Reggie Watts is one prolific oddball.
The wild-haired, bi-racial performer (from Montana!) is a multimedia entertainer in every sense of the word. The man is a musician (he’s the frontman for Seattle funk/soul band Maktub), an experimental theater artist, even a TV composer. But you might have caught him saying and doing a bunch of funny stuff onstage.
Yes, Watts is also a stand-up comedian, albeit one who does a lot of eccentric, extemporaneous riffing, usually with the aid of a loop pedal. That was enough for Conan O’Brien to hire him as the opening act for his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour last year. (Watts has since been a regular guest on his new talk show.)
PW recently talked with the 38-year-old, New York-based man-of-many-talents about being a renaissance man, his unique comedy stylings and his ’do.
So, how do you feel about recent Oscar host James Franco getting all this attention for being a renaissance man? Were you like, “Hey, where’s my love? I’m multi-faceted!”
Well, when I first started hearing him making moves—you know, going and doing double majors or whatever, triple majors—it sounded like, I don’t know, it was weird. Like, it felt false to me, and I didn’t like it. A part of me was just like, “What are you doing, man? You can’t just, like, decide to be an artist in that way?”
But, then, after thinking about it, he’s a good actor. He’s funny, and he’s fine and talented. I mean, really, the main thing is that he was perceived as a particular type of person or actor, and now, he’s kind of like, “Well, I’m gonna do my own thing.” And that’s totally fine. And, really, the big thing why I think he’s where he is is because he’s a really handsome guy, and he’s had success being a Hollywood actor. And so, for Hollywood people, they’re like, “Wow, this really handsome, fairly successful actor is now doing this really arty stuff.” So, it’s fascinating for them. So, he gets all the press.
Let’s talk about your style of comedy. It’s heavily improvised and very stream-of-consciousness. You dip in and out of accents. Where did all this come from and is there any preparation you do before you perform?
There’s not a lot of preparation. I’m always kind of messing around. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been imitating, impersonating, fabricating ideas, expressing them. It’s just mainly about whatever is in my head or whatever I’m feeling at the given time, and I just kind of put it together onstage and just put the tools out there and, then, see what happens. A lot of it is just environmental or ambient or atmospheric. I haven’t really thought about how I’m gonna perform it. It’s just kind of there. And if it comes out of the performance, it does. If it doesn’t, then maybe it never will.
You’re still heavily involved in music, whether it’s collaborating with alt-music sirens Regina Spektor and Eagle and Talon, or composing the music for Louis C.K.’s FX sitcom Louie. What still keeps you involved in the music scene?
I don’t really view myself as separate from musicians or comedians. If I get a chance to work with musicians, I love it. I’ve spent more time doing music than formal comedy, so I’m relatively comfortable with most musical situations. Comedy is something I’ve become pretty comfortable with, but I’m always still a little guarded because I’m always thinking, like, people are gonna say, “That guy’s not a comedian.” But, for the most part, whether it’s dance or music or videos or comedy or film or TV or whatever medium, I’m just always gonna be interested in the creative process.
Finally, how do you get your hair to be so, well, full of body?
[Laughs] Well, I think a lot of it is genetics. But, I don’t really do anything to it. It’s just kind of the way it is. I don’t really know. [Chuckles] It’s a mystery to me, too, man.
Sat., March 5, 10pm. $12-$14. With Eugene Mirman and Kumail Nanjiani. North Star Bar, 27th and Poplar sts. 215.787.0488. northstarbar.com
PW's Music Issue 2014