Reggie Watts on How He Plays Games, VR and Improvisation

When Reggie Watts is onstage, it feels like you’re watching a fully self-actualized performer. His art is a mix of comedy, music, and theater, churned into a surrealist smoothie of live energy. His sets are a combination of his own voice, merged with live synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and loopers; he’ll improvise songs that transition from soulful and melodic love ballads to mangled alien tongues, bits that move from the British countryside to the hood in the same, deep breath. 

Watching Watts, it’s clear that much of the performance is improvised live, but it’s difficult to suss out where the script starts and stops. His particular brand of magic comes from the fact that his performances feel like they’re being rendered in realtime – a lot like video games. Reggie Watts lives in the space between free jazz, Mitch Hedberg, and the 1991 NES game Harlem Globetrotters.

Since the release of his first solo EP in 2009, Pot Cookies, Watts was featured on the IFC series Comedy Bang! Bang!, and began collaborating with Michael Cera, Tim & Eric and Sarah Silverman to create their comedy YouTube channel Jash. He currently performs as the bandleader and announcer for The Late Late Show with James Corden. His most recent stand-up special, Reggie Watts: Spatial, debuts December 6th on Netflix .

How do you like to play?
Sometimes games for me are kinda like binge-watching episodes of shows. Generally I pick the easiest setting, because I’m not very interested in difficult combat. I just like to get through the story to see what happens.

What were some of your formative gaming experiences?
As a kid we had an Atari, a Commodore 64, so I played stuff like Parsec, Pitfall – those were fun games and I love them, but they were also kinda like bite-sized candy bars. The first game I really got into that was more complicated was the Dreamcast version of Resident Evil. Totally freaked me out. That and Shenmue. Those were my first sort of fully engrossed, can’t-stop-playing type games. I just wanted games to be interactive movies.

You’ve been performing live in the social VR platform AltspaceVR, and worked on Waves, a VR experience about doing VR in VR. That’s a lot of VR.
I’m an inspiration-based person – I need to be inspired to do something. VR is exciting to me. I’m excited by the prospect of wireless headsets. I may partner with Justin Roiland [co-creator and executive producer of the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty] to make a game we’ve been talking about, which would be great. 

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