Throughout the 2000s and going back to the ’90s there was a popular soul/R&B type band in Seattle called Maktub. They had a few locally popular albums and performed all the time, I think I saw them open for George Clinton, maybe The Roots or somebody, and most years they’d be at the annual music festival Bumbershoot. Their singer Reggie Watts also had a solo album which had heavy street promotions and won awards for best local album and all that type of thing. They were a tight band and he was a good singer. I never really followed them closely, but it was hard not to run into them occasionally. In fact, I remember one night I was walking home around 2 am (no buses running) and I was waiting to cross at an intersection. A car stopped and waved me across. I looked at the driver and thought well I’ll be damned, that’s Reggie Watts. I guess he’s a nice guy.
Another time I happened to be at some event, can’t remember if it was a film festival or something, where some comedians or other were doing a Q&A. (If I remembered this better it would count as a good story, but no such luck here, so bear with me.) A guy in the audience stammerd an unusually stupid and nonsensical question, something along the lines of “Do you guys, like, have… things, you know, that are like, that you consider funny, or whatever?” And I looked and again I’ll be damned, it’s Reggie Watts, anonymously putting on some weird character to ask a bad question and amuse himself. And somebody at the time told me yeah, he’s been getting into comedy lately.
Years later I came across this video of what exactly his comedy was like, and it blew my mind. I was in tears laughing even the second time I watched it. It’s hard to even describe and it’s definitely gonna be completely unfunny to some people. I almost posted it on here a while ago to see what you guys would think, but it’s on vimeo which doesn’t work as well as youtube for me for some reason. There are shorter, easier to digest Reggie Watts videos on youtube, but to me this one is the tour de force that brings you through many twists and turns of trying to put your finger on what in God’s name this performance is all about. Be patient for the first few minutes, the awkwardness is part of the journey.
You see, man? You see? How do you categorize that? Part of what makes it funny is obviously the randomness, the surreal silliness, saying things like “it’s about an eagle, and that’s important. ‘Cause that’s a bird,” or my personal favorite, bragging about how “my teeth is brushable.” And the weirdness – the switching from character to character, the pretending he’s a radio station being switched and all that. And then of course the surprising musical talent, the way he unexpectedly constructs a song right in front of you using only his voice and a sampler. I’ve since seen him live and he did all this, plus playing a keyboard and singing what would’ve been a beautiful song if the lyrics weren’t a detailed essay about women’s underwear that mimics the useless pouch from men’s underwear. Also I think part of it was about sandwiches. And I’m pretty sure it was all off the top of his head, but it was very polished.
But to me there’s more going on under the surface there. The nonsense he’s saying at the beginning of this performance to me is a hilarious deconstruction of joke-telling itself. He’s using the structure of standup comedy without the content. Just setups and segues made of nonsense, no meat, and that becomes the joke. Later in the song he does a similar deconstruction of cliches from hip hop and reggae, amplifying the ludicrousness of common call and response cliches by making them even more absurd. For another take on that look up his song “Fuck Shit Stack.”
I think he’s some kind of genius, and should be able to somehow take that bigger, but how do you do that? Where do you go with it? With his crazy look and improv skills I’m sure sooner or later he’ll end up being a wacky supporting character in a movie, but as far as what his specific talent is I don’t have the imagination to know what to do with that.
Well, I believe he’s since moved to New York and been messing with experimental theater and shit. He came back here for a one man show, which I missed. But hey, check it out, he’s in a commercial now!
It’s actually pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind if that was one of the stupid ads they always play before movies.