Michael Priest: Pay Attention

August 3, 2018

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

Listen

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.” 

—–

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. 

MORE ABOUT
Michael Priest