Nate Bargatze, the podcaster, is back. Sure, Nate Bargatze, the comedian, definitely hasn’t gone anywhere. The comedian has never gone away, still going out there and absolutely killing it in clubs and theaters across the country. (Remember when that was a thing people could go out and do?) But Nateland, his new podcast, is a return back to another medium. Bargatze was actually doing podcasts back in 2010, before everybody and their sister and brother and neighbor and uncle and dog and plant had a podcast. And so it is something special when, after all these years later, he is coming back to the world of podcasting all over again.
Nateland is pretty straightforward. He hosts the show with Brian Bates and Aaron Weber, and each week they find themselves tackling a different topic. Whether it’s money or marriage or television or doppelgangers, Bargatze and his cohorts find a way to break down whatever the topic is in a rather inventive and funny way. But beyond that, it actually feels like it’s going a bit deeper. Throughout the last few months, there’s been a bit of a disconnect between comedians and fans, but also just people and their friends. This podcast feels like it’s just as much a way for Bargatze to remain connected with his friends as it does a way for him to maintain that connection with his fans. So it’s got this whole separate layer that just makes the endeavor even more special than it perhaps would’ve been if he had decided to start a podcast at any other time.
When we got together over an early morning Zoom call a few weeks ago, Bargatze had only done one weekend at the Zanies in Nashville before they closed back down. At the time, he was still figuring what his next move was and how he was gonna get back on the road. Since that interview, Bargatze has announced his One Night Only drive-in tour across the country. It’s not something that we discussed here, but it is pretty interesting to hear him talk about his hopes for whenever he’s able to get back on the road, as well as whether or not he’s been writing new material about the situation we all went through, and how his hour he was doing prior will now have to change as a result.
Over our Zoom call, we also spoke about why he wanted to start up the podcast, how a comedian needs to learn to talk to a camera, how he wanted to structure his podcast, his ABC pilot that didn’t get picked up, and what he would hope to be able to do in the future. And you can also watch our chat as well at the bottom of the page.
For those who are familiar with you, Nateland is obviously not your first venture into the world of podcasting. But what made you want to start up an all new podcast? Was this something you were thinking about going back to pre-pandemic?
You know I always kind of thought about it. The thing I was jealous of, seeing people do podcasts, was like two of my best friends Dan Soder and Big Jay. They do The Bonfire. Just them hanging out and being funny. And every time I go on it it’s so fun. And for a comedian, it’s just a muscle being funny. You gotta keep it active. So I always kinda thought about a podcast, but I was also touring a lot. So I just didn’t have the time for it. And then you know when this pandemic happened, it kinda just opened up where it was like “Alright. Well, I guess I do have the time.” And so I was like “Alright. Let’s give it a go. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see how it goes.” And I’ve enjoyed it so far. So it was kinda just everything coming together. It’s always been kind of an idea and then when this pandemic happened, it was like “Well, I guess it’s time.”
Did you have a plan going into it or were you just figuring it out as you went along? Because the first few episodes seemed very stream of consciousness.
Yeah, and that was the beginning for sure. I mean I wanted to have a direction. And the one thing that I did know, with everything being so political out right now. And you know in my comedy I’m not really political. I’m usually just trying to be very funny for people and be a relief. So I wanted to do that. That was a big deal to me. Just be funny for people. I think that’s my duty. You know I’m not a guy that’s gonna tell you what to do, to vote. I don’t care. So I should be the person that you’re gonna go to when you need a break from all of that. You know it’s all overwhelming. So I wanted to make sure that I did a podcast where being funny was the main purpose of it and just talk about interesting things. And now we’ve found a formula where, you know, the first few episodes were a little bit looser. And now the last 2 or 3 have been on something. One of them was on money, the one we just put out today was on sports. And then we just kinda talk about broad things inside of that world. So it at least gives us some direction. You don’t wanna just be aimlessly just forget where you’re going. You want to at least for the audience to be like “Alright. We have put some kind of structure into it. But as far as the jokes go they are going to be a lot more just off the top of the head. And we’ll just talk about something. I feel like interesting and funny is a really good combination.
You don’t want to be the guy to tell people who to vote for, in the first episode you actually do say that, “I don’t want to misuse my platform.” I actually really like how you worded that, and how you knew from the beginning, whatever you were gonna do, it wasn’t going to be going down that road.
Yeah. Well I appreciate that you noticed that. Yeah it’s like that’s all I knew almost. Like “I’m not doing this.” I think just because you have a platform doesn’t mean… You know look, when I read The Laugh Button, it would be annoying if I went on there and y’all were just like here’s politics all day.
I hate writing about it.
Yeah it’s like there’s plenty of it. We are in no dire need of another opinion on whatever. But we are in dire need of just pure entertainment. That’s even getting where movies and TV shows [are getting political]. And I mean look, if you’re Bill Maher, then yeah that’s your thing. People do go to him for that. I think for me people need a platform to just come laugh and don’t feel like you’re gonna get lectured.
I think it is that thing of you know everyone knows what we’re going through. There’s no one in the world that – and I’ve heard you talk about this as well – anywhere in the world there’s not a single person that doesn’t know what this is, which is very rare. It’s very rare for everyone to be in sync on one thing, like everyone experiencing the same thing at one time. And so everyone knows what it is, why not let them forget about it?
Exactly that’s a huge… Look we got to do a show at Zanies and then they shut back down. But they were open for a little bit. And I had some COVID jokes. But my jokes obviously none of them are anything crazy, it’s just commenting on the kind of funniness of the stuff that you have to go through with COVID. I just did a little bit and then I got into my old act. But the relief that you could feel from the crowd, that for one hour, they just weren’t having something pop on their phone saying the world is falling apart. Like they could just get away for a second. And I think that is super important. And the mental health of all that stuff, you need it. And most of all my fans get it you know. I occasionally would have people that are like “Oh, you should say something,” or whatever. And I’m like “Why? You just want me to say something. You don’t care what I say. What I say doesn’t really matter. No one should be listening to me anyway. Like if you’re having a political opinion and you’re wondering what I’m doing, like that’s a big problem. There’s way smarter people that you should go listen to.” So that’s the whole idea of this. To just give people a break. And you should be able to like, when you drive to work, be like “Alright today I can’t.” You know I’ve hit plenty of moments where you’re like… I took social media off my phone. I just couldn’t. It was too much, it’s too much to just all day long just be like [Frustrated noise]. You get depressed, you get sad and you’re just like “This is insane.” So, I wanna be that break.
How long have you had it off your phone for?
Maybe 3 weeks. I mean I still catch myself kinda looking at Twitter through the browser or something. It’s still not hard to get it. But it definitely makes it so that I’m not just scrolling. It’s not like as appealing to look at through the browser and so you’re not just flashing through it. You just feel kinda like a break. This stuff just makes you wanna go get like a Blackberry or get a flip phone. when James Harden they said he doesn’t have internet, I was like “That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” James Harden if you don’t know is a basketball player for the Rockets. But you know he wore the wrong mask and people got mad at him because people get mad at everything. But it was funny. His buddy was like “He doesn’t have the internet, so he doesn’t know.” And you’re like “That’s how we all should be living. He’s living a much happier life.” He just doesn’t know what’s going on.
I wanna go back to you performing stand-up again. What was that like? Because you’re the first person I’ve talked to that’s performed during the pandemic. What were your thoughts going into it? Were you nervous at all going into it? Were you not sure how the crowds would be or did you have a good feeling?
Yeah I didn’t know how the crowds were going to be. You are nervous just because you’ve been locked up in your house for the past 3 months at that point. So It was nervous kinda being out. It was right when restaurants started opening back up so everything was social distancing. All the tables were spread out. So you’re worried “Is the energy might be weird? Everybody is kinda spread out. Comedy clubs are usually packed.” But I didn’t know how it was going to be. And I was a little nervous about it. For us as comics, we just come in the back, go into the green room and you’re around the other comics that are in there. And with the crowd, I think they did do a really good job with how they did it. The crowd was great. I was very relieved. It was nice to hear people laugh and it felt like people were getting a relief from all of the stuff they’ve had to go through. And I think some of the audience was nervous. I mean everybody was nervous. When you don’t go out for 3 months and then you get back together with other people it’s insane. So it was definitely kind of crazy. It was like watching a movie. I mean you watch a movie now and you see people shake hands and it’s like “Woah. That’s crazy.”
I definitely had some moments like that. That brings us to what were you watching during the pandemic?
I went through all of the Mission Impossible‘s. All of them. All pretty good. I’ve seen some, some I watched forever ago. But you know I watched Contagion too. It’s what’s happening right now. It’s wild. Everybody should watch that. I mean that movie’s old. Not old, but 10 years ago or whatever it was. It’s just so crazy. It’s all kind of the stuff that’s happening now and how they’re tracking everybody. It’s pretty wild. But Mission Impossible was one where my brain got turned off. And I just turned on a fun action movie and you can be oblivious to the world for a little bit and go enjoy it. And I think that’s the thing now that you’re gonna be kinda chasing. Those kind of movies where there’s no agenda to it. It’s just straight up a bunch of people are gonna die in this movie and we’re gonna show some cool stuff. And you can just be like “Alright!” And then you sit back. But I just finished. I think last night I just finished the seventh one. There’s a bunch of them.
There’s a lot of them. But going back to the podcast, other than the obvious what has changed since you last did a podcast, kinda about the environment itself?
Oh I mean we’re in a studio. It’s night and day. When I first did it with Yannis Pappas and Chris Laker we did the It Could Be Better podcast. That was very early on when podcasts were coming out in like 2010. It’s just the commitment to it. I mean we did that back then, and obviously some podcasts were big but podcast’s weren’t a thing where it was like “This thing is gonna blow you up,” or whatever. Just the way we looked at it back then was very different. It was hard to get together. And I think we were very loose with the idea. And now doing this podcast, it’s shot with four cameras. Like we really make it look really good and I want it to look- it’s on YouTube- and you know I want it to look very very good so it’s easy to watch. And so just the production of it is night and day. And just what I know podcasts are now. You know you see the podcaster. It’s making a TV show essentially. I mean there’s work to it. So now you just know what it is/ I’m a better comic now than I was back then. You know your voice more than I did back then. So I mean all of that stuff. It’s nice to get to do it. I got Brian Bates and Aaron Weber on the show with me, two local Nashville comics. Both very funny and I’m friends with both of them so it’s fun to kinda go back and forth and just go. So yeah, it’s been great.
And it’s a great excuse to see your friends again after all this time inside.
Yeah it’s nice. It’s just to be funny again you know. It’s just fun. It’s very fun to be funny. It’s very fun to hang out with comedians. So it’s nice to get to do that once a week.
What was that like? After a few months inside and having to use the platform again and your voice to be funny, what was it like going back into that through the world of podcasting?
You know I shot a pilot last year for ABC that didn’t go anywhere. But that actually helped me with a lot of things, like talking into a camera. That kind of stuff… Like Bert Kreischer. Bert Kreischer is so good at being very funny into a camera. He’s so good. He just knows how to do it, he did it with his travel show. He’s very, very good at it. And it’s something that you do need to learn how to do as a comedian. Some of us can be you know on stage and do our act and we don’t go outside of our act, like “This is what we do.” So when I did that pilot and honestly doing some of these Zooms you kind of just train yourself to be able to talk to a camera a little bit more. So when I was able to do this podcast it’s just the experience of talking to an audience who you can’t hear. You just kind of learn how to do it more. So I think that all of the stuff that I’ve done from that first podcast to this podcast has helped me. It helped me have better energy. I was always getting crushed by comments saying that my energy is so low and it doesn’t seem like he wants to be there and that would always make me mad. But some were right. My energy was too low. So I was trying to get to where I can raise my energy without getting out of [what I am]. You know I don’t wanna be this guy that yells and moves around but my energy definitely can get higher in my world. So it’s like learning how to do that and i think I’ve learned and I’m going to continue to learn how to be funny and how to talk into a camera and all that kind of stuff. And you get a good gauge on what is funny without even getting out. You know as a comedian you can kinda tell like “That should be pretty funny,” and then “That’s probably not.”
That’s something people don’t think about when they’re going into comedy. They just think about “Okay I’m going to go into stand-up.” They don’t think about how will this translate to other mediums, and how will it translate to the camera? People don’t really think about.
Yeah no they don’t. As a comedian you end up doing a bunch of stuff. And seeing Bert. That’s why Bert’s so good with Instagram and so good talking into his phone and bringing you into his world where you feel like you’re hanging out with him. And i still feel very weird talking into the phone. And I mean I don’t know how much I like it. You’ve got to like it, too. I like this. I like talking into the camera and that kinda stuff. So I think that showcases what you do and it helps you be able to talk. I mean our job is talking and talking for a long time. Which is funny, when I did these live stand-up shows, being onstage I could feel my voice get tired. I’ve never felt that. That was something that was interesting. Like “Oh my voice is tired after talking for an hour.” And then you’re like “Oh it’s because I haven’t had the pressure of talking straight for one hour.” That was something that was kinda interesting.
It’s just something that comes over time. Have you been writing during all of this? Were you kinda working on a on a new hour before everything hit? I mean how did everything kinda change?
I was planning on taping a special probably this fall. So I had it lined up pretty good where I was geared up to where up ’til summer I was out. I probably would’ve done like 50 dates. And then in the fall I probably would’ve done another 50. So I would’ve taped it some time in that fall and then turned it over and hopefully it would’ve come out early next year. You know you’re in the rotation when you’re building your new hour. So I already basically had my new hour. I probably would’ve tightened some stuff up and maybe added a new joke here and there. But roughly my hour was there and ready to go. So I haven’t written a ton of new stuff. I mean I have some COVID stuff but nothing too long. But I figure when I tape a special I’ll probably have to address it in some way. And when I did some of those shows I did have a couple of new ideas. But it’s hard. It’s hard to write during this time because you don’t really have an outlet to try it. And you really need to be saying these jokes you know. The way I work is that when I need an hour and I know I need new jokes, my brain gets going so I’m in a constant search mode for new ideas and they come. And when I get that new hour my brain kinda shuts off where I’m not as much searching for new material. So it’s hard for me to come up with new stuff during this time. So I was at that point now where I already had that new hour. I mean I do have a couple new ideas if I can get back on the road… And I need to be consistently on the road. It’s not just one weekend where I can try it. You need to be out there every weekend doing shows. And then I can just put them in in the middle of my hour and try this stuff. But I’m hoping the podcast brings some stuff. I hope the podcast brings some new ideas. I think I got one out of yesterday and I kinda tried it. But yeah I’ll see. So right now I kinda have the new hour and then once we can get going again I’ll try to get it back into shape and then we can tape the special.
It’s interesting to me that some people are filming specials now. There were a few people that had a drive-in to film the special. That’s interesting to me. That after 3 months after not being out on the road you’re going to film a special. So I agree with you. I think you have to go out there and workshop it again.
Yeah, I mean you want to get it out. You want to get a special out. But I tell myself too. Like I talked to my managers about it too, where I was like “Let me go do one. You know I’ll do one wherever.” But then it’s like you don’t wanna get so wrapped up in wanting to do something now, cause I wanna work now. So like right now it’s like “I’ll do whatever.” But then it’s like if it doesn’t go good or sound good like if the audience is weird because they’re in cars and I can’t hear them, it’s all these things. Like I need to still protect that special and make sure that it gets the best release and I give it the best shot at being good versus just trying [to do it now]. You know it takes a long time to get an hour worth of material. So no matter how much I wanna go, like “I’ll go tape it wherever,” I also gotta be like “Well don’t just go shoot some awful special and it’s bad because you’re in a weird scenario versus just waiting and being like ‘Alright I’ll do it when we can.'”
It would be jarring 5 years from now if you’re watching a special and there’s like 50 people in a 300 seat audience. Like you’re gonna know exactly when it was taped and it will feel a little weird.
Yeah, you’ll be nuts. Hopefully they’ll get back. And you might see specials shot in comedy clubs again. That might be better than a theater, just because you know theaters might be too big. But a comedy club they can spread them out and it doesn’t look as weird. But yeah who knows.
I kinda miss the old comedy club specials from the 80s before they started doing them in theaters more on the regular. I kinda miss those a little bit, like the old HBO ones.
Yeah, yeah, they’re good. I like a nice theater special but I mean sometimes it is nice to mix it up and when you see one in a club you’re like “Oh this is cool.” I mean truthfully some should be focused so much on the comic that it almost doesn’t matter where they are. But my last one I tried to shoot you see some back of the heads in the audience. You see some audience, but you don’t wanna do just a bunch of cutaway stuff with the audience. So the person at home watching it feels like they’re sitting in the crowd.
Right, and there are some where there’s a lot of cutaways and it does feel a little different. It reminds you you’re watching the special. So once it’s all said and done are you working on other stuff other than podcasts, other than writing cause you said the ABC thing didn’t go last year, are you thinking of other ideas for possibly the future?
Yeah. Yeah, I’m definitely always trying to think about it and talking to some writers and trying to see if something can line back up to try to do another show. I still wanna try to do a show, like a TV show. So definitely I have other stuff kinda going on and you know we’ll see what happens. But yeah that door is always kinda open. And I just try to find the best fit, to be paired up with someone that can help write the show that’s really good and see what happens. Trying to do a network show is such a long process. I mean that last show was like 2 years trying to get the pilot just to get told no. I mean it’s crazy. It’s unbelievable how this works. They spend all this money on the pilot and then they’re like “No,” and you’re like “Alright.” And you just gotta move on.
Can you shop it around?
I mean yeah, we tried. But it’s so hard. That doesn’t work as often as it might seem where you shoot it for one place and then you go try it somewhere else. I mean essentially one place has already told you no so the other places are like “Well, we don’t probably want it.” And you end up kinda making it for that network. That’s the other problem, too. It’s not like you make it as broad. You kinda make it for the audience that ABC has. And so when you try to go to NBC it’s like – I mean I never really thought about it until I was kinda making this show. But when you think about it, if you went and made a show for CBS and then a show for ABC, and then a show for NBC, if you look at their shows you’re like “Oh yeah, they are different. Like how they’re shot and how they are. So you end up really making a show that’s made for a network, so when you try to go somewhere else, it doesn’t usually fit like it should. I mean Netflix shows, Hulu. Everything is kinda made specifically for that platform.
I agree with you because during the quarantine I’ve watched things on Hulu, Netflix, like an old sitcom from the 90’s, and I could immediately remember what network it was on without even having to look it up.
Yeah it’s interesting. I mean look at Seinfeld, Will and Grace, Friends. They’re all NBC it all kinda feels like that. And then King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond. You can picture the difference. It’s almost like I don’t even know if I can tell you what the difference is but I know there’s a difference.
And how did you do it? Did you do it like single camera or with an audience?
Nate: It was multicam like an audience. Like an Everybody Loves Raymond type of show. It was very cool, an unbelievable experience to get a shoot in, and all the actors we had were amazing. Everybody couldn’t have been nicer. It was a truly wild experience and it’s one that makes you wanna do it again. Like “Definitely, yeah. I would love to do this.” So hopefully we will.
Hopefully. It would have been one of the few multi-cams because they’re not doing many of those right now.
Nate: They act like they want to. Well you know what’s funny is they might do it now with COVID.
Why is that?
Cause it’s a set. You’re on one set. So the new way stuff is shot is they need to contain it. And so they need to contain the people that work on the set. But who knows. I mean multicams, the reason they like them is because they’re cheaper to make in the long run because the set is already there versus like Modern Family where you gotta go to a bunch of different places and shoot stuff. Yeah, I mean you take a gamble on which one they’re gonna want and you hope it works out and if it doesn’t you go try again.
It would be interesting if they bring back the laugh track that they haven’t used in years because they can’t have an audience now.
Oh yeah that’s true. Did you know there’s professional laughers?
Yeah. When we would do the run throughs, just before you’re taping just for us to practice, they hire people that laugh professionally. And so they just sit in the crowd and they can laugh on cue. And they laugh on everything. And so when you’re acting and it’s in front of a live audience, you can know how long to wait for when they laugh. So you get used to that timing. It’s unbelievable.
That’s so funny, I never thought of that. I never thought that would have to be a thing.
Yeah. There’s like 8 people and they just sit in the stands and laugh very loudly. And they all have great laughs. They are all very nice people. They laugh everyday. They laugh professionally, so they live a very good life.
And so wrapping up, you mentioned that one weekend you did. Do you have any other gigs coming up? Or are you still waiting for more to open up at this point?
Yeah, not now. Just waiting for them to open up. I mean I imagine my tour – it seems like everything is kinda getting pushed back. So it’s kinda a day-by-day thing so you don’t know. I mean there’s nothing that I’m gearing up for right now where it’s like “Alright, let’s go.” So we’ll see what happens. I think the best-case scenario would be for some clubs to open up and I could get back to some of these clubs. But right now it’s the podcast. That’s all there is. [Editor’s note: Since this interview, Bargatze announced his drive-in tour. Tickets can be found here].