Nate Bargatze’s first hour-long stand-up special airs on Comedy Central Saturday night, and it’s got some stiff competition. “It’s the night of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight,” Bargatze points out during a recent phone call. “I’m trying to make people aware that I know it’s the night of the fight, and that I will also be watching the fight, so I’m not crazy. I just want everybody to DVR it. At least DVR it. When the fight’s over go to Comedy Central and sit there until midnight eastern / eleven central. Hopefully the fight will be over. Know that I will be watching the fight.”
If you aren’t into boxing, or don’t want to drop $100 to see a convicted abuser beat somebody up, you should just go straight to Comedy Central and watch Full Time Magic. Bargatze’s first full-length special is full of the same laid-back Southern charm he’s brought to his appearances on late night talk shows and @Midnight. It’s a great follow-up to his 2012 album Yelled at By a Clown, and a fine first step towards whatever comes next.
Paste: Full Time Magic airs on Comedy Central Saturday night. What can viewers expect?
Nate Bargatze: Comedy, I guess?
Paste: Some quality laughs?
Bargatze: Hopefully you laugh. I’m excited about it. I’m happy with it, with how it came out. Some of it’s good, I guess. It’s always uncomfortable to say… like if you tell someone to expect to laugh and then the person will watch it and they don’t laugh and you’re like “I’m sorry.”
Paste: Can you watch your own specials with other people or is that too awkward?
Bargatze: We did a premiere in Moontower where they screened it and I learned there it’s pretty awkward. For a long time, I’ve watched late night stuff and those are like fiv eminutes so it’s over really quickly. When you watch it you watch it for different reasons—you’re watching to make sure you say the right things and do all the right stuff. The special is long, and I’d watched it a bunch because I helped edit it, so I had already sat there and watched it a ton. Now having people—I’m going to watch it at my house, my parents are going to be there and some friends, so it’ll probably be pretty uncomfortable. I’ll just try to get through it. I’ll get through it or else I’ll shut it off and tell them they can’t watch it.
Paste: Do you have any friends or family who are like ‘you know what Nate I love you but I just don’t like your comedy?’
Bargatze: They’re not telling me if they do. They’re all really supportive, whether they all come out to every show and stuff. I’m not sure if my mother-in-law likes my comedy. Everybody’s pretty nice about it and they go to stuff. You have them go to so much stuff though you feel bad, like there’s times, especially when you first start, they’re coming to everything, and there’s a point where you almost just don’t want anybody to be there. It’d be easier to just be… the best is when you stand in front of an audience and you don’t know one person there.
Paste: This is your first hour-long special. How long did it take you to come up with the material on this show?
Bargatze: It took a few years. I’m trying to think of the oldest joke in there… some jokes are probably like two or three years old. There are a couple of jokes that are on my album, not a lot, it literally might be like two jokes, but they were on my album and I also put on this. Those are the oldest jokes I have on it. My album was 2012, so over a couple of years was the majority of it, with a couple jokes being a little bit older. The pressure now is having to build a new hour after this. That’s more pressure than the first one. Before you just do stand-up until you get your hour ready, and now when I go on the road people come out who’ve seen the special so I have to have new stuff. I feel more pressure now than I ever have. This is like the first time of completely starting over.
Paste: So like a lot of comics you’ll be retiring material from the special and doing a new set on the road?
Bargatze: When I go on the road I’m going to have to do stuff from the special. And then just hopefully see how quickly I can weed it out. I guess I have to see how the special does too. But I’m hoping when I go out to always be getting new stuff in there and weeding stuff out until I’m officially into a brand new hour.
Paste: Think you could keep up with the pace of like Louis C.K. or Aziz Ansari, where they have a new special every year or two?
Bargatze: Not right now. I’m not a good enough comic. [C.K.]’s been doing comedy for 25, 30 years. I’ve been doing it twelve and a half. I know I can’t. It would be absurd for me to act like I can. I’ll see how quickly a new hour comes, and if it feels ready I’ll do it, but I don’t plan on doing these every year. Those guys, it’s like, they’ve been doing it longer. They know their voice. Those older guys that have done it forever, Louis is a way better comedian than me. You hope to get there. I’ll continue to work to get to that point. I shouldn’t be saying that “I’m not a good enough comedian to do that…”
Paste: That’s the headline right there.
Bargatze: but the goal is to get to the next hour. I felt like I was read for this one, and so I’ll wait until I feel like I’m at the point. I don’t want to push it out too early. I’ll see how quickly it comes. Hopefully within two to three years.
Paste: I know your dad was an entertainer [Bargatze’s dad was a clown and a magician.] How much did that influence your path into comedy?
Bargatze: It influenced it a lot. And I don’t think I realized it did until now that I’ve been doing it for a while. I can see that he influenced me in just the performing part of it. Little things are what I can tell I do like him, like mannerisms. But growing up I don’t think I knew completely what he was doing. Now I know. Now I know when he was on the road, I can imagine how bad the gigs were. They were probably the worst gigs ever. When I was a kid I didn’t understand that. It’s awesome to do that stuff now and I can think back and be like “oh he was doing a one-nighter in the middle of nowhere, that’s where he was this one time.”
Paste: How long did it take you to make a living at it?
Bargatze: It was a long time. I started in 2003, and I was able to do comedy a little bit more when I got married in 2006, because my wife was working. Right when she moved to New York I would do some temp jobs at the beginning but I was bringing in like $12000 a year. I wasn’t making much money. I was in New York just doing spots. I’d say 2008 or 2009, I still wasn’t making a ton of money, but if I had to live on my own, I probably could’ve got by. Very poorly. But I could’ve gotten by on comedy. To make money where you actually feel better, like you’re contributing, it took like eight to ten years. Maybe around eight. It’s just different for so many people. Some people get stuff early, and get good money at the beginning. For some guys it takes longer.
Paste: Did you start comedy in Nashville?
Bargatze: I moved to Chicago first. I was in Chicago a few years when Pete Holmes, Hannibal [Buress], T.J. Miller, Kumail [Nanjiani], when those guys were all there. That’s where I started. I was so new there. And then I moved to New York, and that’s where I started going up every night and growing as a comedian.
Paste: Is it hard to be a comedian and be openly southern?
Bargatze: I don’t think so. I think it would have helped me if I started in New York. Everything I learned about comedy was through New York. So even though I have an accent and I’m a big Vanderbilt fan and I love the South, it’s almost like I learned how to do it in New York. I think that helped me past a lot of southernness. It doesn’t hurt. And it helped me have a different point of view. I never trashed the South or doing that kind of stuff. I’m proud to be from Nashville. It makes you think differently than a lot of comics think, so you stand out a little bit more.
Paste: You had a joke in your special about not wanting your daughter to be born in New York. It’s a good joke. Do you really feel that way?
Bargatze: Yeah. She was born in Tennessee, not New York. The truth is I did want her to be born in Tennessee. I wanted her to… I liked the idea of her… I don’t know. I just wanted her to be born in Tennessee. I like Tennessee. The other thing is our entire family still live there. To have her in New York, we wouldn’t have anybody to help us and all that stuff, so it was a lot easier to have her born in Nashville than in New York. If we had a lot of family in New York, then she probably would’ve been born in New York, because we were living there. But we did it for the reasoning of help, but I’ll tell you a big big part of that is because I did want her to be born in Tennessee.
Paste: Last time Paste talked to you you were doing a second take on a sitcom pilot. What’s happening with that?
Bargatze: Same thing with the first one: nothing. We did it, I was happy with it, and it just didn’t go. That’s the way it goes. It was all a great experience, just learning how to do that. I’m learning how to be in that world. It’s frustrating, but it’s also a good thing to learn. We’ll see what happens now and I’ll just move forward and hope to get a chance to do it again. And hopefully get on. Overall it was a pretty wild experience to get to do that stuff.
Paste: If you ever got a sitcom and wound up with Jerry Seinfeld money, would you still do stand-up?
Bargatze: I’d still do stand-up. That’s the ultimate goal. I’d love to do a sitcom, I’d love to have Seinfeld’s career. Seinfeld, Ray Romano, that’s the career I want. Those are the guys I’d want to be. And then still do stand-up, because then you can do it on your own terms. Pick where you want to go, go do one night at a theater instead of like seven nights. That’s the ultimate goal, to do stand-up the rest of my life.
Full Time Magic
airs on Comedy Central at Midnight ET / 11 PM CT on Saturday, May 2.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. Follow him on Twitter @grmartin.