Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Nate Bargatze Brings Friendly Laughs to the Huntington Center

I hastily admit that I pretty much didn’t know who Nate Bargatze was until maybe two months ago, when I saw that he was coming to town on his new comedy tour. I had heard a few rumblings through the online grapevine and had seen a few of his videos in my recommendations via YouTube. Understanding that he was part of the ‘new crop’ of stand–up comics that have gained a following – which I always find funny that a comic in their 40s with 15+ years of experience would be considered an ‘up–and–comer’ – and always looking for a new face, I finally gave him a chance.

It was a 20–minute montage of ‘the best of’ his filmed specials and it began with a bit about attempting to fly with his first name mismatching on the airline registry and his driver’s license. It’s a very simple concept for a joke and a situation similar to what many of us have probably had to deal with; who hasn’t had a headache at the airport?

Yet, here was this pie–faced, dough eyed comic who looked like he just happened to wander on stage without knowing the cameras were rolling, taking the audience through the minutiae of a relatable story and hitting the right notes to get the laugh. In a comedy world that is growing ever reliant on being bawdy without the cleverness needed to make it stick, Bargatze’s ability to stand in the middle of the road and simply deliver a joke is what gives his comedy that bit of flair which makes it his own. 

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With his Howdy Doody appearance and ‘golly gee-whiz’ delivery, Bargatze is essentially the neighbor next door who’s able to tell you a story about something seemingly inconsequential, yet still make it sound exactly like something you would do. Whether it be his many anecdotes about married life (like arguing about the health properties of chocolate milk) or having to describe his dietary regimen to his doctor (“I ate a whole bag of Sour Patch kids” for a late–night snack) Bargatze’s act comes off like a big kid still finding all the little surprises life has to offer.

That naiveté is exactly what fans should be excited to see when he brings his Be Funny Tour to the Huntington Center on June 15. Due to increased demand for tickets, he will perform two shows that day. The first show will be in the afternoon at 3 pm (with doors open at 2 pm) and the second show at 7 pm (with doors open at 6 pm). 

Hailed by The Atlantic as “The Nicest Man in Stand–Up,” Bargatze has managed to build his fanbase by keeping it clean and for all ages. Doing so is all but frowned upon in the comedy world where cheaper, crude jokes seem to be the go–to when a comic has nothing else to say. And it should offer a tip of the hat that Bargatze doesn’t lower himself to those levels in order to get the laugh. 

That persistence has offered a relief to fans who’ve hailed his act as a fresh recourse, as the online reviews of his specials and house shows have commended his “deadpan delivery and self-deprecating outlook” along with his ability to “never be mean-spirited or cynical” (fan reviews courtesy of IMDB’s track of 2021’s The Greatest Average American). 

Over the course of his flourishing career, Bargatze has racked up three Netflix comedy specials: the collaborative The Standups (2017), which included Mark Normand, Saturday Night Live alum Melissa Villasenor, troubadour Kyle Kinane and Nikki Glaser. Then came 2019’s The Tennessee Kid (which features the aforementioned bits about chocolate milk and air travel), 2021’s The Greatest Average American and 2023’s Hello World, released on Amazon Prime.

When he isn’t on the road, Bargatze can be heard online on his Nateland Podcast which features close friends and fellow road dogs Dusty Slay, Brian Bates and Aaron Weber. Said podcast features more tales from their bouts on the road as well as the harmless plain-Jane banter between friends that make up the warm–hearted nature of each comic involved.  

Along with his podcast, Bargatze has helped launch fellow long-term comedians on his website under the heading of Nateland Presents. Comics such as Greg Warren (The Salesman), Mike Vecchione (The Attractives) and Joe Zimmerman (Cult Classic), have been featured on the website as well as continue to open for Bargatze, either on this current tour or in the past. All of their specials can be found on YouTube, and to growing fandom. 

Critics may call Bargatze’s act simple, but that underlies the simple nature of what he brings to the stage. In this comedy era that we are fortunate to live, with its cutthroat nature, we are fortunate to have an act like Bargatze to tell jokes as they have existed – to make the audience laugh.  

Saturday, June 15 at 3 pm and 7 pm. huntingtoncentertoledo.com/events/nate-bargatze

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