Nate Bargatze knows you brought five friends to the show. And he’s gonna kill it, not just because he wants to do well, but because he wants those friends of yours to have a good time. And he’s bringing that energy to JFL Northwest in Vancouver later this month, as well as to his first national theater tour, the “Good Problem to Have” tour.
“You don’t wanna bomb and then they’re like “This guy’s the worst, why did you make us come to this?” he said as we chatted ahead of his JFL Northwest sets, taking place Sunday, February 17th and Monday, February 18th at Vancouver’s Rio Theater. He acknowledges that the pressure is a little lighter whenever he heads to Vancouver, and Canada overall: the crowds there are always appreciative of the comics they come to see, even when they go into a show somewhat blind. “That’s all you want- when people are fans, and they really like comedy. It’s great, and I’m excited to go back.”
“Even when you go to Winnipeg and Edmonton and these towns in the middle of the country, they’re great. They appreciate comedy and the shows are always packed…even when you go, and no one knows who you are,” Bargatze said about taking his act to Canada. “That’s all you want- when people are fans, and they really like comedy.” About JFL crowds specifically, he added, “they trust the brand. And they know they get good comics. And that brings out good people, people who are coming out specifically to see comedy.”
Bargatze is still getting used to meeting crowds with that sort of specificity on his latest tour, acknowledging that those audiences are ones who know his work well and are coming to see him with intention. A few dates into the tour, he’s still adjusting to the idea of it being his tour, so to speak. “I keep saying, ‘it feels like show business.’ Not that we’re not in show business, but it feels like we’re in real show business. You go to sound check, you look at the theater before the show. It feels like you’re an event, like people know you.”
He comes back to the idea of trust as he elaborates: “it does affect the writing. You know, these people will know you. So you do a few jokes that sometimes you wouldn’t put in a special but you would do in front of a live audience that knows you.” Having done two specials (with a third on the way), Bargatze is starting to find the difference between jokes that can be done in those spaces and ones that land better with people who are already invested in you. And those jokes are coming easier now that he has longer to tell them. “You can try out more new stuff in long sets. You can do that more like that with long sets because, let’s say a joke doesn’t get the laugh you want. I’m still up there for forty more minutes. You won’t even remember that [joke that didn’t land].”
Bargatze seems to be embracing the learning process that comes with growth into a headliner role. He thinks deeply about each choice that contributes to the overall experience: his intros, the walkup music, the sometimes agonizing choice of whether to do an encore or not, and even the big and small details of his rider. What originally didn’t seem like a big deal, he ultimately boiled down to, as friends Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura told him as he prepared for the tour, “what makes you the most comfortable.” And while that comfort is still growing for Bargatze, he’s enjoying the experience for what it is. As we chatted about the feel of writing in his element, about performing for people who get who he is and what he does, he was at his most relaxed when he told me, “I enjoy doing an hour. I enjoy doing a long set now.”
Your best chance to see Bargatze’s long set at JFL Northwest will come Monday, February 18th (the 17th show is currently sold out). His The Standups special is available on Netflix now, and he has a new hour debuting in the months to come. Tickets for the Good Problem to Have Tour are on sale now.