Reggie Watts has no idea what he'll say when he takes the stage at Helium Comedy Club this weekend. In fact, he won't until the moment he actually grabs his mics—one plugged into the speaker, the other plugged into a looping machine. That's just how the comedian and musician rolls. Nothing is scripted, and that chaos makes Watts one of the best performers touring today.
To say this year has been kind to Watts—a skilled musician who fronted Seattle soul-funk outfit Maktub for years and now resides in Brooklyn—is an understatement. He spent a good chunk of 2010 on Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television" tour, went 'fro-to-'fro with ?uestlove on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and recorded a Comedy Central album, Why Shit So Crazy?, all while touring incessantly.
A veteran of PICA's Time-Based Art Festival, Watts' return to PDX finds him at the top of his game. We are pretty sure there will be some improvised a cappella hip-hop and a hearty dose of observational humor. Beyond that, though, Watts' set will consist of whatever happens to be percolating underneath that magnificent mane when he finally grabs the mic.
Watts spoke about the gig—and the end of life as we know it—by phone with WW in advance of this weekend's show.
WW: Is your head just constantly going?
Reggie Watts: I'm always thinking about stupid shit. It's like a top or a gyroscope. It's like it's going and going and going, and when you release it kind of chaotically comes into being.... I usually just walk onstage and either start talking right away, or start doing something stupid like messing with stuff, or I'll start with music. It really just depends on what hits me as I'm approaching the stage.
Are you able to let loose at a smaller show?
I like to take in the situation in real time. It's always the same, whether it's 10 people who show up, or a television audience, or a comedy club with 250 people in it. I shift gears to match the resonance of the room as much as I can.
A few TBA fests ago, you were talking a lot about the 2012 apocalypse. What are your thoughts now?
We got a little over a year left. I don't know. It's fun to talk about certain destruction. It's a fun concept to just tell people there's no way to avoid absolute catastrophe, and no matter what you do it's just inevitable. But who knows. It's one of those Y2K situations. It is an astronomical phenomenon. There will be a pretty awesome alignment of planets, so that's definitely true. I look forward to it—but I definitely won't be in a big city when it happens.
GO: Reggie Watts plays Helium Comedy Club, 1510 SE 9th Ave., 888-643-8669. 7:30 and 10 pm Friday-Saturday, Aug. 19-20. $22-$27.