Comic Grooves

Reggie Watts artfully fuses his musical and comedic sensibilities

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Reggie Watts, the Brooklyn-based musician/comedian/improvisationalist/talk-show sidekick, has a hard time picking genres. “I love doing R&B grooves, hip-hop grooves, soul grooves,” says the affable Watts. “They either sound cool or they don’t, that’s what I like about it—it’s totally sincere but also cool.”

Watts, forty, has been improvising affectionate yet hilarious takes on R&B, hip-hop, soul and a half dozen other genres since the early 2000s. On stage Watts, a mass of flannel and hair, stands alone with his looping equipment, a mic or two, maybe a keyboard and his own musical and comedic sensibilities. From some vague inspiration, Watts goes off—beatboxing, singing and speaking in every range and dialect known to man. Steadily the song builds upon itself: adding layers, forming patterns, and soon Watts’ falsetto gibberish and non-sequiturs of “feeling it in your pancreas” become a more complex R&B/hip-hop composition than most. “I’m a little impatient,” he says. “I like creating things really quickly.”

Back in the ’90s, the musical Renaissance man taking his time writing and performing music with bands all around Seattle. “Writing music is a quasi-arduous thing,” says Watts. “But it can also be the most amazing thing in the world.” While honing his musical chops, Watts was also itching for comedy. “I grew up loving the Muppets, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Steven Wright and SNL,” he says. “It all just kept bubbling in my consciousness.” Watts started making forays into sketch comedy and infusing his music with humor and a sense of improvisation informed by a jazz-oriented music education. “I didn’t see how I could make money just doing music and I loved comedy,” he says. “So I figured, ‘I’ll give that a try; people seem to like that.”

The transition has certainly paid off so far for the Brooklynite, who landed a regular gig earlier last year as the one-man-house-band/sidekick on IFC’s Comedy Bang Bang. Over the last few years, Watts won the Andy Kaufmann, ECNY, Seattle Mayor’s Arts and Argus Angel awards, wrote musical pieces for Louie, Key & Peele, Penelope Princess of Pets, co-created experimental theater pieces, appeared frequently on late night TV, released five albums and an EP and opened for the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Mumford and Sons, Regina Spektor and Conan O’Brien. “Music will always be a part of me,” he says. “Comedy is just how I express myself, I feel at home in both worlds.”

 
 

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2 Responses

  1. JEEAAAAHHHHH SAM WEISS IS MY DUDE, SON.

    – Martin Fukui
  2. This is a nice write up. I like that it covers both his musical and comedic sensibilities equally.

    – Deidra

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