For avowed Vanderbilt Commodores fan and veteran standup comedian Nate Bargatze, preparing for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., is all about the whiskers.
“I grew a beard,” the laid-back Southerner said with a laugh in a recent phone interview, when asked how he prepares for the festival where he first performed in 2010.
“It just saves time, you know? If you can wear a beard anywhere, Bonnaroo is the place to wear one.”
Bargatze, a native of Old Hickory, is scheduled to take the Comedy Theatre stage at the 15th annual festival , which runs Thursday through Sunday, on three different occasions: 5 p.m. Thursday (with Joyelle Nicole, Aparna Nancherla and Rachel Feinstein), 12:30 p.m. Friday (with Beth Stelling, Josh Rabinowitz, John Early and Rachel Feinstein) and 6:45 p.m. Saturday (Judd Apatow and friends with Stelling).
Following in the entertainment footsteps of his father, Stephen Bargatze, a performing clown who transitioned into a renowned magician, he is in no way a newcomer to stages.
Since the start of his comedic career in 2003, which began by studying improv at Second City in Chicago at age 23, Bargatze has built up an impressive portfolio of performances and guest appearances and has been lauded by the likes of comedy stars Jim Gaffigan and Marc Maron.
His family friendly comedy landed him a spot on Jimmy Fallon’s Clean Cut Comedy Tour. He has performed several times for the military overseas, and he has made a number of guest appearances on Fallon’s and Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk shows.
In recent years Bargatze has created two comedy albums: 2014’s “Yelled at by a Clown,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard comedy charts, and 2015’s “Full Time Magic,” which rose to No. 1 on the Billboard charts and included an hour-long special by the same name on Comedy Central.
He continues a steady tour schedule, which will include his first appearance at Toronto’s Just for Laughs festival in September. He also is building another hour-long TV special while continuing to pursue a long-elusive sitcom.
Bonnaroo remains a highlight of his career, however.
“Growing up in Nashville, I remember seeing the traffic for it, and so it was one that you always wanted to go to,” he said. “It’s fun to get to go to it this way.
“[When outside,] sometimes it can be a little hard to hear the audience, so the timing is different,” Bargatze continued, recalling a recent outdoors performance in Columbus, Ohio. “But with the comedy tent at Bonnaroo, it’s enclosed and it’s air conditioned, so it means you’ll have a crowd there.
“There are a lot of great comics at the show,” he said, anticipating the 90-plus degree heat in the forecast, “but air conditioning definitely helps.”
Nate Bargatze will be performing at Bonnaroo’s Comedy Theatre on Thursday at 5 p.m.
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