Reggie Watts is a powerhouse. The comedian and musician is perhaps best known these days as the bandleader on James Corden’s The Late Late Show. His live performances are unlike anything else out there, completely improvised using only his voice, a keyboard, and a looping machine. They’re hilarious, fascinating, and surprisingly catchy, and he gained legions of followers as an opening act for Conan O’Brien during his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.
Watts recently teamed up with Hormel Black Label Bacon to create The Reggie Watts Bacon Experience, where he adds one more instrument to his repertoire: bacon sizzling in a pan. You can watch the performance here. We had the opportunity to ask Watts some questions about his feelings on bacon, touring with Conan, being Corden’s bandleader, and his cooking chops via email.
The Daily Meal: Why do you love bacon?
Reggie Watts: You know, I wouldn’t say I love bacon — I would say that I have an appreciation for it. It’s one of those ineffable flavors — even vegan friends of mine that, when they smell Black Label Bacon, they admit that it’s very appetizing-smelling. There’s something about it that, I don’t know what it is, I’m sure scientists have done a lot of research on it, but it’s kind of a universal, “Mmmm! That makes me hungry!” kind of a smell. So I have an appreciation for its power.
Do you think bacon loves you back?
Well, I mean, it’s dead, so I don’t think it has much of an appreciation for anything. But, I’m sure if it were able to project itself in its finished form, or in that particular form before it wasn’t dead, it would probably think, “You know what, I’m glad I at least get to make some people happy through The Reggie Watts Bacon Experience.”
Why did you decide to work with Black Label?
I thought the idea for the project was really cool. At first, I was intrigued by it, but it was a little of “What you talkin’ bout? What you talkin’ bout Willis?” Then they really described it to me — that I would take bacon samples, make a track out of them, and do a performance with them, and I thought, you know what, this is a really cool music project. I kind of just went for it.
I also researched the company, and Hormel is a really responsible, American company, and I like supporting local companies that treat their employees and products well. It’s a cool family-run business, since the late 1800s, so I was into that.
Can you tell me more about the Reggie Watts Bacon Experience?
It’s exactly what you experience, which is me putting together bacon samples and kind of creatively, in the moment, putting together a music experience that’s compelling. It’s fun.
The video, and the way that they edited together, is really excellent. I thought they did a great job. It’s a really weird, awesome, almost performance art-type of piece.
I’m actually pretty stoked that Black Label Bacon gave me that kind of creative license — in a way, it says a lot about them. It’s a really weird commercial, and I really like the way it came out. I watched it again recently with a friend, and she was just laughing her ass off. It was pretty cool.
What’s more fun: touring with Conan or being James Corden’s bandleader?
I would say touring with Conan, only because it was a moment in time — kind of a zeitgeist-y moment — that will never happen again. It was kind of my first higher-profile, national thing that I did and so there was a lot of newness associated with it. It was great to introduce myself to new audiences, and Conan’s audience is pretty smart. It felt like we were doing something really special that will probably never happen again. So I’d have to say that, just for special reasons, but they’re two different and equally great things really.
What’s something about James that he probably doesn’t want you to tell me?
Man, that’s a really tough one. That’s a hard question — he’s pretty open about everything, so it’s hard to find anything that you wouldn’t have heard already.
How do you personally cook bacon?
I don’t really cook anything now, but when I was a little kid and I cooked bacon, I put it in a cast-iron pan… probably when I was 12 years old or something like that. I was afraid to make bacon, honestly, so I learned from an early age to let other people do my cooking for me.
What are some of your favorite dishes to cook?
I would have to say a grilled cheese sandwich.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever cooked/most disastrous cooking story?
I used to bake bread, but I would put fish inside of it at the same time and try to make the two time out pretty well together. It was an interesting experiment: It was like a giant pierogi. I don’t know if it was disastrous, but it was definitely weird.
I used to also make sandwiches for my mom, and I used to throw everything into them. So she’d come back from work — this is when I was in elementary school — and I’d get home before her and I’d make these sandwiches to try to help her, and they would just be crazy sandwiches. All type of cheeses, every type of dressing, and they were just abominations.