The lobby at the Playhouse slowly began to fill as the hour neared ten o’clock. Reggie Watts was due to come on stage any minute. The room was jam-packed with casual conversation and people standing in line for refreshments, trying to drink their Friday night’s quota of beer before being summoned inside the theatre. Finally, the announcement was made to take our seats, those who still had liquid in their glasses (myself included) all took part in a group chugging contest, and hurried to our assigned seats once they were finished.
The stage was minimal: a keyboard on the right, loop sampler on the left, and a microphone in the middle. A single spotlight illuminated the centre of the stage, a common sign of an upcoming one-man show. Reggie Watts did not keep us waiting too long, coming out minutes after everyone had settled down in their seats. The dull buzz of chit-chatter was replaced with whoops and hollers the moment Watts’ hair revealed itself from behind the curtain. He shared some warm words of welcome, but more importantly he was there to introduce his opening act, Craig.
Craig, played by Kyle Dunnigan, is a character reminiscent of Kaufman’s Latka: socially awkward, weak jokes, but impeccable timing. But, instead of an expert rendition of Elvis Presley, Craig gave an outstanding impression of television host Bill Maher. Other impressions included: Sir Paul McCartney, and his mother (being woken up at four in the morning). Dunnigan’s style is frantic, never letting the audience settle into a joke before segueing to the next bit, leaving them wanting to hear more of his relatable humour. Characters, musical ability, and perfect comedic timing. I can see why Watts chose him as the opening act.
Dunnigan introduced Reggie Watts to a score of adoring fans. Again, the moment Watts’ hair revealed itself from behind the curtain, the crowd roared incessantly. Watts’ unique blend of genre-bending music and improvisational comedy is unparalleled today in the entertainment business. His creativity seems to be without bound, creating songs on the spot with his sampler that make the crowd laugh and groove all at once. This alternative performance style allows him to poke fun at musical genres, sometimes, without using words at all. Instead, singing gibberish to mimic other styles, all while displaying incredible musical range and talent.
Friday’s show was accented by Reggie’s calm, cool demeanour on stage. At one point, taking a performance break to throw a silver exercise ball back and forth between himself and the crowd. All to the rhythm of clapping hands. I’ve seen Watts perform once before, at Sasquatch Music Festval back in 2011, so his laid-back attitude and approach were of no surprise to me. His shows emit authenticity, a quality that makes his fans fall in love with his performance, and his personality too. After the show was finished, I found myself fantasizing about how fun it would be to just hang out with Reggie when he’s not performing.
One question I heard being posed frequently after the show: is he ever going to come out with a real album? After some thought, I came up with an answer: of course he will. Watts has already released serious records. Simply because his albums are comedic does not mean they are any less passionate, or elegantly executed. Although, with chops like his, seeing an R&B Reggie Watts record would be interesting. However, I believe his genius is best served in comedy, where he can continue to be a pioneer for his craft. Watts is breaking new ground; he’s a Renaissance man of comedy.