Sketchfest Review: Reggidency: A Reggie Watts Series

by Jonathan Pirro on February 6, 2012

Where my gerunds at?

Where my gerunds at?

Comedy, as a method of entertainment, works best when we can relate to the entertainer, and the exaggeratedly hilarious (yet quite often true) stories that they tell. Most standup artists use this science as the core of their act, pointing out the sometimes terribly obvious, but far more often insignificant, details that we all have experienced, barely speak about, and yet go through on a regular basis. That excess blast of thought over such inane minutiae succeeds at hitting our funny bones hard, not only because of the presentation, but because we can, in fact, relate. If this is a regular formula for comedic success, then anyone willing to break the mold and give those common trivialities a winning partner with absurdity, disconnection, and whimsical rambling has the potential to turn heads, and in the case of Reggie Watts, he succeeds spectacularly, and leaves you wondering what the hell just bowled you over with laughter.

From the moment he graces the stage with his presence, the impact and energy of Reggie Watts’ character manifests in full form as he shambles, shuffles, dances, and awkwardly saunters onto the stage. It’s only once he begins to speak, sing, and otherwise create sound, that you start to wonder what wonderful planet he must have come from, what bizarre and hilarious universe he just stumbled out of. A brief introduction could make you think that he is actually Reggie Watts, Brooklyn comedian and musical genius, and he IS actually onstage at one of the two Yoshi’s Jazz Clubs, the Mezzanine, or the Roxie Theater — as part of four Reggidency dates, a special treat for the Bay Area. Two minutes later, however (or within two seconds, if a Chinese, Yorkshire, Danish, or even German accent has trickled forth from his grizzly-bear countenance), you’re the audience of a hip hop festival, or the customers in an Asian fish market, or the partner on a charming English picnic, and Reggie — if that’s even who he is at the moment — is painting the world with words, full of snortingly-funny non sequiturs that give you a glorious glimpse into the wild mind of the afro maniac onstage before you.

With each passing moment of Reggie’s set, you aren’t certain where he will head next, despite the fun that you’re having on the ride anyway. Skits and personalities segue seamlessly into musical numbers, in the form of a multilayered beatboox loop, improvised lyrics, alien scat singing, and the occasional piano solo or backing track, which continue with mounting levels of complexity and hilarity. Some of these “songs”, if they can be fit into such small of a term, will be unexpectedly snapped off as Reggie launches into a new persona, or may drift aimlessly into silence, and the accompanying applause is used as a setup for the next universe of his own design. Reggie is a million people and one, all at once, and his musical talent shines through, even when being somewhat eclipsed by his undeniable, drop-of-a-hat jocularity.

Though it would be impossible to grow bored with his extravagant but excellent improvisational nature, each night of the Reggidency was peppered with a special feature that added a unique experience, and a treat for those lucky enough to snag tickets to all four sold-out performances. Night #1 was a solo show, with Reggie clocking in an hour and a half of his standup and musical performance, while Night #2 offered the attendees even more fun in the form of Garfunkel & Oates as an opening act. For his Oakland appearance, he was joined by jazz musician Robert Glasper, who offered musical accompaniment in the form of keyboards and a baby grand piano, and traded comedic gesticulations back and forth while Reggie took over the musical duties. The two seemed to play off each other brilliantly, with Reggie showing his first signs of being caught off-guard, the two eventually trading jabs to see who could make the other laugh harder, while the audience had their sides splitting.

The final night of the Reggidency was easily the most unusual performance, as the standup and dance moves were eschewed in lieu of an improvisational film score, with added random dialogue. While the original choice was for a silent film, Reggie opted instead to provide new audio for the cult classic Legend, with a score incorporating elements from the original soundtrack (a clear and magnificent tribute to Tangerine Dream) and the comic’s much-loved beatboxing fury. In place of unexpected transitions between characters and scenes, most of the dialogue that Reggie added to the movie was either wildly inaccurate, brilliantly dubbed over moving lips, or marvelously snarky narration that explained everything happening on the screen in awkward but hilarious accuracy. Despite the lateness of the hour — the show itself began after midnight on Friday night, at the tiny Roxie Theater in the Mission district of San Francisco — the crowd guffawed and roared with laughter through nearly the entire course of the movie, cheering wildly at its conclusion and the end of the Reggidency.

There is very little that can be done to explain what Reggie Watts is like onstage, in concert, as a comedian, or with any other phrase that would give reference to the fact that he is a performer. He is everyone and no one; he is all stereotypes and the one complete exception; he is awkward and bumbling while gracious and with poise. He is a brilliant marriage of contrasts and opposites, clashing together marvelously and sparking raucous laughter with their friction. With this series of shows, Reggie has cemented his place as one of the Bay Area’s favorite comedians — and we can’t wait for Sketchfest to bring him back next year!

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

More Posts - Twitter - Facebook

Read Also:

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: