Talking to Reggie Watts about ‘Comedy Bang! Bang!’, Improvising, and His Hair
Let’s say the Tasmanian Devil was a person. (Bear with me. This is going somewhere…maybe.) Now let’s say that while maintaining his devilish qualities, he also was chill as fuck and quite funny. Now give said manifestation a microphone and a loop machine. Anyway, it’s Reggie Watts. Reggie Watts is unpredictable, and not in the conventional havoc causing way but in the it’s impossible to know where his mind will go sort of way. His wildly original brand of musical stand-up maintains a dynamism and sense of danger because it seems like Reggie, as much as the audience, has no idea where he’s going next.
Well, immediately next for Reggie is his role as one-man band/sidekick of Comedy Bang! Bang!, which premieres tonight on IFC. Though music is a big part of what he does on the show, he also is acting in sketches and contributing greatly to the comedy. As Host Scott Aukerman put in a previous interview, “There’s something about [Reggie] and I when we start to riff that’s really special.” It is really special, as Reggie often is.
I recently got a chance to speal to Reggie about Comedy Bang! Bang!, improvising, and his hair.
I spoke with Scott Aukerman recently and he had really great things to say about you. Much of which was about how pleasantly surprised he was at how similar your comedic sensibilities were. How would you describe that sensibility?
I guess we have the same sense of humor in that we both really like to play off of words, in the sense of word association and word rhyming and puns, like really horrible, horrible puns. And like really quick logic, like he’s just really, really quick and it’s cool because we can just bat things around. I used to be a little bit more intimidated by him in that department but he’s very sharing. I was a big lover of Mr. Show, I thought that it was just a brilliant show; I fell in love with it. And you know he was a part of it and he’s got his whole nerdier, hyper-intellectual side, which is what makes it so much fun for me to be around.
Are there any particular bits that stand out?
It was really just throughout the process when I would be singing a song he would always join in on the harmony. He really likes harmonizing with any song I sing and I sing a lot of pop tunes. Any phrase that someone says that sounds similar to a pop song, I’m always singing on set. And he would always sing with me. And sometimes when we’re just alone together in a scene we just go and go and go down this rabbit hole of word association and it’s really cool. It’s cool to be able to do it.
He also said you really improv the billboards. Scott doesn’t think that he looks funny and well, you look like you’re funny. How would you say you’ve been able to build your aesthetics and being able to use that as a tool for your humor and for your art?
I’m just kind of being free with the way I look. People tend to tune into that and they tend to respond in a more favorable way. But I don’t think too much about it. I just kind of do what I do and that’s kind of a part of it. The cool thing is that once you decide to be free and open, then after that you don’t have to really think about it.
Follow up: Are you just unbearably hot over the summer or do you always have a fan with you?
[Laughs] No, it’s not unbearable at all, actually. I have African genetics, so my hair is meant to very useful in the summers in really dry area places because it’s really curly. Basically, there’s a lot of ventilation. Whereas straight hair kind of just falls down, and kind of has layers, like more Caucasian or even Asian hair tends to be more insulating, which makes sense because a lot of that would come from colder climates or climates that have cold in them. Whereas in Africa it’s definitely more about cooling. So in a weird way you would think so, but not actually.
That’s a relief because I’ve seen you in the summer and felt bad.
[Laughs] Yeah, you’re good to go now. I’m safe man.
Ok, good. I think everyone will be happy to read that. So you’re really more than just the musical sidekick on the show. You’re acting and you’re in the sketches and you’re a really big part of the show. How was it for you to do comedy not at all rooted in music?
I think it’s cool; I like people to know that I can do other things because it also helps me with what I’d like to do in the future. Generally, when I’m asked to do a project, they’re usually something musical to it, so I’m trying to do projects where there’s no music at all, it’s just me acting. Me just talking. I am excited about doing that, to try and change that perception a little bit. But who knows, maybe I’m just a terrible actor. I’d like to at least give it a shot. Not a formal actor just improvised actor.
A lot of Comedy Bang! Bang! is improvised. How important was this for you?
Well, a lot of it just has to with telling people. Anybody that’s interested in working with me in a filmic way, my manager lets them know that I’m an improviser. And as much as possible, if I’m allowed to improvise during the scene, it’s how I like to work. In one way it’s a little bit lazy, but in another I just want it to be a good performance, you know? But on occasion, like on Comedy Bang! Bang! it’s totally cool that I didn’t read the script and I just sort of came in on the day of and they would just tell me what I’m supposed to be doing in the scene.
What are you hoping to do next, what do you have coming up?
I hope to be able to just create things coming from one location a little bit longer. Anything that encourages that or puts me in that position is great.
So like a physical location? So staying consistent, whether you are in NYC or LA?
Exactly, yes. And it would just be nice to just be somewhere for a while. I’m working on it.