On performing at TED and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince: Catching up with Reggie Watts

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Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Last night Reggie Watts performed at TED@Doha, the first of TED’s Worldwide Talent Search events, during TEDxSummit. During rehearsal members of the TED staff caught up with him to talk about … whatever he wanted to talk about.

I saw you perform at TEDxGotham; some people just didn’t get your style.

Yeah, TED and TEDx are a little bit different because everyone’s heads are in a different space. They’re kind of floating, examining the overall thing, and then they’ll suck into specific data sets that are being communicated. You get on stage and they’re like “Oh, it’s an entertainer.” They’re a little bit more lax about their attention. But it’s fun, it’s my favorite thing at corporate events — not that this is a corporate event — but it’s similar to a corporate audience in a way. They are not expecting much. Really. They’re expecting a certain area of communication, and then when you’re fluctuating here, then they’re very confused. And that’s what I love. I love confused people checking out. It’s my favorite. But TED’s wonderful. I had a good time. I’ve done a couple TEDx’s, like TEDxGotham, TEDxMidAtlantic. People are just excited all around.

Does the crowd feel different at all? Between the TEDx’s or from TED?

The stakes at TED … the people there are usually at the top of the rung. … At TED, it feels like that’s it. There’s nothing more than … well, I guess there’s TEDGlobal. But Long Beach, that feels like it’s the OG, it’s the original.


TEDxOG. TEDexege. Schenectady! It feels more like the Star League, like you’re addressing the Intergalactic Counsel of Planets.

You might be doing that tonight.

Yeah. … I had a dream last night that I was hanging out with Prince. Not a prince, Prince. I was driving around in a car with Prince. We were both sitting in the back. I was just staring at him.

How was Prince’s car?

Probably gilded. Yeah, definitely gilded. … And he was just talking about TED the whole time. Just the whole time. It was really weird. Although actually I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Prince talking about TED.

What do you imagine Prince’s TEDTalk would be about?

I guess … modern composition?