THE CURRENT German international football squad boasts 11 players whose parents or grandparents were born outside the Bundesrepublik Deutschland - Podolski, Klose and Trochowski (Poland ), Boateng (Ghana ), Cacau (Brazil ), Ozil (Turkey ) and Khedira (Tunisia ).
Brooklyn-based comedian and musician Reggie Watts was born in Stuttgart in 1972 to a French mother and an African-American father. He grew up in Montana and lived in Seattle in his late teens. In 2004 in order to concentrate on his solo comedic performances he moved to the Lower East Side of New York.
The musician Brian Eno says of him: “Reggie Watts is a most unusual talent: a huge vocal range, a natural musicality, and a sidesplitting wit. Is he a comedian? A singer? A performance artist? I’ve seen him a few times since then and I still can’t decide. Whatever, he isn’t like nobody else.”
New York comedienne Jessica Delfino describes her friend and comedic collaborator Reggie as “the coolest mofo in the world” and Reggie is well on his way to mainstream fame himself.
“I suppose I’d call what I do a sort of multi-disciplinary comedic performance,” Watts tells me. “In the US I’m part of what is called ‘the alternative comedy scene’ and that ranges from traditional stand-up comedy to more theatrical performance.
“There are some great nights on the Lower East Side and Williamsburg and Greenpoint and all the performers there are super supportive of each other. Some people bring their shows over to Edinburgh and it goes over really well and some people move to LA and try their luck there. For me it’s the perfect place to create and to learn about what I do as a comedian or as an artist. There’s always new people coming through and that’s exciting”
Watts seems to be in the right place at the right time. When he was just 18 he left home and moved to Seattle and fronted a rock outfit called Maktub. It was the early 1990s and the city was the epicentre of the grunge scene.
“It was definitely happening,” Reggie says. “I probably got there around about the time that the second wave of grunge bands was coming through. It was an amazing time and I got to see bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden in small clubs.
“There were a lot of other relatively unknown bands like Black Atmosphere and Hit Explosion that I really liked. It was a really cool scene but then after Kurt Cobain killed himself and the whole fallout from that it turned into a ghost town.”
It was while living in Seattle and attending the Cornish College of the Arts that Reggie became interested in theatre and performance art. He also began to write for theatre and this is hardly surprising as his second cousin is Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple.
I remember getting a letter in the mail from someone on my dad’s side of the family saying that Alice’s book was going to be made into a movie,” he recalls. “There was a photocopy of an excerpt from a newspaper article about her and about the production.
“That’s all I heard about it for a while and I think I went to see the movie when it came out. I always kind of knew Alice Walker was my cousin because I’d go to a family reunion and her sister would be there. It’s funny I’ve never actually met her but maybe someday at a party somewhere we’ll bump into each other.”
Watts has literary aspirations of his own but is waiting for the right idea to come along before putting pen to paper.
“I definitely have ideas for a book but it wouldn’t be a traditional book,” he says. “There are some literary agents that are really into signing some kind of book deal with me.”
The German-born funnyman is currently concentrating on his comedy performances and when I interview him he’s in the middle of a major US tour with former The Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien. The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour sold out in 30 cities including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.
“It’s been amazing,” says Watts about opening for the television host and comedian. “The audiences have been really great and he’s been very gracious and generous. The whole tour has brought nothing but good things for me. It’s very new for him and I think he’s doing his best. He’s writing a lot of material and I think that’s what he enjoys about it. Hopefully he’ll take this experience into his next show.”
O’Brien is very proud of his Boston-Irish heritage and regularly mentions his Catholic upbringing on television and in his stand-up routines.
“He knows a lot about his family and where they came from,” says Reggie. “I’ve talked to him about going back there and doing a show. He likes the idea but he’s a little bit afraid in case the people there don’t like him. I think it would be amazing though, so I’m going to keep at him.”
Perhaps when Watts is in Europe he can stop by the city in Germany of his birth. Maybe he could even be named Germany’s Most Famous Comedian?
“I have been back to Germany a few times but I’ve never been back to Stuttgart,” he says. “I think to be named as Germany’s most famous or funniest comedian would be a very weird feeling”
Reggie Watts will play Cuba*Live, Eyre Square, on Tuesday July 20 at 8.30pm as part of the Galway Arts Festival. Support is from Joe Rooney and Gerry Mallon is the MC. Tickets are available from the festival box office, Galway Tourist Office, Forster Street, and www.galwayartsfestival.com