Published Feb 17, 2017Your mind is a computer, with countless files being accessed and moved all the time. Every once in awhile, like a hard drive, you need to have the memory space defragmented, rebuilt. On Spatial, Reggie Watts is a human defrag program, here to break apart the walls in the brain and help us reset. Billed during the opening credit sequence as "A Netflix Comedy Special," Spatial could just as easily be billed as "A Netflix Brain Special."
Over its hour runtime, Spatial is engaging, silly, absurd, thoughtful and, most importantly, wholly unpredictable. When you think there's going to be a zig, there's a zag. When you think you're in the thick of the performance, Watts will cut away to the utterly bizarre yet oddly riveting improvised sitcom "Crowe's Nest." Only there can a scene end on a laugh with, "What does it even matter? I still have AIDS." There, Rory Scovel and Kate Berlant, two forces of comedic energy, merge with Watts and form an improv-Voltron, fuelled by equal parts darkness, silliness and smooth awkwardness. Scattered throughout Spatial, the "Crowe's Nest" segments give an odd grounding to everything else going on. Because there sure is a lot going on here.
Watts' standup bits are quick and sharp, with equal time being given to the serious and nonsensical sides of the art form. His faux-scientific breakdown of the existence of ghosts displays a mastery of the language, covering a wide swath of vocabulary and vocal tics. When breaking down a well-trodden topic like cannabis dispensaries, Watts comes at it like a straight-forward standup comedian. He's a good comedian, but it's when he brings music into the equation that he really starts to peak towards transcendence.
Watching Watts create his songs from scratch — layering noise upon noise with little to no vocal manipulation, building unmistakably full songs completely solo — is an experience like no other. He runs through styles and ideas like he has an endless supply.
Watching Spatial it's hard to imagine that there's a emptying point to the man's creative brain. He can sing nonsense during an Afro-beat inspired song and it sounds as joyous and important as anything you're likely to hear in your own language. He can sing completely indecipherable sounds over a '90s rock track (assisted by the mighty Josh Homme) and it's at once familiar and exhilarating. Maybe the words matter a whole lot less than any of us think?
And as that thought creeps into the head, Watts delivers his most powerful song of the set, as he ponders the social constructs of relationships, the pitfalls of jealousy, the need to both lie and outgrow those lies, among many other ideas seemingly far too complex to be covered in a silly little doo-wop song. But Watts doesn't care about your preconceived ideas about anything. He's here to destroy them, make you build something new in your head and be the most delightful of people while doing it. Chaotic Good.
Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.