Nate Bargatze’s comedy mines daily life for laughs

Nate Bargatze performs at Encore Theater on November 23.
Illustration: Robyn Van Swank / Courtesy

You know what gives an aspiring comedian a leg up? A funny family. Nate Bargatze happens to have one, starting with his dad, Stephen, a clown-turned-full-time magician. When the younger Bargatze hits the Wynn stage for his Good Problem to Have Tour stop, it will mark his first time in Las Vegas—and the first time for his dad, who will be part of the act. It's a dream come true for both, the comedian tells the Weekly by phone.

"I think my timing comes from my dad, obviously. He's very funny," Bargatze says. "I mean, we always knew he was talented enough to be huge. Then he had three kids, and living in Nashville back in the '70s, I don't think it was as open as now, [where] you could go just chase your dream. So it's nice that now he gets to do it. And then I get to give back to him and bring him on the road, and he gets to play in Vegas."

This sentiment sums up Bargatze's brand of comedy. Watch his March Netflix special, The Tennessee Kid, and you'll see his 6-year-old daughter introduce him. Comedy has been a family affair for Bargatze, whose jokes might not be as edgy as his contemporaries' but are no less funny. For lack of a better word, Bargatze is a "clean" comic, in the vein of Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia, and he says this isn't just a shtick—it's a way of life.

"In New York, when I was starting, it was tough because I would be doing shows at midnight or 1, 2, 3 in the morning. And you know, everyone's show was really dirty, and I wasn't. But I just learned how to be clean without a mic," Bargatze says. "The best thing I like to hear is when someone's like, 'Oh, I didn't realize he was clean.' Like, they don't even notice it. But it's just how I started, and I enjoy being clean. It's how my brain thinks."

Another morass that Bargatze won't delve into? Politics, which has been a boon for many comedians the past few years. He says it's a topic best left to those with more expertise. "I look at it like, I'm not smart enough to tell you what to do. You shouldn't be listening to me to tell you who you're gonna vote for. That's insane!"

Instead, Bargatze's shows are filled with observations from a mind that never stops parsing life's mundanity. Take, for example, his bit on Starbucks, from The Standups on Netflix. It's something that happens to all of us, an order mixup. But in Bargatze's telling, it turns into a side-splitting account of a harmless misunderstanding. Nothing is ever so dire in his act, and that suits him just fine.

"I can be your one night that you come and just laugh," he says. "People come to the shows, and I think they just trust that it's not gonna be a whole heavy thing. It's just like dumb, fun stuff. ... You can come to my show and take a break."

NATE BARGATZE November 23, 8 p.m., $40-$100. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.

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Genevie Durano

As deputy editor at Las Vegas Weekly, Genevie Durano covers the Valley’s dining scene. Previously she lived in New York ...

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