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(Dis)information Overload

Plato described  rhetoric as the art of ruling the minds of men. Reggie Watts uses rhetoric as a tactic of disorientation—his stand up sets combine a mesmerizing display of nonsensical verbiage with improvised vocal beatboxes. Imagine a bilingual, psychedelic George Carlin with a massive fro, an intimidating lexicon, and an affinity for hip hop. In [...]
Danny Hamen



Plato described  rhetoric as the art of ruling the minds of men. Reggie Watts uses rhetoric as a tactic of disorientation—his stand up sets combine a mesmerizing display of nonsensical verbiage with improvised vocal beatboxes.

Imagine a bilingual, psychedelic George Carlin with a massive fro, an intimidating lexicon, and an affinity for hip hop. In order to get a sense of his dizzying on-the-spot routines, below is an improvised monologue Watts told me over the phone.

There is always the fable of the once-forgotten person who was actually the last person to remember who they were, which was kind of an insignificant blip in the history of these types of people. Initially, their responses were often times weaker than the outcome. In that particular case, this person, who I would never reveal the identity of, is oftentimes left relegated to figuring out whatever it is that they are disinterested in.


Onstage, he ends his nonsensical speeches with a warbling groan and hiss, and with the twist of a knob on his handy loop machine, his voice transforms into a rhythmic beat he is able to croon overtop of, his lyrics containing whatever spontaneous topic jumps into his oversized brain.

But beneath his improvised soundscapes and incomprehensible monologues lies an abstract yet profound layer of meaning. Watts purposefully plays with sound and language as a means of satirizing corporate and oppressive rhetoric.

“What I employ onstage is very much a use of Orwellian doublespeak. It is language that people use on a TED Talk or by technological and corporate leaders—lots of buzzwords and hip jargon—phrases that we have become used to, that seem to mean something [they] actually [don’t].”

Considering one of his most watched sets is a TED Talk, the irony is not lost on me.

Watts is known to wear many hats. The multifaceted German-born, Brooklyn-based comedian is a musician, beatboxer, and actor, making his way onto television in 2012 on IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! after two successful rounds of nationally syndicated stand up specials. To get an idea of the absurd nature of Watts’ career, he played a one-man bandleader on a fake talk show on Comedy Bang! Bang! Today, he is the real bandleader on The Late Late Show with James Corden where he even has his own segment where he asks the celebrity guests a variety of bizarre questions about philosophy.

“If there is proof that we are living in a simulation, amongst many other extraordinary things that have happened in my life, that would be a huge wink.”

When I called Watts, he was in California stepping foot into his first legal dispensary, a more than fitting place to discuss his surrealist brand of humor. Unlike the numerous accents and languages Watts utilizes onstage, his actual voice is playful yet grounded and thoughtful, certainly the type of person whom I might expect to find in a headshop in the middle of the day.

Describe yourself as a child. What were your hobbies and friends like? I was a weirdo. An only child, biracial and bicultural. I just kind of gravitated towards goofiness and entertainment. I was always interested in making art or some kind of music.

Was there a sharp cultural juxtaposition moving from Montana to Seattle when you graduated high school? There kinda was. When I moved there in 1990, it was still pretty small. The grunge scene had been brewing since the late 80’s and just about the time I got there it was about to go supernova. People knew something was happening, but it hadn’t got so crazy where The Gap was selling the look.

Did you get the sense that you were to be a part of significant cultural event? We felt like we were someplace historical. The moment that really marked it was when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. When that moment hit and all of the kids in the neighborhood started walking towards the Seattle Center for an impromptu vigil, I remember thinking that there would never be another moment like this, that this is the last movement in rock n’ roll history. With the internet, it has become hard to measure what a scene is anymore. We can definitely look at aggregation. I mean, there must be an algorithm out there or something for that. It’s like we need artificial intelligence to tell us what is hip anymore.

Why do you think the obfuscation of language makes for a successful comedic device? What are you trying to convey? Language is great because it enables us to get through mundane tasks—to transmit ideas. It is a form of communicative compression. With language, we have kind of come to expect it to be used in a mundane way, but for entertainment purposes, we like to play with language. In the tradition of comedy, all the way back to court jesters, language was used in order to create an artful turn of phrase or a twist. In my particular case, I use some of that, because I am kind of channelling language in a stream of consciousness type way. I am more using language to subvert language itself. The sound of language. The timing of language. Words that sound like other words. It is all fair game. I like to pick it apart or reconstruct it.

I have also been interested in language and its various uses, especially in interrogative ways and as a means of control. Language can be a bit of a con—using five words when one could do, to make yourself seem more intellectual. It is a form of hacking. Although hacking does imply more consciousness—I think some of the people that do this are just hacks.

I read that you once  described yourself as a disinformationist. Could you unpack that for me? Having a tradition in performance art, it always reflects back to the different methods of troll. We know what they were doing with language, so I can take that and turn it into a form of entertainment. This information is mixing truth and fabrication and finding the gradient between the two and employing it in an extreme way that feels like entertainment.

In a way, that reminds me of absurdism. What are your thoughts on that? Do you believe that humans live in a purposeless, chaotic universe? I believe that we live in a universe that allows us to interpret it anyway we want to. It is up to us to define our own existence. You can take advantage of that because many people are resigned to the idea that things exist in one certain way. That is why art is so great, because it takes advantage of the fact that people take reality for granted. When they are presented with an alternate view of the same thing, it shows them that there is actually a myriad of ways to interpret a situation. For me, absurdism is the pressure reliever for taking things too seriously. The one thing the Trump administration lacks is a sense of humor. And they wonder why they are hated so much. Because they have no sense of joy. Absurdism is a way of forcing that perspective that is antagonizing.

Inspired by the ‘90s and Todd Oldham’s recent splashdown at the Wexner, this year’s Off the Grid fundraiser (3.10) will not only feature Watts, but also Canadian DJ phenom Jacques Greene and local spinster Kenny Lectro. Your ticket not only supports Wex Education programs, but will get you samples of some of the finest bites in the city. Tickets are $60-$75 (members) through March 9 and $75-90 day-of. For more visit

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Arts & Culture

Q&A: Columbus artist Mandi Caskey wants to bring us together




Context plays one of the most important roles in our understanding of art. For instance, if you saw the unveiling of Columbus artist Mandi Caskey’s latest masterpiece, you’d probably equate the message to the daily protests that have been held in Columbus over the past week.

When the mural on the abandoned highway overpass near Scioto Audubon Metro Park was started, that wasn’t the case. It was a message meant to distract us from the hardships that COVID-19 flooded our lives with.

Now, to some people, the mural’s message, which stretches over 400 feet, takes on a new meaning.

(614) caught up with Caskey to find out the inspiration behind the piece and how she feels about subjectiveness in art. Check out a brief Q&A below and some incredible aerial footage from photographer/videographer John Thorne.

Obviously a project this big can't be tackled alone. Who all helped bring this idea to life?

From what I've read, it seems like your idea for this was greenlight very quickly and easily. Why do you think people responded to the idea in your message so strongly?

What roadblocks did you run into during the process of creating the mural?

How do you think art helps people during times of unrest and uncertainty like we're in right now?

I think there's something to be said about how the mural was made on the basis of the coronavirus pandemic and bringing people together and now it can take on the meaning of the social change that needs to happen in this world. What are your thoughts on that?

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Arts & Culture

Columbus artists employed to paint boarded-up downtown for #ArtUnitesCbus




The Columbus arts community has really stepped up to the plate when it comes to trying to unite and inspire during tumultuous times. One of the latest efforts from visual artists around the area includes CAPA and Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) latest partnership, #ArtUnitesCbus.

“When I do these projects, I try to remember to have fun and enjoy my loved ones. Even though it’s a bad time, there’s always room for love,” visual artist Hakim Callwood said.

The creative venture will exist to employ around 20 Columbus visuals artists. Their job will be to paint murals in place of the broken windows at the Ohio Theater and GCAC office. 

The art installations are expected to be finished by the end of the week.

“#ArtUnitesCbus is just one small way the arts community is trying to help. These murals are not the answer, simply a message that we ALL can, and must, help heal our community,” said Tom Katzenmeyer, President & CEO of the Arts Council, in a GCAC press release on Monday

Now more than ever is an extremely important time to give our community artists a platform. 

“The Columbus artists are more of a family than I think people understand,” Callwood said. “Whether we all talking every day or hanging out together; it doesn’t matter. When there’s times of need we always use our talents to support.” 

Check out the progress of their murals below.

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Arts & Culture

Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31




With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.


Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.


Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.


Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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