As Reggie Watts has grown in popularity, SF comedy fans have watched him move up from Hemlock Tavern’s small stage to multiple sold out gigs at The Independent and a gig at Outside Lands last year. He returns for his second Reggidency at SF Sketchfest, three nights of comedy with a different collaborator each night.
Most famous for his mix of beatbox loops, synthesizer and gut-busting vocals—not to mention his wild afro and beard—we caught up with Watts for a short chat about his latest visit to the Bay Area.
It seems like you are in the Bay Area a lot. Are you here more than other cities or are you just touring a lot these days?
I guess I’ve been there a lot more than often. Sometimes I end of going to certain places more because I get a lot of request from that area. I have been there a lot in the last year, for sure.
You’ve played everywhere from Hemlock Tavern to Outside Lands. Do you have any favorite memories from past gigs?
I definitely had a good time at Outside Lands and hanging out with Sharon Von Etten. That was really amazing. I recently had a fellowship at the Exploratorium. That was great.
Do you have any favorite spots that you like to visit while you are here?
I like the SPARC dispensary. I’ve been to some really great restaurants and sometimes I go to the market, but not as much as I want. Normally I hang out at people’s houses or just go to coffee shops. I haven’t really done the proper trolley ride or eating Rice-A-Roni.
Are you a big smoker?
No, not really. I like edibles. I don’t really like smoking at all; It’s bad news bears, but edibles are really nice.
Do you have any favorite recipes?
Sometimes I make cookies, but it’s just a regular cookie recipe. Usually, if I make it, I just chop some up on a cutting board and put some butter in a pan and just sauté it for a spread.
You’re last show was at the Bridge School Benefit performing to a sold out crowd with the Flaming Lips. How was that experience?
Yeah, that was amazing. It was an honor to be invited by the Flaming Lips, and on top of that just being able to meet all of those amazing performers—Neil Young and Jack White were there, and I got to meet Sarah McLaughlin, who is one of my favorites to calm me down in special situations (laughs). Guns ‘n Roses was really weird, but it was Axel Rose.
Did you meet Axel?
No, I didn’t really. The second night he came out, but he was just kind of regaling how you would expect a road dog to do—stories of being on the road and the people he’s run into. It was definitely cool, but weird at the same time because he’s not exactly the most politically correct person. It was cool and a really good rock ‘n’ roll time.
Now you are coming back for your second Reggidency at SF Sketchfest. Did you put that lineup together or was it done working with SF Sketchfest?
That was mainly SF Sketchfest. It’s basically their idea and I helped pick some of the pairings. This year is with Robert Glasper, which was fun last year because he’s such a monstrous musician. We’re also doing the Michael Winslow pairing. He’s amazing to watch onstage and he was a huge influence for me growing up.
The other one is with my good friend from Seattle, Amy O’neil, who is a choreographer. I’ve done lots of different projects with her. She was also the choreographer for “Fuck Shit Stack.” We’ve improvised many times and have done many performance pieces together.
Will we see you dancing or will you only be doing the audio portion?
I won’t be dancing, but I’ll definitely be doing the music. But, who knows, it could go a couple different ways.
You were gigging in bands before you started doing comedy and music. What led to the transition?
It was really a creative thing and also financial, just trying to figure out how to continue what I was doing and also make a living at it. That was the question for me. I got reassured when a friend of mine showed me some Stella footage that had similar sensibilities with what I wanted to do. One thing led to another and I got to head out to New York to pursue other music-related things. I got to do some open mics and it seemed kind of clear that I might be able to do something in comedy.
Do you find it more difficult to do what you do now compared to gigging in a band setting?
It’s pretty easy because it’s just me. As long as I get on the plane and make it to the venue on time, I’m pretty much set. That was another part of comedy that I liked.
Less personalities involved and compromise?
Definitely. It’s really cool to play in a band and have amazing people around you, but after awhile it can be a lot of management. It was nice to go solo and not have to worry about any of that stuff, but I’m glad I did it. I played in bands for 14 years so I got a good dose of it.
How does that creative process work for you? Do you jam and work on music first and then bring in the comedy?
It’s just a big mess of everything. I don’t really plan on having any big ratio of anything. It depends on the venue, audience, gig and who I’m performing with. It’s basically just me mixing up ingredients of what I really love to do.
How do you approach it when writing beforehand?
I don’t really write. I just kind of hang out and do things—play video games, talk to people—and then they tell me it’s time to go on stage.
That’s an easy way to do it.
(laughs) Yeah, way easier.
Reggidency Part 1:Sunday, January 27th, 8pm, Marines’ Memorial Theatre
Reggidency Part 2: Monday, January 28th, 8pm, The Independent
Reggidency Part 3: Tuesday, January 29th, 8pm, Mezzanine
Find more info at the SF Sketchfest Website