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Episode 20: Nate Bargatze

LIFE ON TOUR  

“My job should mean that you can turn your brain off, and you can just laugh,” comedian Nate Bargatze shares with us from his podcast studio in Nashville, Tennessee. “That stuff is very important. It’s very important to laugh, it’s very important to just get a break from the real world and the world we’re all having to go through.”

No one would argue that 2020 was a tough year for all of us. On the heels of his first Netflix special, The Tennessee Kid, Nate was poised to do 100 theater dates and launch his cross-country tour.

“2020 was like, alright, here we go. This was going to be the big come-out year!” Nate explains, laughing. “But on March 12th, we were three hours to showtime, and all this stuff was getting canceled.”

Like most of us, Nate became well acquainted with quarantine. Anxious to do something to lift people’s spirits, Nate got to work on comedy projects despite canceled tour dates.

“So then, I was just at home, and I started a podcast—the Nateland podcast,” he tells us in his usual deadpan delivery. “Being funny is a muscle, and so you want to keep it going. I just wanted to do something fun and funny with my friends—to be easy listening for people and give them something to laugh at.”

Nate Bargatze
Nate comes by his desire to make others laugh honestly. The son of a clown turned magician, Nate was the guinea pig for a lot of his dad’s shows.

“He would try tricks out on us, like card tricks, coin tricks, and I would just see them not work,” Nate laughs fondly. “But I think all of that did play into me getting into comedy. I got lucky in the fact that my parents were super, super supportive.”

Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Nate somehow knew he wanted to become a comedian even in high school. For a school assignment that asked where he saw himself in ten years, Nate wrote that he hoped to be performing at Zanies, the famous Nashville comedy club.

“I dunno if I thought there was truth in it at the time,” Nate laughs. “It was just funny to write, and then, I mean, I ended up doing just that!”

A few years after graduating, Nate moved to New York City to pursue his dream.

“I think I went on stage every night for eight years,” he shares. “My day for a long time consisted of being at the comedy club at 7 p.m., staying until 3 am, going home, working at FedEx until 10 a.m., and then just sleeping during the day. That was kind of the routine. But that’s where you get really good as a comedian.”

Nate Bargatze
Nate’s commitment to his craft and his ability to make everyday life absolutely hilarious eventually caught the attention of Netflix.

“As a comic, you want to be with Netflix, everybody wants to be with Netflix,” Nate explains. “That relationship is huge. [My special] The Tennessee Kid was [what] kind of launched me.”

Just a year later, Netflix came back, offering Nate the opportunity to film another special during the pandemic—but outside at Universal Studios and with social distancing.

“I just wanted to be the break that I think everybody needs,” Nate says about his new special, The Greatest Average American. “You know, there’s a big trust you have with an audience when they are like, ‘I trust I can come to you and I know it’s just going to be funny; it’s not going to be anything heavy.’”

“As a comedian, I’m lucky to get to do this. I’m not owed this job, everyday it can be taken away from you, no one could come to your shows,” Nate explains, the gratitude clear in his voice. “I never let my goals get too far ahead. Sure, I would love to get to a level where I can do arenas, to be that big of a comedian where I can do Madison Square Garden, but the over-arching goal is stand-up—just to be the biggest standup comic that I can be.”

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