Reggie Watts is best known for having been the opening act on Conan’s “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour.” I heard about him via a new acquaintance recently and then experienced the Wattage for the first time last weekend at The Palms pool party in Long Island City.
This NYMag story by Sam Anderson best describes Watts’ unusual style of improvisation:
“Several times during the set he broke into music—creating songs, layer by layer, using only his voice and a little machine called a loop pedal. He beat-boxed, hummed, clicked, sang, and rapped; he mixed rock, hip-hop, techno, opera, Broadway, church hymns, and soul. The nonsensical talking blended into the music, and the music blended back into the talking, with no connective thread other than that it all seemed to be emanating from the mouth hole at the approximate center of Watts’s wild halo of hair.”
The unfortunate thing is that, according to my extensive Facebook research (i.e. lack of reaction from 500+ non-New Yorkers to a video I posted of Reggie), this remains the case.
“He embodies the paradox of the cult star: a charismatic, powerfully original performer who probably deserves to be super-famous but whose originality disqualifies him from all the usual channels of super-fame.”
“That was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while,” said my friend Laura. “I liked how short it was. It kept me wanting more.”
I loved that he kept name-checking Brooklyn (:50 in the video below), seemingly out of confusion (we were in Queens), but I’d wager it was on purpose — another layer in his towering absurdity cake.
The best way to understand the appeal is to witness him in person, but here are some examples.
Video by RonenV:
“Big Thoughts at The Bell House” interview shot in my hood, Gowanus:
And for those who don’t mind four-letter words (Dad, don’t click here. Don’t do it; you’ll hate it.) — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJQU22Ttpwc
“Where my gerunds at.”
I tolllld you.
Reggie reminds me a bit of Brad Despommier, aka Lloyd Floyd, aka “man of 1036 voices” in that they both constantly employ different accents and characters, on stage and off, and connect ideas in similar ways. Lloyd is a quintessential, all black clothing-wearing neurotic New Yorker, voiceover actor and improv comedian. Here’s his reel with Abrams Artists.
It’s all him, minus the female voices. The only times he reverts back to being Brad is when he’s talking about Egyptian history, ranting about all manner of injustice, or describing the heartbreak of having left a bag of groceries from Garden of Eden sitting on the A train.
They’re also similar in that Lloyd is massively intelligent and talented, but his high-wattage persona can be too much for most ‘normals’ to appreciate. The beauty is that you do know Lloyd. He’s in several TV and radio commercials and many video games, most notably the Grand Theft Auto series.
I met him when he was rehearsing for a show at Bass Performance Hall several years ago. I had the unenviable task of garnering media attention for the show, which was filled with unknowns, and he was my best bet. Somehow the pitch emails worked. He was a guest on Fox4 Good Day and a Dallas rock radio morning show. The morning DJs loved him so much that they invited him back the next day just to chat and recorded him doing station call letter drops as Keith Richards and other famous frontmen. While imitating celebrities is a forte, he’s funniest when roasting his friends. Being the target is a scary experience in that his incisive observations border on vicious, but the material is hysterically funny in its truth.
Which brings us back to Reggie. His twitter bio, in all its ridiculousness:
“In the absence of truth there is confusion, the essence of truth.”
Or as Róisín Murphy sings:
“You can’t hide from the truth, cause the truth is all there is”
Here’s the best live performance video I could find.
The truth is I did Lloyd, er, Brad, wrong many moons ago and it finally came ’round to bite me in the arse in much the same way last month. Loopty, loopty loop. I don’t know about karma, but there’s certainly something about the concept of synchronicity and behavioral patterns that makes sense to me right now. Thankfully Reggie is around to amaze me with all those loops while Brad helps me break mine.