Pop-culture nostalgia was in full swing Monday night at The Independent, as live sound effects expert Michael Winslow (from the Police Academy movies) joined Reggie Watts for part two of his “Reggidency” for SF Sketchfest.
Winslow started with a solo set, followed by a Watts solo set. Then the two joined forces for a very weird, one-off performance dubbed “The Sound Effects Summit.”
Watts welcomed the audience and introduced Winslow, and Winslow launched into his audio/visual act that is completely pre-conceived; Winslow’s set was accompanied by a DVD menu, so it looks like this is an act he has done many times. Watts watched from the side of the stage taking in the set, enjoying it with those at the sold out show.
And it was pretty fun and entertaining. He pleased the crowd with his trademark voices and sound effects. Winslow created an alternate take on a scene from Star Wars, providing all of the dialogue, sound effects and musical score from his mouth. (Princess Leah: “Ahhhh! I have to go the bathroom!”)
The set ended in costume, as Winslow impersonated Jimi Hendrix fully glitched-out.
Watts then took over with his delightfully awkward pauses, anticipatory teasing and unique, looping songs. In the end, it would have been nice to have a little more Watts solo time.
He seems to thrive on improvisation, avoiding routine and repetition. For example, at his Outside Lands set in 2012, he walked off stage halfway through, thanking the crowd. He came back a minute later, saying “They tell me I have 25 minutes” and launched into improv. It’s almost as if he tests himself on improvisation, forcing situations where he has to dig his way out. And he usually thrives in this situation.
Watts’ ramblings are entertaining; he’s able to captivate a 450-person room talking under his breath, promising to start his first song 5 times before actually doing so. Part of the comedy is that he is shy and understated at times, then he’ll build a tasty groove and get sassy.
This wacky collaboration started with two songs pretty quickly, and Winslow provided beats and sounds a capella while Watts layered in instrumentals and provided the lead singing. It was a strong start to an experience that got increasingly awkward.
From there it became Andy Kauffman-esque, as it seemed like the duo were playing a trick on the audience. And it probably wasn’t intentional. The awkwardness was a product of improvisation meeting rehearsed comedy.
Winslow started relying on some of his female character voices and bad jokes, which was a little over-the-top, and you could tell it was throwing Watts off his improv game. He even asked if this was the Carol Burnett show or if he was Gilda Ratner. Yes, those two are comedy icons, but that is not exactly why folks were here.
Beyond the unfunny tangents and self-conscious moments Reggie Watts was having, it was a set worth seeing. Overall, the “Sound Effects Summit” delivered on its titled premise.
SIDENOTE: There was a 3-camera crew and sign-off waivers present on the door to The Independent, as Watts was filming an “Untitled Reggie Watts Documentary.” I’m sure they got some usable footage for whatever Watts is producing.