Comedians have endured their share of challenges during the pandemic, which included some fun moments.
Nate Bargatze spoke in his new Netflix special, The Greatest Average American, about how he played comedy in drive-in theaters during the pandemic and what happened when someone left his show.
“Doing those drive-in shows was fun,” he said on the Netflix special. “The hard thing is when people want to leave early. They see headlights hitting you in the face.”
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He explained it recently in a phone interview with the Naples Daily News prior to his June 11-13 shows at Off The Hook Comedy Club (see bottom of story for more details).
“I saw a big Ford F-150 in Butler, Pennsylvania that just drove off early with its big lights,” said Bargatze. “He walked up and down every corridor to find the exit. It was very noticeable. “
Before the Netflix special was recorded last fall, viewers had to be tested for COVID and wore masks during his show.
“I’ve never performed in masks outside in front of an audience,” he said. “You can see all of their eyes. Most people’s eyes don’t look like they’re on board with what’s going on.”
And even if someone had tested positive on the recording set, they probably wouldn’t have recorded the special, Bargatze said.
“It was intense,” he added.
The latest Netflix special started streaming in March. Over the past decade, Bargatze has appeared on various Comedy Central specials and made several albums, with his first track “Screamed at by a Clown” in 2014 and his second album “Full Time Magic” a year later.
His path to the top began in Old Hickory, Tennessee, where he grew up. His comedic role models include Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Regan and Sinbad. Bargatze remembered how much he enjoyed watching Sinbad’s HBO specials in the 1990s.
As he often mentions during his standup, his father is a wizard who started out as a clown so it was normal for him to perform in front of an audience.
“I would do shows with my father,” said Bargatze. “I grew up doing it with my dad doing shows and magic.”
“When I wanted to start comedy, my parents loved it,” he said. “I’m very lucky that you have been super, super supportive.”
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Bargatze went to Chicago, where he began his stand-up career for the first year and a half, but eventually moved to New York City.
“You just knew you had to go to New York,” he said, calling the Big Apple the best comics scene in the world. “You can become really good at that.”
“If you go there, don’t think you’re going to sell out Madison Square Garden. You’re just trying to get to the next level in comedy and you’re pretty much down,” he added.
Bargatze started by handing out leaflets on the street in comedy locations and promoting the headliners for that night. And after they all performed, he stood on stage for a few minutes around midnight or 1am
“You do that every night,” he said.
The challenge for him was getting the audience up to speed with his standup, especially when following an energetic comedian.
“I speak a little more slowly from the south,” said Bargatze. “In New York, I had to learn the quickest way to get the audience into the rhythm. The first joke is that they hear my voice to get them into a rhythm.”
“I have a feeling that people always tend to destroy the south. People tend to say we are stupid, but a lot of amazing things have come from the south. “
Others saw his talent and booked him on late night television shows, beginning with “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” in 2013 and followed up with appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and others.
Bargatze also turned a sitcom pilot for ABC in 2019, but the network passed it on. He said he still hopes to do a show because he loves acting.
For now, he’ll stick with funny observations about everyday life, such as why Starbucks never seems to get his order right.
Before trying out his Starbucks dentures, he wasn’t sure the joke would work because he didn’t know if this was happening to anyone else. He also talks about his life, family, travel and other everyday situations
And he’s looking forward to his first visit to southwest Florida. He said he had a friend who lives in Naples who, like others he knows who have been there, raves about the city.
“All the time when you talk to Naples it’s like ‘Naples is the best’. ”
After his Naples shows, Bargatze will mainly appear in larger halls.
“It’s extremely exciting to have one of the hottest touring comedians in the world at a comedy club level,” said Brien Spina, owner of Off The Hook.
“We are honored to present his show in southwest Florida. We have guests traveling hundreds of miles to attend his event.”
Dave Osborn is the regional features editor for the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @ detroitdave88 and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.
When: 7 and 9 p.m. Friday, June 11; Saturday June 12th; and Sunday June 13th
Where: Off The Hook Comedy Club, 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road, # 1100
Costs: $ 35 general admission plus a fee
Information: offthehookcomedy.com or 239-389-6901