Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid is the best Netflix stand-up special in a while — a dry and witty look at the laidback life of a man not too different from us.
With Netflix’s recent stand-up comedy output including Amy Schumer’s new special, an alienatingly Italian set by Edoardo Ferrario, and whatever it was that Ken Jeong was doing, it’s certainly refreshing to find an hour of comedy much more in my wheelhouse. Enter, then, Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid, a wonderfully dry, laidback set without any grating attempts at profundity, intellectualism, or edge. It’s just a smarter-than-he-lets-on comic sardonically relating his life as a husband, a performer, a Southerner, and a few other things besides.
Nate Bargatze is the kind of comic who should be bigger than he is but probably won’t ever be because his act is so low-key. But that’s the advantage of this hour, which hits a number of universal beats — losing weight, having kids, traveling, pets, arguing with the missus — sprinkled with a bit of down-home flavor and a clever way of reintegrating previous bits. Part of Nate’s routine is a self-deprecating insistence that he’s uneducated and unaware of most things, a lie that he pulls off more credibly than most, but a lie nonetheless, as evidenced by his deftly written material and finely calibrated performance.
But that insistence that Nate is fundamentally one of his audience helps to make The Tennessee Kid welcoming out of the gate, and it remains accessible from there. Jokes about absurd family members fighting at weddings and his dad’s career as a clown and magician give his anecdotes a slightly fantastical slant, but his best gags approach familiar talking points from an angle that somehow manages to be incredibly obvious but also put in a way you never quite thought of. He riffs on horses, pets, and arguments in this style, weaving each topic in with the next so skilfully that you can hardly see the seams.
It’s the closing fifteen-or-so minutes that let Nate Bargatze: The Tennessee Kid down, or at least let it down for me as someone who hasn’t seen Netflix’s The Standups, to which it directly relates. Nate himself pokes fun at the insularity of this material, but it didn’t help much in convincing me that this was decidedly weaker material than is to be found earlier in the special. Despite this, though, I enjoyed The Tennessee Kid very much, and recommend it wholeheartedly.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.