Nate Bargatze draws from his “dumb world” in his new hourlong special The Tennessee Kid. It’s full of “don’t know”s and elongated “so”s. At one point he declares the message from the special: “I don’t think things through.”
DIRECTOR: Ryan Polito
Bargatze builds out his weird world.
Bargatze has certainly thought it through. He’s finessed his performance style over his past couple specials (Yelled at by a Clown, Full Time Magic) and a half-hour set in Netflix’s 2017 edition of The Standups. Not everyone can draw out a story about moving a dead horse, but Bargatze sprinkles in details that build on his worlds, making you want to stay there even when he’s ready to move on.
It’s something he excelled at in The Standups, which introduced his comedy to a bigger audience. He revisits a story he told in that set about being served milk on ice at Starbucks, stretching it into a comedy of errors that still works even if you didn’t see the setup. These moments of heightened absurdity serve as Bargatze’s foundation, and he probably learned something about timing from his dad, who was literally a clown and magician.
Bargatze filmed the special in Duluth, Georgia, but it’s very much about Tennessee: He tells a Vanderbilt story and shares a memory about having to plant trees in front of the DuPont plant on Earth Day. He obviously doesn’t mind going regional considering the name of the special, but his comedy fares better when he zooms out to point out how The Sixth Sense is actually about marriage, detail his poorly planned wedding, or explain how he’s going to alleviate global warming by giving his daughter buckets of rainwater when she turns 18.
Not all the jokes in Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid engage, but Bargatze is a good storyteller. His “uhhh”s, “aaand”s, and use of bumbling hindsight to comment on our world make dumb look smart.
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