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Reggie Watts on AI music, staying in the Tenderloin and the joy of a Mission-style burrito

The Late Late Show With James Corden comedian is playing Thursday night in San Francisco at the Independent.

A man with a voluminous beard in a "FAKE ART" T-shirt speaks into a mic on a stage with blue lighting.
Reggie Watts is not scared of homeless people, but thinks San Francisco should make a real effort to combat the crisis. | Source: FilmMagic

Reggie Watts, the comedian, musician and beatboxer, is in San Francisco, and he has some thoughts on the homelessness crisis and artificial intelligence. But he has even more pressing questions on where to get the best Mission-style burrito.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard ahead of his show at the Independent on Thursday night, The Late Late Show With James Corden house band leader said the city has a chance to make a real effort to address homelessness and perhaps actually find a way to effectively get people out of it—rather than whatever it is doing with the $700 million or so budgeted toward the crisis last year.

Watts is staying at the Phoenix Hotel, in the heart of the troubled Tenderloin neighborhood, the worst affected by the twin drug and homelessness crises. But the state of the streets doesn’t seem to bother the eccentric. In fact, Watts said, he kind of enjoys it. 

“I don’t mind it; I like it. The history of it is cool,” Watts said. “I don’t really have a fear of different conditions of humans.”

That being said, the musician had some strong feelings about how the city has dealt with the crisis, though he tried to strike an optimistic tone. Given the city’s immense wealth, he believes there’s an opportunity to solve the city’s most intractable issues—if they’re confronted head-on. 

An outdoor event with a crowd facing a stage near a grand building with a dome.
Reggie Watts performs on the Colossal Stage during Clusterfest at Civic Center Plaza and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on June 3, 2018. | Source: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

“Instead of kind of just like shoving more stuff under the carpet,” he said, “I think it has a chance to perhaps discover something economically beneficial for the city by investing in this population.”

‘I just view AI as human evolution’

On a topic probably more suited to his interests, Watts chimed in on the advancements of artificial intelligence and how it may reveal uncomfortable truths about some of the world’s biggest pop stars.

Watts is a fan of AI, using it daily to tailor his internet search queries and brainstorm ideas. Sometimes, he pretends to be a teenager who has been bullied just to see how the technology reacts.

“I just view AI as human evolution, and it gives us the capability to solve many, many problems,” Watts said. “I’m stoked about using them myself and telling my artist friends to get ahead of it, use it as a tool, understand how to use it as quickly as you can because we’re in a small window where we can do that.”

Still, Watts acknowledged, the new technology may threaten jobs across the board. When it comes to music, he’s hardly afraid. When asked about the “AI Drake” song that made waves across the internet last year, Watts said he’s excited to see the technology “expose mediocrity.” 

“It sounds exactly like any bullshit Adele would sing, bullshit Ariana Grande would sing,” Watts said. “This is what I love about it. It threatens to expose mediocrity. It’s all corporate music. It’s all super, super easy.”

Beyond politics and tech, Watts has developed a taste for “Mission-style” burritos on previous trips to the city, mentioning them twice during the 20-minute chat and asking The Standard for a good tip. “If you have any recommendations…” he said.

If you didn’t score a ticket for Thursday’s sold-out performance, you might be able to catch him at Pancho Villa Taqueria on 16th after the show.

David Sjostedt can be reached at