A comedian and actor from Old Hickory, Tennessee, Nate Bargatze is best known for his Comedy Central Presents special. He has been touted by Jim Gaffigan and Rolling Stone as an up-and-coming talent that should be big. Bargatze has made stand-up appearances on some of late-night TV’s biggest shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. His most recent work is a collaborative special starring country-music legend Brad Paisley and a handful of other comics titled “Brad Paisley’s Comedy Rodeo,” that’s streaming on Netflix now.
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Sean Ritchie: Let’s start this off touching on your hometown of Old Hickory, which is right outside of Nashville. Describe what makes it special and home to you. What would you suggest a first-time visitor to do when they’re in the area?
Nate Bargatze: Old Hickory is starting to blow up. It’s getting pretty popular. It’s a lake town. It was an [industrial] plant town, but that’s dwindled down. It’s a cool, little town. It’s got a village and it’s right on Old Hickory Lake. It’s about 15-miles away from Nashville. It’s a really cool place to go visit. Obviously, when people come to this area they go to Nashville, which I understand. Nashville has changed completely. Nashville is one of the “cool places to be” now.
SR: Would you say that Old Hickory is a place to go to when you want to break up a trip to Nashville, or get away from the hustle and bustle for a day?
NB: Yeah, it is. Old Hickory Lake is beautiful. You can go out there and rent a boat and do that type of stuff. But, in every direction, all around Nashville there’s a ton of places you can go to if you want to skip out [of the city]. Right now Old Hickory is really just a regular suburb of Nashville, but I think in about 10 years it will be a really happening place.
SR: That sounds like a great place to see some nature when visiting Nashville. To dive into your comedy a bit, I wanted to touch on how you first got started. How were you first exposed to it? How did it morph into your career?
NB: My dad’s an entertainer — a magician. So, I grew up around that. I don’t know if I necessarily watched that and thought, “Oh, I want to be a comedian!” But, I was always around him doing shows. I then eventually moved with a buddy from here, to Chicago when I went to The Second City Theater. That’s where I started. After that, I moved to New York [City] and Los Angeles before moving back [to Old Hickory].
SR: Nice, so you’ve kind of been all over the place. Spanning of that, comedy and travel are synonymous in a way. You really have to be a traveling comedian these days to get your jokes out there. Obviously, you have the internet and social media, but to really touch the fans you have to get out there and have them see you live. Talk to how meaningful that is to travel the country and world spreading that happiness around.
NB: Yes, I’ve done really all the [comedy] communities that you can do. It’s awesome to be able to get out and see so many places. It’s very cool exploring all these towns. I travel a ton. I think I was gone over 150 days last year. I was just in Arlington, Virginia, and that was the first time I was in the Washington, DC area — really cool. I’ve had to the opportunity to go to some amazing places. I’ve been to Iraq and Greenland — stuff I would never ever in my life have gone to otherwise. I’ve gone because of my comedy. I’ve been to almost every state — all but three: Alaska, Wyoming and Montana.
SR: I always like to ask comedians this, because I hear from time-to-time that different sections of the country have different senses of humor, have you seen this during your performances?
NB: Yeah, sometimes I could do a joke and you either feel like they are laughing with you or at you. Sometimes they’re laughing with you, because you’re like them, like if I go to The South I’m like them. But, if I do those jokes in The North, they’re kind of laughing at you, not in a mean way, but they don’t have those same experiences. I see stuff like that from time-to-time.
SR: Interesting! Now, do you pull any inspiration from being on the road? I know comedians sometimes pull their material from their life experiences. Does traveling give you some extra material?
NB: Yeah, that’s why a lot of comics have jokes on airlines, because you just fly so much. You’re just around it all the time. It definitely does play into it, for me. You just can’t do too many, because there are a lot of people that don’t travel that much. Obviously, people fly, but a person that doesn’t travel for work might go five-or-more years without flying. Just because they don’t have a need to go anywhere.
SR: I wanted to touch on “Brad Paisley’s Comedy Rodeo,” talk about how that came to be. Was that a different experience for you not only sharing the stage with such a huge star, but also splitting time with a bunch of other comedians?
NB: I have done a lot of shows with multiple comics in a showcase format in the past, specifically in NY or LA, but it’s been different doing something like that for TV. We all worked with Paisley a lot, and he’s a true fan of comedy. He loves it. All the comics that are on it are friends with each other, as well. Comedy is a small community. There’s a lot of comedians out there, but professional comedians isn’t a huge community, so you kind of know everybody.
SR: That’s pretty cool. Was Paisley the driving force behind how this came to be? How did this come together?
NB: It was because he agreed to do it. They wouldn’t have just given us that. He’s just so big. He’s so famous, and has been for so long. Him getting into that platform was interesting to see and do. That was all him though.
SR: Pretty sick! Switching into your personal travels, when you do have some downtime and are looking for a vacation, are you more of an active guy or are you just trying to chill on a beach? Maybe in the mountains or in a city somewhere?
NB: I’m a big golfer, so if I can go and golf I will do that every day if I can. I haven’t done a straight-up vacation that wasn’t for a show in a while. Earlier this year, my wife and five-year-old daughter came to Sarasota, Florida and DC with me for trips around shows. So, we’ll try and do some trips like that. We’ll go and do some stuff during the day. I do like going out and seeing stuff, but now with our daughter she loves swimming, so we end up staying by the pool longer than I normally would have.
SR: Everyone has a list of places that they haven’t been to, but want to see. What are three on your list that you still have to hit?
NB: I do want to do the three that I haven’t done in America. That’s what’s so bad though, I can’t ever really remember. I really want to go to Jackson Hole. I love nature and just being out in the wilderness, so Alaska is obviously big for that too. I would love to go see Australia and the United Kingdom more. Sometimes I start thinking of those flights, being I travel so much as it is already, that it scares me off. Those 24-hour flights can be a lot. Australia for sure is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to go as a kid.
SR: You mention before that you went to Iraq, I’m guessing that was for the troops? If so, talk to how cool that was performing for them.
NB: Yeah, it would be really great if Baghdad had a local comedy scene! It is the best though. They are just so appreciative. I always say it’s like a thank you tour, because you’re telling each other, “Thank you!” The thanks really all go to them though. I don’t know how many people will honestly have the chance to go to Iraq, it’s just wild. We got to actually drive on the streets of Baghdad and saw some of the scenes there. It was just crazy to be over there. It’s such a unique place. We flew in helicopters all over the country — just wild. Afghanistan is another one, I never got to go there, but I do want to get there. It’s just crazy being able to go to places that a lot of different people don’t get to go to.
SR: Lastly, to wrap this up, I know you have some shows coming up in California and Philadelphia through the end of September, so touch on that. But, is there anything else that you’re looking forward to during the next couple of months?
NB: I’m doing something at Blackberry Farms. It’s a crazy resort in Tennessee. It’s a real, high-end resort. I’m getting to do a show there. I’m curious to see that place. It’s one of those gigs where I’m not even really sure what the gig is exactly. I get to go back to Denver and Austin somewhere in there too — great cities. Sometimes the best gigs are the ones that are downtown and you can stay in a hotel nearby, allowing you to walk to the show. That’s pretty awesome, to me.