I hate Los Angeles, and I hate comedy, so last week I was shocked to find myself out in LaLaLand hanging with Reggie Watts on the set of his new comedy show, the Social Music Experiment. I've only been to LA once before, and I pretty much had a week-long panic attack. I attribute this to being stuck in West Hollywood with a bunch of jerknuts. The reason I hate comedy is because I'm generally skeptical of anyone who wants to be the person in the room that everyone's laughing at—I think there's something potentially sociopathic about that, but I digress. Reggie Watts is not only a good musician, he's that rare breed of comedian that's actually funny, and (bonus points) he's not from LA.
Here's a little back story. Reggie is part of a new online channel called Jash, which is the sort of channel you would get if you crammed every funny human on the planet into a small, YouTube-sized box: in addition to Reggie, the channel is staffed by Michael Cera, Sarah Silverman, and Tim and Eric. Each one of them has their own show, but Reggie's is called the Social Music Experiment. The idea is that Reggie Watts and his friend, comedian Asif Ali, are socio-musicologists who go around interviewing professionals in the field about what sorts of effects music can have on the human body. Then they travel around with Ultimate Ears' cool little UE BOOM bluetooth speakers and enact some improv comedy gold on professionals in the field, and some unsuspecting bystanders.
The show attempts to answer a few different questions, like whether or not music start a party, get you laid, start a fight, and so on. I showed up hungover and jet-lagged for the filming of "can music get you high." I'd lost my notebook and my recorder somewhere, which meant I could only take notes on 3.5-inch loose-leaf note cards, a mistake I unsuccessfully attempted to play off as a journalistic quirk. The shoot happened on a real-life studio lot at Culver Studios, a classic Colonial-style studio where Gone With The Wind and Citizen Cane were shot.
Before we go any further, you should probably watch the first episode of the Social Music Experiment—check it out!
Here are some of the things I saw on set during the shoot, plus the notes I took on my stupid little note cards so you can learn how to be a real journalist just like me.
Note: "René Le Vant/ Hana Barbara/ Foofur The Cat/ Flintstone Kids/ Captain Caveman."
The first part of the day was shooting the segment "Can music get you high?" The idea is that Reggie and Asif are going to Bonnaroo and giving out weed lollypops while listening to music, but they start their trip at a weed dispensary, and that was the scene being shot in LA. I was stuck between the script supervisor and some interns, so I basically made a beeline for the first person who looked like he might have a good story. That person was René Le Vant.
He was there for the day playing the role of the marijuana dispenser. and it turns out that he had actually run a real marijuana dispensary in the San Fernando Valley that'd been shut down because of overcrowding in the neighborhood. He was also a voice actor from back in the 90s, and you might recognize him from the Flintstone Kids, Captain Caveman, and something I'd never heard of called Foofur The Cat (I later learned he mis-remembered it, and it was actually a Hana Barbera show called Foofur the Dog). He's also got the best business card I've ever seen, even though it seems to have the wrong name on it:
Here's René filming with Reggie Watts.
Note: "Rap battle/ Corduroy Bitch/ Pookie the Dookie/ Swedish Healthcare."
Next we were herded around the building to a small wall that'd been spray painted to look like it was in "the hood." This was where a rap battle was going to take place for the next question, "Can music start a fight?"
This is a good moment to talk about how people act on set. As glamorous as Hollywood is supposed to be, if you're standing around on a studio lot, it's basically just a bunch of people lazing around talking bullshit. I scrawled out three notes about what people were talking about: CNN vs. MSNBC, sit-ups vs. crunches, and how hungover they are. You'd like to think that LA is all about Marilyn Monroe and Hollywood stars and what not, but it's really just a bunch of boring people in parking lots looking at their phones:
Anyway, the rap battle featured Caustic, a major figure on the west coast rap battle scene, which is propagated through YouTube videos. I looked up a few of them and they're actually pretty funny, even though the humor is often about as racist as Babar. He's also ostensibly related to Epic Rap Battles of History, but I can't seem to find any proof of that anywhere. Caustic proceeded to annihilate both Reggie and Asif during a serious rap battle, during which he called Reggie a "corduroy bitch" and told him that he'd give his mother a "comedy bang bang." Ouch.
After the battle, Caustic and I walked around the shoot smoking cigarettes and wondering how we got to thsi weird studio lot. We discovered that Ricki Lake shoots her program at Culver City Studios, so Caustic posed for an impromptu photo shot in front of her zone:
That was pretty much it for day one, except for an interview or two that I'm saving for later in the week—keep your eyes peeled for those.
That evening I ended up going out to some weird club with Skrillex and Chance the Rapper, so needless to say I was pretty annihilated when day two rolled around. That was the day they were shooting "Can Music Start a Party?" To answer this question, they drove around LA with DJ Borgore and two go-go dancers and basically flash mobbed normal situations like a parking lot, a car wash, and a laundromat. This was interesting, because LA usually looks like I Am Legend, so when suddenly there were groups of about 30 people dancing in the street, it lent an air of… let's say humanity to the city.
For obvious reasons, I was most interested in Natalia Ellis and Drew Silva, Borgore's backup dancers. They look like this:
Drew has her own company of pole dancers, although she hasn't settled on a name yet. I asked to come up with a name for it on the spot and she chose "Dee's Dimes," because "all my girls are perfect tens." I tried so hard to get them to give me the dirt on some weird shit that goes on backstage at Borgore shows, but after prodding them over and over all Drew would tell me is that one time a girl put a heel up her butt for five bucks.
Then the girls were called on set and started dancing with a bunch of innocent people in a laundromat. Sadly, I couldn't watch it, as the crew had only budgeted for a set number of people outside, but I got to watch the hilarity from the air conditioned comfort of a van, and by watching this weird little screen gun:
At that point, the shoot was over, and I took a cab back to the hotel with Borgore, who ended up being an extremely nice guy, even though all of his songs are about peeing on girls and stuff like that.
So I went to LA and watched Reggie Watts film his new show, the Social Music Experiment. I normally hate stuff like this, but Reggie is so good on camera that it was actually totally amazing. On all my notes, I've scrawled down stuff like "Reggie is amazing," "Reggie's so good on camera," etc. I'd recommend scrolling back up and watching that episode, and if you feel like it, tune in to Jash to check out the next few episodes. Here is the schedule:
June 3: Can Music Start a Party? (ft. Borgore)
June 10: Can Music Start (or End) a Fight? (ft. Caustic)
June 17: Can Music Get You High? (ft. my favorite voice actor, René Le Vant)
June 24: WTF is Sociomusicology?