It’s a couple hours before Reggie Watts opens for Nick Cave at Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium, and there’s a lot going on backstage. Gear and chords everywhere with crew guys yelling up and down the halls trying to get everything in place for the big show. Watts seems a bit tired, only arriving in Edmonton shortly before getting to the auditorium, but is still somehow full of energy. He’s about to open for one of his musical heroes, but internalizes any nerves he may have and proceeds to happily discuss how he prepares for a show like this.
“The sets are really dictated by the surroundings and what’s happening that day. Opening up for Nick Cave is definitely part of the whole equation; of course there are going to be moments where I talk about Australia, his career longevity, and whatever comes into play that I’m influenced by. Generally though, I just allow for the day to kind of speak for itself.”
Watts’s popularity as a unique voice in comedy has grown tremendously over the past few years. He’s played impromptu sets with MCs like Childish Gambino in L.A. and gone on tour with the Oddball Festival alongside some of the biggest names in comedy like Sarah Silverman, Hannibal Buress and Louis CK (who personally chose Watts to compose the music for his Emmy-award winning show Louie).
He’s had frequent guest spots on Conan, his own show, Comedy Bang Bang, and countless popular Internet videos. All of his appearances highlight his absurdist dialogue about consciousness, complete with gloriously improvised musical breaks… Or gloriously improvised music sets with breaks of absurdist dialogue, depending on how you look at it.
If you’ve never heard of Reggie Watts before, confused is the thing you’d feel watching him perform right off the bat. He has an ability to articulate the grandest of thoughts from the most haphazard mish-mash of ideas.
Take his appearance at Pop Tech in 2011. He puts on a distinguished English accent and proceeds to school the audience like an Oxford professor, satirizing the many Ted Talk-esque presenters who came on before him:
“We talk about design. Often. At some point during any human’s lifetime, they will use the word ‘design’…and that’s a big deal. Aside from ‘the’ and ‘a’ and ‘and’ in various languages, ‘design’ is the fourth most popular word used.
Before design was constructed we had the Mesopotamian era… and well, we all know how that was.”
While his stage rants may come off as a bit bizarre, Watts himself is an intelligent, down-to-earth man who is very aware of what he’s doing. Less combative than Andy Kauffman, and more bizarre than Weird Al, the only thing better than discovering Reggie Watts for the first time is witnessing someone else discover him. It’s not something you can pinpoint, as he can come off as both completely random and completely genius at the same time. The best parts of his performances are the in-between moments. They’re the moments where you wait to hear how the audience is going to react; when you listen for the laughter to start growing gradually as they start to “get it”, only to have Watts suddenly pull them in an entirely different direction.
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