Exclusive: Read an excerpt from Reggie Watts' memoir debut
You most likely know him from his day job as the bandleader for The Late Late Show with James Corden, his time on Comedy Bang! Bang!, or his pandemic duets with Chelsea Peretti about oat milk.
But you probably know less about Reggie Watts' life story as a German-born Army brat who lived all across Europe before his father's job returned them the U.S. — one of the few biracial families for miles around their small Montana town.
Unexpectedly, that's where Watts found community. On Oct. 17, comedian-turned-small-publishing-mogul Phoebe Robinson's Tiny Reparations imprint will publish his debut memoir Great Falls, MT: Fast Times, Post-Punk Weirdos, and a Tale of Coming Home Again, about all that and more.
"I want people to get to know me beyond what they've experienced thus far, and to give insight to how I became the human I am today," the musician and comedian tells EW of putting his story to paper. "All because of my courageous parents, a magical little town called Great Falls, Montana, and a group of strange friends who joyfully embraced the darkness in each other."
Get an exclusive first look at the cover and read an excerpt below about the day Watts first fell in with his tribe of kooks and cool kids in high school, and the high-goth moment that led him to an "oozing dungeon" of musical discovery.
MEGAN MCISAAC; SARAH PARDINI AND BEN DENZER; Sarah Pardini Reggie Watts and his new book 'Great Falls, MT'
Great Falls, MT by Reggie Watts excerpt: 'A Family of Weirdos'
It was our junior year at Great Falls High, and Jon Thomas was still my best friend. He'd always be my best friend, no matter what, I knew that. He'd started out in high school as a nobody, a nothing, just like me. And even though he hadn't joined me for all of my social experiment — there was no way that guy would've ever joined student council — he was my one constant through everything important. We'd played — and quit — the football team together. We still hung out constantly. Still listened to the Smiths, still played Dungeons & Dragons, still visited his grandma's cabin on Lake Five in the summer.
That afternoon in the fall of my junior year, I stepped out of our school and saw two dudes who matched their school, looking like alternate-universe versions of anyone I'd ever known. They were in the senior parking lot — the cool parking lot, the exclusive parking lot — leaning against a lime-green '78 Monte Carlo, a massive boat of a car that was parked at this weird angle, as if bad driving could be its own form of rebellion against the Man. One of them had spiky blond hair, an acid-washed jean jacket, and a Marlboro Red dangling from his lips. The other had intense blue eyes, crazy curly hair, and perfect androgynous features, prettier than most girls our age. He was wearing a black trench coat, and he looked like a reject from a Duran Duran video. They had style, they had swagger, they were anything but safe. And all I could think was, Who the hell are these guys?
"Hey," the one smoking the cigarette said, nodding at me. "I'm Mike Benton. People call me Beave." He motioned to the pretty one next to him. "This is Fish."
"Hey," I said with a nod I hoped looked equally cool. "Reggie."
Mike Benton, aka Beave, grinned and took a drag. "So," he said, exhaling a long stream of smoke. "What's next?"
And just like that, everything changed.
We were hanging out in my living room — me, Jon Thomas, Fish looking pretty, Beave in his acid-washed jean jacket, and Beave's sister, Mel. It was a weekday afternoon, and coming over to my place after school had become a kind of ritual for the gang. My mom was in her bingo phase, so she'd be out at this bingo hall called the Sailboat, smoking with all her friends, leaving us with time and space to chill, to talk, to explore.
But up until now, never to listen to my music.
"Play something for us, man," Beave said. "Come on—everyone get down on the carpet around the piano. Like, flat on your back. Just stare up at the ceiling. Just, like, experience the reality that Reg creates for us."
I sat on the bench and almost like magic the vision Beave had articulated simply materialized. Four bodies lying in a semicircle at my feet, waiting for me to transport them . . . somewhere.
Reg, I just want you to hear some other stuff first, all right? It'll totally change your life. Prepare yourself for . . . Bauhaus."
Before I knew what was happening, he'd popped a tape into our stereo and out poured the creepiest, most bizarre, most haunting music I'd ever heard. It was all synthesizers and sound effects. Zombies and demons and apparitions and creatures of the night. And of course...
The bats have left the bell tower,
The victims have been bled,
Red velvet lines the black box,
Bela Lugosi's dead.
"Vampires?" I said.
"Vampires," Beave said.
I had been exposed to dark, edgy music before — Jon Thomas had introduced me to Ministry, and his cousin Shauna turned me on to Front 242. But those were more industrial, aggressive sounds, especially Ministry, with a vibe that pretty much screamed "Break things! Jackhammer! Commit acts of violence!"
But Bauhaus was different. It was goth. It was brooding, introspective, contemplative. All about pondering evil whilst lingering on a throne in an oozing dungeon. I could imagine my dad listening to Bauhaus as he sat in our kitchen alone, staring off into the night. If Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, and a group of thin Englishmen made a pact with a lesser-known demon and his vampire bride, Bauhaus is the band they would form.
Now, when I decided to embrace the darker side of life, I never meant it quite as literally as Bauhaus took it. I was more of a new-wave guy, less a dark-wave ghoul. I loved music with a current of darkness running through it, yes, but I never wanted to lose the celebratory, soulful, future-forward energy of bands like ABC and Crowded House and Level 42.
But as we lay there listening to twisted crooning about blood and death and, yes, vampires, the music created a powerful field of reality around us, fusing us together as a group with a single identity, a single purpose, much as the Smithereens defined my experience years earlier when Jon and I drove to his grandmother's cabin on the lake. Except the bond that defined my new group wasn't pure fun, it wasn't the joy of summer — it was subversiveness, it was darkness, it was the counterculture.