity of the situation to be able to laugh about it, and that once you do, you can find catharsis.

“I try to talk about things I find interesting, and to ‘de-fang’ them.”–Michael Priest

Of his latest effort, the album Content, Priest says “I planned on doing an album from the first second I started”. True to form, he devoured “pretty much every comedy album in the last ten years”. That’s a bit of an exaggeration on Priest’s part, but I have to wonder if it’s really that far off, since he immediately riffs a list, including his favorites, to Valerie. The recording is planned for September, the 9 year anniversary of his 2009 start. Since his start, he’s also been finalist multiple times in FPIA, including last year (2017). He’s so busy, he half-jokes “I need an intern. I promise I won’t be weird with them.”

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Follow Michael Priest on Twitter and Instagram (@MichaelCPriest) for show dates, guerilla-style interviews, and because, as he says, “It’ll make me look popular; I don’t need to be popular, but looking and being are kind of the same thing”. Grab a calming cup of tea and check out his Fox and Foes podcast with co-host Kat Ramzinski.  

 

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Michael Priest

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Richard Goodwin

Comedy Wham