JFL42 Review: Nate Bargatze Is in Command of His Comedic Voice

Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON, September 26

BY Hershal PandyaPublished Sep 27, 2019

Comics experience the world on two planes at once: taking in the same sights and sounds as the rest of us, they're constantly filtering these sensory experiences through their uniquely skewed perspectives, scrutinizing everything they encounter for oddities or commonalities to potentially work into material.
Very few comedians make this process as transparent as Nate Bargatze. Indeed, Bargatze offers this glimpse through his material — which is so clearly singular to his own perspective that no one else could write it — but occasionally he also does so directly, as he did during a brief aside last night, when he encouraged the audience to catalogue the embarrassing moments they suffer through, in order to convert them into great stories later.
Much of the material in Bargatze's new hour exists in this vein. He delighted the audience to no end by recounting anecdote after anecdote about the various ways in which his routine interactions turn into hilarious misunderstandings, seemingly on a daily basis. Whether he was talking about getting continental breakfast at a hotel or purchasing an airline ticket, Bargatze found a way to turn even the most mundane moments into hilarious three-act plays, the characters in which — personified through Bargatze's artful deadpan — were nearly always motivated by utter confusion and disbelief.
From a technical perspective, Bargatze is still very much a standup traditionalist. He occasionally coasted on the strength of his signature delivery, but otherwise his writing and point of view were so distinct that any additional frills would have only detracted.
As if to further reinforce this point, Bargatze closed his set by doing something I've only previously heard of older generations of comics doing: he re-told a classic bit. The bit in question, "iced-coffee with milk," became somewhat of a sensation after Bargatze included it on his half-hour episode of The Standups on Netflix, motivating him to add a postscript to it on his followup special, The Tennessee Kid.
Last night, however, Bargatze added no new layer. He simply recited the bit verbatim, confident the audience would laugh, regardless of how many times they'd heard it. Unsurprisingly, his instincts were correct. As the bit progressed, the laughter swelled alongside it. Audience members started smiling stupidly in anticipation of their favourite punch lines. It was like watching a band trot out the classic hit their fans had been waiting for all evening. Witnessing how much control he had over his craft in this moment, it was hard not to mentally fast-forward 20 years and picture Bargatze as one of the future greats.

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