This is a past event.

Stand-Up Showdown: Nate Bargatze, Travis FromLongville, and Tonee Bell 

When: Thu., Jan. 19, 8 p.m. and Fri., Jan. 20, 8 p.m. 2012
Price: $12.50
www.charlestoncomedyfestival.com

Travis FromLongville, Nate Bargatze, and Tone Bell

Three comics walk into a bar. Each thinks he's the funniest in Charleston. Jokes start flying, and Nick Cannon comes in to moderate.

OK, maybe this isn't that type of stand-up showdown. These funny guys have a more laid-back style — think vignettes of biting social commentary, stories about awkward moments in relationships, or exchanges with bosses. And since all three originally hail from the South (Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, respectively), there's sure to be plenty of hick jokes to go around.

Travis FromLongville

Travis FromLongville grew up just where you might guess. That's right, Longville. For those unfamiliar, FromLongville says the tiny town is about "55 miles east of Curbeville, Texas, and 22 miles due south of Deritter, La." Translation? The middle of nowhere, Louisiana.

But his hometown is all part of FromLongville's charm, and the reason for his interest in stand-up comedy. "Ain't much shit to do over here, might as well give stand-up a try and keep doing it," he says.

The Deep South provides some good fodder for routines, but don't let the accent fool you. As FromLongville's bits might prove, it's important not to associate a Southern twang with a low IQ.

"I'm trying to break the stereotype of rednecks," Fromlongville says. "They got some people out there, let's just say they can fix your cable, that perpetuate the negative stereotypes of rednecks. Just 'cause we talk funny doesn't mean we don't have smart shit to say."

FromLongville describes his stand-up as a "dystopian dissection of modern societal mores," although the prep work is not as intensive as the description might indicate. "Basically, I'll get drunk with some buddies the night before, shoot the shit for a while. Smoke me a doobie. I don't know — talk, write, that all depends."

Nate Bargatze

Nate Bargatze doesn't stress the night before a show, either. He prepares on more of a daily basis, wandering around stores or public spaces, people-watching and jotting down notes. Which explains why he carries notecards or frequently types messages to himself on his phone.

"I think my comedy is kind of based on truth, kind of storytelling in a sense so it all just comes from your life experience," he says.

After he gets an idea, Bargatze will often practice, or "run jokes," while walking around, which can create some funny visuals. "Comics can look like psychos. We'll just walk around talking to ourselves, just running the joke in our head," he laughs.

Telling a joke as much as possible is one of the best ways for comics to improve, Bargatze adds. There's no trick to joke telling, passed down from generations of professionals, just a lot of practice. "That is such a boring answer, but that's the whole part you realize when you start comedy," he says. "You're looking for a secret answer to everything and it's just getting on stage as much as you can."

And Bargatze certainly does. During the past seven years he's been living in New York, seven days is the longest he's ever gone without getting up on a stage. He averages about 15 shows a week.

The method has been paying off. He's filmed his own Comedy Central Presents special, performed at Bonaroo, won prizes at New York and Boston comedy festivals, and filmed a couple late night shows. In September 2008, he sat next to Michael Cera on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

"You're just kind of talking to them, these really famous people, and it's just fun. You know you're supposed to be doing stuff."

Tone Bell

Tone Bell has also had some big breakthroughs as of late. He won NBC's Stand Up for Diversity nationwide talent search this year — past alums include writers from Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. He was voted one of the funniest comics in Texas, and he has regular gigs at the Laugh Factory and Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

In late July, Bell moved to L.A. full time, where he quickly booked a few commercials and got calls for TV pilots. His newfound acting success has, however, made it more difficult to travel to different comedy clubs and festivals. "Living in L.A. now, you kind of have to be here," he says. "It sucks, but I know better now than to always leave when a show calls. Sometimes you have to be a little more selective."

But Bell is excited about a trip to Charleston. Despite the interest in acting, he still enjoys the rush of getting up in front of a crowd. "You have those breakthrough shows you do and it's kind of unbelievable. You come off stage almost shaking," he says. "You get to a point where you start to enjoy the feel of the stage."

After a while, Bell says being a stand-up comedian is like being a good storyteller. "If you can take your thoughts or problems and make [the audience] laugh, that's what kind of makes it all worthwhile."

— Cara Kelly
click to flip through (3) Nate Bargatze
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