Reggie Watts is a wild and woolly character.
With a large, blown-out head of hair that makes him look like one of those Truffula trees from Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” the 40-year-old performer is mostly known for his equally eccentric stand-up, which he’ll do at Duke’s Reynolds Industries Theater Friday. Armed with a keyboard and a loop pedal, Watts weaves absurd, stream-of-consciousness routines (usually conceived on the spot and often done in different accents) with extemporaneous, surprisingly catchy musical numbers.
His weird yet brilliant style of musical comedy has gotten him an appreciative fan base, including people in the comedy world who want to use his musical talents. Louis C.K. called on him to compose the music for the first season of his acclaimed FX sitcom “Louie.” Comedy team Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele hollered at him to do the theme song for their “Key & Peele” sketch show on Comedy Central. And, earlier this year, Watts appeared as the musical director for IFC’s “Comedy Bang Bang,” the bizarre TV version of the bizarre comedy podcast. (The show’s website has a “Reggie Makes Music” section, which has videos of him doing impromptu jam sessions with many of the show’s famous guests, including Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm and “Weird Al” Yankovic.) “It just seems kind of like a quick thing that people ask me to do,” says Watts, on the phone, as he walks the streets of his Brooklyn home base. “I don’t know – it’s weird. It’s kind of like an easy thing for me to do.”
Working on these side projects has got him thinking about working more on music. Before he was known as a quirky, musical comic, Watts served as the frontman for the Seattle funk/soul/rock band Maktub. He eventually dropped his solo debut, “Simplified,” in 2003. “I mean, I’m working on another solo record at some point,” he says. “I just have so many things going on right now. But I think next year, I’m gonna really try to focus on making that happen. I’d like to do something organic and fun and maybe find a label to put it out on. I definitely have an intention of doing that.”
It makes one wonder if people who know him more for his comedy are getting to know his musical side and vice versa. “I mean, it’s definitely people that definitely know me from music and know me from that,” he says, noting that the comedy folk aren’t that well-versed in his musical past. “A lot of those people are kind of more discovering my comedy side.”
Watts is looking forward to seeing how his shtick will play here in the Triangle. Although this will be his first time doing comedy in North Carolina (he performed with Maktub once in Asheville), Watts believe he’ll do well here. “I mean, what I’m doing is mostly absurd stuff anyway,” he says. “And I grew up in Montana, which has kind of a similar, small-town, kind of rural vibe to it. I kind of understand that.”
While he lives in that East Coast hipster mecca known as Williamsburg, he has no qualms performing for Southern audiences. “It’s like people hear a Southern accent, they just think all sorts of things, you know. And my thing is I like going to places where people are like, ‘Oh, you’re going there? Oh, that sucks!’ I’m like, ‘You know, actually, there’s really awesome people there. And, actually, they’re usually polite – polite folks and great hospitality and just laid-back, good people.’
“I mean, I like going anywhere, but the South is particularly great for me because growing up in Montana, I was like, ‘I don’t know what the South is!’ It was just like a big mystery to me. And, finally, when I started going down there, I was like, ‘Oh, this is dope! This is cool!’ At least the pockets I went to anyway. I always had a great time.”
With Watts certain that he’ll have a good time doing whatever he’ll be doing, he expects the audience will feel the same way. Says Watts, “I mean, I just want people to leave relatively confused and happy, and the secret to good hair is don’t do anything to it – only wash it once a week.”