Reggie Watts Vogue Theatre, Vancouver BC, September 4
Published Sep 05, 2014"No one takes the chances I do." – Reggie Watts
Reggie Watts one of those rare characters who truly lives up to the "larger than life" idiom. The Comedy Bang! Bang! co-host's words betwixt and befuddle, a mix of stream of consciousness rants and half-gibberish lyrics, while the massive head of hair that frames his cartoonish grin exaggerates the big man's movements. His presence is like Sweetums compared to the standard Muppet size of other comedians, but his scope is much larger than comedy. He's part stand-up, part beat-boxer, part surrealist poet, part Ivy League professor, all disinformationist genius.
His set at the Vogue Theatre (what he pronounced as "the Vag") began with a distinctly Canadian-centric tilt, something he jokingly blamed on the club ("Make it natural!"). He opened by saying that Donald Sutherland had died at some point in the future, and he would later do a moment of silence for him, then noted how Canada was mostly Catholic, gave a misleading history of the heritage venue in which he was performing, and announced a whole series of improbable upcoming shows that would take place there (Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Alien Sex Fiend's reunion tour, Anything Box, etc.). Eventually, he derailed into a ramble on his gun collection and uranium-tipped bullets, but that's Watts for you. His mind doth wander.
You could never tell when Watts moved to his prewritten material, if he had or ever has had any. He's so in the moment, whether he's speaking, rapping, or singing, and he constantly mis-introduces his material, saying it's the first track from his new album or an act of a play he's writing. One of his rambles started off as a parody of band banter at an award ceremony, with him talking about working with Nile Rogers and Daft Punk, but then somehow moved through caveman art, the oppression of moral support, how conflict is the engine of reality, LGBTQH awareness and, finally, a surprisingly realistic solution to the wedding industrial complex. What's more, he somehow manages to take small moments that would be awkward for any other performer, and turn them into some of his funniest, like when he tried to move a mic stand away and intentionally fumbled it around for a while, or when he sucked on a fork for a solid minute, without really saying why.
Musically, he was ever on-point. Early on, he walked us through all the gear he uses to make his off-the-cuff beats. They were epic, mixing his incomparable beat-boxing with the odd bit of bass and synth from the OP-1, pitch-shifting, panning and distorting where needed, while the music touched on genres like hip-hop, house and breaks. Oftentimes, he would set a track in motion, then sing in an R&B croon about things like the best time to take a crap on a first date and random food and sex-related syllables.
He never hid behind his technology, though. He manually teased out beats with only the OP-1 and played keyboard with a subtle tastefulness, while his voice was capable of anything, performing a sick beat-boxing routine a cappella as he feigned playing bass guitar to his own voice, and singing with all manner of baritone, tenor and falsetto inflection. One of his funniest moments merely had him pretend to play the piano, making runs and dramatic flourishes without a sound coming from the Nord, while he sang about the selfishly rewritten and obfuscated status of the bible.
While much of his show pokes fun at comedian and musician tropes, he could do either of those things perfectly in his sleep. He knows them so well that his show ends up being more of a playful deconstruction, like Andy Kaufman-meets-Beardyman or what Cabin in the Woods did for horror movies. Whatever his mode was, he had the full-capacity VanCity crowd in stiches for his entire hour-and-a-half-long set. Feedback from the audience and any other tangents of thought stemming from his imagined conversations flow smoothly through his quick-witted filter. He left the stage with a flurry of high-fives and autographs for the front row.