A typical scene on The Late Late Show with James Corden: Corden has his celebrity guests on the couch, and in the flow of conversation, somebody says something funny, funny enough to elicit laughter. The guests laugh, Corden laughs, the audience laughs, and when the camera switches over the bandleader Reggie Watts, he’s laughing as well, but he’s also eating a salad, right in the middle of a popular, nationally televised late night talk show.
It’s a perfect combination of three of his talents and interests (music, comedy, food), all of which are on display in his newest endeavor, “The Reggie Watts Bacon Experience” (which can be seen above).
In the most basic of terms, it’s a 90-second video (made in partnership with Hormel Black Label Bacon) that showcases a quick, fun song he made which samples the sizzles, crunches, and other bacon sounds for a culinary and aural experience.
“I went into the studio with my friend Steve, and we created a really fun track that we added the samples to later,” Watts told us. “I approached the project with a lot of enthusiasm about the samples, and thought it would be a good challenge to use the samples of bacon and make a song out of it.”
It’s a fun and goofy time, yet the reason it works is because musically, like the rest of Watts’ work, it’s catchy and engaging enough to stand on its own merits. His ability to improvise and adapt is a huge part of why he’s become arguably the most versatile and talented bandleader in late night television.
“I didn’t want to be like one of the other bands, so there was that concern,” Watts said. “When I went into it, I wanted to make sure it was fully improvised, and they gave me all the leeway I needed to create the music for the show, so it’s a great situation. I took the things I learned, how to do what I do, and mix it in with a sort of quasi-traditional talk show television format. What I’ve learned is how to refine that process and make it as easy as possible for everybody.”
Aside from figuring out the role of him and his bandmates in their interactions with each other as a cohesive unit, there was also the question of how to incorporate a personality as vibrant as Watts into the non-musical elements of the show. Whether it’s Fred Armisen on Late Night with Seth Meyers or Jon Batiste on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it’s becoming increasingly common that the bandleader is a regular character on the program, but Watts and Corden take that dynamic a step further.
“James, from the beginning, didn’t think of me as a sidekick, he thought of as more of a co-star, which was nice of them, to look at it that way,” Watts said. “In that regard, I think it still looks like a sidekick position, but at least show-wise, theoretically, it’s a bit more like a co-star. I feel like I’m equally responsible for what I do as James is for what he does.”
So aside from providing The Late Late Show‘s musical elements, Reggie also actively participates in sketches and bits, a favorite being Reggie’s Question, during which he asks one or multiple guests a bizarre query seemingly in an attempt to catch them off guard and see how well they can improvise. We decided to ask Watts a question of our own and see how he’d handle being on the other side: Do you think it’s ethical for a paperclip to hold documents of varying importance together, like a life insurance policy and a garage sale flyer, or does that not sit well with you?
“Well, paperclips are capable of much more than that, and that’s something I’m very aware of, because obviously, they’re used to open locks, simple locks, handcuffs, things of that nature,” he responded. “Or they can be used in an art project, as a stamp or something. I just don’t like them being so limited, but other than that, I’m quite happy.”
Watts’ new Netflix special Spatial, begins streaming on December 6. He described it to us thusly: “It’s going to be probably one of the worst specials ever experienced. I designed it to be just slow and terrible, so hopefully it’ll get received that way, with the possibility that people might think, ‘Oh, this is a pretty normal special,’ but I guess we’re going to have to see.”
Images: Hormel Foods