Performing Tonight at the Aut-O-Rama, Nate Bargatze Talks About Doing Comedy in the Time of Covid

Like many comedians, Nate Bargatze doesn’t like sitting at home waiting for the pandemic end. But he’s also not ready to hit the comedy club circuit yet either. So early this fall, he announced an 18-date One Night Only drive-in tour.

The tour launched last month, and it comes to the Aut-O-Rama tonight. For more information and tickets, go to

Bargatze, who recorded a one-hour special for Netflix last year and recently released his new podcast, Nateland, has a distinctively laid-back approach that’s gone over particularly well during his appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

In this recent phone interview, the cordial comedian talks about hitting the road during a pandemic.

I think you’re on the tour bus right now. What do you anticipate it’ll be like to play drive-ins on your current tour?

Yeah, we’re at one right now. The first one is tonight, and we’re on the bus. I think it’ll be fun. You get to go to a drive-in theater before it opens, and it’s cool to see that. It’s just a big field with some screens. I think people are excited to do something safely in their cars. It’s kind of the new way we have to do it, and I hope people are excited to get out. I’m excited to get out and tell some jokes.

Do comedy clubs come back after this? I can’t imagine a world without places like the Comedy Store or the Comedy Cellar.
It’s going to be hard. You got to hope that they can hold on. I think they’ll come back. I hope it’s not a crazy long thing. Look, we’re entertainment and comedy clubs aren’t the most important thing to have up and running, but you can see that people need it. Everyone’s life is hard, and hopefully we can make it back. Some clubs are opening at half capacity, so maybe that’s a route some places could go.

Having grown up in Old Hickory, TN, did you take any inspiration from blue collar comics?
Definitely. Jeff Foxworthy is an underappreciated comedian. He’s got album sales and book sales, and some people have taken that “you might be a redneck” form into other things. He really created a lot of stuff. When I talk to him, I love picking his brain. He’s a real comic. He went on the road and did it the way we all did it. Those comedians were a huge influence. Their audience was all over the country too.

What was your first standup show like?
Mine was in Chicago. For my first one, I was the host. I took some comedy classes and did a little standup. It went good. When you’re at a professional club, it’s fine. People are there to laugh. It’s when you start doing the weird shows like in someone’s garage that they don’t go well. The comedy clubs are amazing. I moved to New York and kept plugging away. That’s where I really learned how to make it work.

Early on, Marc Maron and Jim Gaffigan praised your comedic skills. How important was it to receive those endorsements?
Huge. For us comedians, you would see Maron or Gaffigan walk into the room when you were on the stage, and you’d change your act. You’d do your greatest hits. You wanted their respect. You wanted them to like you. You show off for them. For them to say that, it reaffirms what you’re doing. You feel like a real comedian and you’re in the group. You feel like you can call yourself a comedian. It’s huge when those guys see you and say that. They were so nice to me, and it was huge for my career.

You just launched your Nateland podcast this summer. What inspired you to get do the podcast?
COVID was the inspiration. I’ve always debated doing a podcast. We were able to do it in my house, so it was super easy. I wasn’t on the road. You need to be funny and liked. It keeps your brain working. I started this podcast with my two co-hosts and they make it fun. We’re not talking about serious stuff. I hammer that home. There are enough people talking about politics. I want people to come to me and know that they will get a break from that. I got so many messages from people who say they needed a break from life, which was getting too depressing. It’s like, “Here’s something funny that doesn’t matter.” We talk about grocery stories or whatever.

What made you want to read and respond to comments at the start?
You know, it’s because every time you do something or if someone has a story, they want to get it out. Their voice never gets heard. It’s just in a comments section. That’s some people’s favorite part. These comments are so funny. It’s fun to see listeners be creative, and it’s a great relationship to have with the audience.

You had your dad on for a episode. He’s a magician, but I think he’s pretty funny.
My dad is very funny. He does magic. He’s very, very good at it. He does sleight of hand magic, but he does comedy in his magic. He was always funny. Comedy was a huge part of his act. He comes and opens for me a lot on the road. People go crazy. They tell me they like my dad more, which is kind of insulting even though I’m happy for my dad.

What kind of material do you have worked up for the current tour?
It’s all new. It’s a new hour that we’ll tape at the end of October. That’s the plan anyway. That’s what this tour is doing. I’m getting ready for that and getting it all timed out. I have some COVID stuff at the top. You have to address it. I had an hour already built. I was planning on taping the special, and I was gearing up to be ready [when the pandemic hit]. The show is also about my family and my wife and me having a child and me being dumb. That part hasn’t changed.

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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