Southerner-turned-Los Angeleno and Sketchfest first-timer Nate Bargatze's comedy style has been referred to as "low-key," but in person, some say, he can be "excitable." He's performing this year at several events, including Kurt Tub, Crash Test, and Prompter, which is a spur-of-the-moment type improvisational comedy show that makes Bargatze feel as nervous as he used to feel performing as a young stand-up.
SF Weekly: How do you expect this to compare to other comedy festivals?
Nate Bargatze: I'm excited. I've heard nothing but good things, and festivals are a lot of fun. You get to see a lot of comics you don't get to see a ton throughout the year. The shows are always fun. The people are there to specifically to see the show, instead of sometimes, being at a club, it's just people are just there, they go out for whatever reason.
Some people say it's like going to camp.
It's nothing but fun.
What do you like to do when you visit San Francisco?
I was there just recently. It's pretty awesome just to walk around and stuff. I lived in New York for a while, so it's fun to go walk around.
When and how did you first know you were funny?
I knew I was funny growing up. In high school I was always making people laugh. I guess right about then. I was thinking about doing comedy, but nothing too crazy. I wasn't going to start yet, I just would joke about going to the comedy club, and people would say, you should go try it. When I was 23, I moved with a buddy of mine to Chicago, and I started then. I really was like, "Finally, I'm going to do it."
What made you want to pursue it as a career?
It's just working out. Once you get in it, it's awesome, and once you start, it's very addictive. I just love doing comedy so much, and being around comics. Comics are the funnest people to be around. It's awesome to make people laugh. It's such a thrill when you get a new joke that works good. So you know, it's a weird career, you just hope you can make it a career. It's not something that is guaranteed to be a career. It's almost like you feel like you're getting away with something by making it a career.
Does it bother you when people ask where you're from, because of your accent?
Where are you from?
I'm from Nashville.
What's different about comedy crowds in the South from crowds on the coasts? Are you received differently?
There's a difference. Maybe in Nashville, it's like, people can laugh at stuff differently. Just because it's maybe that they have the same mindset as I do. Versus someone else, if you're talking about the South and you're not in the South, they don't know what it's like. But, I was just in San Francisco, and I loved it. And so many people move there, people are from all over there, so it's great because you kind of get everybody. People from every place, laughing.
You're doing a number of different shows at this year's Sketchfest. Which one would be the best one to take a first date?
The Crash Test show is going to be stand-up. The others, I think I'm doing that Prompter show, and it's like Set List, and Set List is one of the funnest shows I've ever done. It's the same feeling as when I first started doing comedy. You're making it up on the spot, on your own, it's the most nerve-racking feeling, and when I'm about to do it I feel like, I don't want to do this. And then you just do it and hope it works out. So, I think Crash Test is like if you want to see my stand-up, and then the other shows, they're just a lot of fun to do.
I talked to Ron Funches; do you know him?
I'm a big fan. I think Ron Funches is great. He's a super nice dude, and he's very easy to root for, because he's such a genuine guy and a great guy to be around. And he's just a really funny dude.
Stand-up performer, television actor, and comedy writer Ron Funches has been called "a super nice dude" and "a really funny dude." You can get a taste of his comedy writings on the Kroll Show on Comedy Central, but you haven't fully experienced the Ron Funches experience until you've heard him speak aloud, his airy voice transforming each joke into a whimsical cartoon melody. This will be Funches' third year at Sketchfest, and there are at least three opportunities to catch him perform.
SF Weekly: How does Sketchfest compare to other comedy festivals?
Ron Funches: I've been to Just For Laughs in Montreal, [and] Bridgetown in Portland. Sketchfest is a nice balance between a comics-hanging-out party, like Bridgetown, and Just For Laughs is very corporate-y, and Sketchfest is just right in the middle. There are a lot of great shows spread out over some weeks, and you get to hang out with some friends that you don't normally see, and see some really famous people that you like, like Amy Poehler. I like that. I saw her last time I was there.
What do you like to do when you come to San Francisco?
I like to hang out with my friends. I used to live in Portland and came down to San Francisco quite a bit. I have a lot of friends there, and I enjoy hanging out. And I enjoy your delicious edibles, and food, that you have. I like to hang out around the Punchline and have a good time, eat a lot of pizza and play video games.
How did you get started in comedy, or if you prefer to answer a slightly different question, how and when did you first know you were funny?