A comedic musical trio, an Atlanta-based improv group, and a stand-up comedian walk into a ballet theater. The result is one of the most diverse shows you'll find at this year's Comedy Fest.
Essentially, Nate Bargatze got into comedy because he's lazy. He grew up watching his father, a successful magician, lug around piles of gear and decided that wasn't for him.
"My dad is very funny so I thought, what if I just be funny like my dad and not do the magic part?" Bargatze says. "So now I don't carry anything but a pen. I still help him carry his stuff when we get to work together, so I get to see what it would be like."
Bargatze and his pen got their big break on CMT Comedy Stage in 2007. With his occasionally heavy Tennessee accent, it would be easy to group him with the likes of Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy, but Bargatze's appeal extends beyond the trailer park. He's performed on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Comedy Central and for the troops in Baghdad. He even made a stop in Charleston earlier this year with the Atypical Southern Comedy Quartet at Theatre 99.
Bargatze got his start doing stand up in Chicago, and he's lived in New York for the last six years. He admits that heading home to perform can be intimidating. "I came back to Nashville and did an open mic for the first time after I had been doing comedy probably a year in Chicago," he says. "I was nervous, too, like they would think I lost my Southern values or something. What's funny is to hear the reaction to certain jokes from the different crowds. In the North, they'll clap because it's ironic, and in the South, they'll clap because they agree with me."
The Shock T's
The Shock T's might sing about threesomes, but they don't swing that way. Really, we asked. They might enjoy the odd sleepover together, but it's in the name of group bonding. It's how they keep their minds and voices sharp for their sometimes scandalous musical sketch and improv shows.
The Chicago-based group, comprised of Sarah Shockey, Tyler Paterson, and Tim Dunn, has been together for just over a year.
"By our second show, we discovered that our best stuff was happening really organically," Shockey says. "Like Tim and Tyler singing in deep Tom Waits voices back and forth, or when I started singing, 'I put my penis where I shouldn't have,' and Tim and Tyler responded with, 'Where'd you put that penis?' Stuff that just makes us laugh."
As evidenced by songs like that and their popular threesome songs ("Threesome," "Two Dudes"), they don't shy away from sex, but that's not all they sing about.
"I think a lot of our songs come from what's on our minds at any given time, so we do have a lot of relationship and sex songs," Shockey says. "That's what we think about a lot, I suppose. We also have a lot of kookier songs that probably come from the fact that all three of us love doing improv, so pretending in weird situations is really fun for us."
Paterson is the group's main musician, while Shockey and Dunn usually come up with the initial lyrics.
"Tyler is a genius when it comes to music," Shockey says. "He plays by ear and is entirely self-taught. He can very cohesively write songs and bring them to us — all Tim and I do is clean them up a little bit, and then they're show-ready."
She adds, "It's not always that easy. Sometimes we will spend a whole rehearsal laying around throwing ideas around and nothing sticks until the very end, when someone will sing one line (such as 'It's hard eatin' healthy when you live next to the food court' in an Irish accent) and we will suddenly create a whole song out of nowhere."
village theatre: Tag Journey
Watch what you do around Blair Holden and the members of the Village Theatre's Tag Journey. You might just wind up the butt of their next joke.
"Anything can be used, from that awkward elevator conversation with a co-worker, to your messed up (or overly wonderful) family, to the street preacher, to a loud voice that your best friend may have while watching football," Holden says. "We spend a lot of time making fun of ourselves, and that translates to making fun of everyone. It's all game."
This isn't the first time Tag Journey has made the journey to Charleston. The Atlanta-based group, a subset of actors from the up-and-coming Village Theatre, has sent reps to Theatre 99's Improv-a-Thon for the past two years. And now they're making their Comedy Fest debut. Welcome back, Villagers.