19 May 2012: Trocadero Philadelphia, PA
The recent comedy boom has smaller rock venues moonlighting as comedy clubs. There is no brick wall or dimly lit tables. No servers to bring you cocktails throughout the show. There is just that musty stage. This setting has to be unsettling for some stand-ups, but Reggie Watts filled every empty space in the room. He played in several bands in the ‘90s, so he has experience, but his act is so brilliant it could be appreciated in any setting.
Imagine a large man with a Sideshow Bob style hair cut and a colorful sweater adorned with images of golfers and you’re only halfway there. Watts’ appearance is a sight to see.
Watts’ voice is something that must be heard. With the use of a keyboard and a loop-pedal Watts’ absurdist comedy becomes a refreshing take on performance in general. There is nothing abrasive about his act. He paces around the stage with a slacker’s confidence. Having ten-minute conversations among imaginary friends in a variety of voices. They are over the top impressions of non-famous characters. An uppity British bloke had a seamless conversation with a car mechanic from Brooklyn about the death of their friend Phil. Phil was just a character Reggie pulled out of his hair on the fly and told the audience he was doing a eulogy for him.
This non-linear form kept the crowd glued and amused. Watts can garner laughs by simply altering his gait on the stage. His physicality works for him even more when he breaks into loop pedal a-capella songs with themes ranging from Dungeons and Dragons to expensive baby carriages. His signing ‘voices’ are just as impressive as his non-musical characters. Singing in freestyle like Harry Belafonte and Curtis Mayfield while dancing like Bobby Brown elicited howls from the crowd. Loop pedaling has never looked so cool.
Impressive characterization and pitch perfect musicality make Watts’ act indefinable, but in a good way. I wouldn’t call it a musical comedy, nor would I call him a stand-up. He’s an anomaly. Someone who absorbs every medium that comes across his senses. Watts could fit into any setting. His show makes you want to see more, because an hour just isn’t enough Reggie. He would be perfect narrator for a book on tape or as a regular on bombastic kids show, Yo-Gabba-Gabba. (He recently landed a TV gig on IFC’s new talk show Comedy Bang Bang, where he is the sidekick/musical act) You can see Watts doing anything entertaining when he is on stage. He is an electric performer that runs on constant smooth energy. He is more of a slow burn than a firecracker.
He performed five full songs throughout the show. He ended the show with a song that he said was about dub-step. He offered his thoughts on the genre and claimed that Fleetwood Mac was an original dub-step act. The song sounded nothing like Fleetwood or dub step. He used his keyboard and loop pedal to create a massive song off the cuff that quieted the crowd for all the right reasons. Those of us who saw him for the first time were astounded. How was he doing this? Why does it sound so good? He is opening a new door creatively every time he performs and hits the mark. The way Watts thrives on un-organization is what makes him so appealing. You don’t need to be a particular comedy or music fan to appreciate his act. You just need to appreciate art.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.
// Notes from the Road
"Saul Williams played a free, powerful Summerstage show ahead of his appearance at Afropunk this weekend.READ the article