According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a vaudeville was originally a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation. Okay, I like it so far. Vaudeville became popular in the United States in the early 1880s until the early 1930s.
A typical American vaudeville performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill. Types of acts have included musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, ventriloquists, strongmen, female and male impersonators, acrobats, clowns, jugglers, one-act plays... just about anything that would make you smile.
Recently we met up with a modern-day vaudevillian. His name even sounds vaudevillian.
Meet traveling funnyman, Nate Barron.
"Nothing really exciting about my story. I grew up in Bonne Terre where I went to North County. I was raised by two great parents. My dad, Walter Barron was a social worker and my mother, Bonnie Barron was a teacher. I'm the youngest with an older sister.
Bonne Terre was a great little small town to grow up in. I had a great group of friends and still remain to this day. We get together every now and then.
Perks of living in a small town is that if I want to catch up with people I can just go over to Walmart, grab some dog food and chat with an old buddy while checking out – well, it's not so nice when you run into an old ex. Nothing like checking out in awkward silence – suddenly I need to catch up with the news in the National Enquire.
Once I realized that I wasn't going to be a professional football player, I started playing the tuba in the symphonic band and marching band, because everyone knows tuba players get all the ladies. Playing music was something I really enjoyed and felt I was somewhat decent at, but like all good things, my high school career came to an end.
I moved to St.Louis for several years where I obtained a degree in Electrical Mechanics (electrician). St. Louis was great to place. I'm a fan of choices. Being able to choose a variety of activities and food is something Bonne Terre lacks. I mean Dairy Queen and Hardee's isn’t exactly an overwhelming variety of cuisine choices...
For some unknown reason, after several years filled with all the choices a person can stomach, I decided to move back to 573 Land. Shortly after moving back I was given the news that I was going to be a dad. My kiddo, Leo, was born and I've been hanging out with him since. He's my best friend. I'm pretty sure he feels the same – he’s still young. Well, he is still kinda sore about the time I pushed him into a bush – squirming around in there like Mary from “It’s A Wonderful Life”. No, really, I don't know what I would do without him. Before him, I had a nihilistic outlook (watching Dogma, American Beauty, and Office Space in one week at 15 will do that). Now I have this little doppelgänger to make life awesome.
I've always been into everything comedy. It's always been my favorite thing. My parents and I would watch The Carol Burnette Show and the thought-provoking Ernest movies. Laughing was as important to me as my pancreas. Everything from Abbott and Costello to Sam Kinison. I'm a connoisseur of laughter. Watching Robin Williams, do stand up when I was young was life-altering. It's still sad thinking about his loss. When he passed people called to ask if I was ok like I lost a loved one.
Stand-up was something that immediately grabbed me. Watching Richard Pryor owning a stage and controlling the audience with his stories and characters made him a superhero. Or Jerry Seinfeld making me think and laugh at the observations I had always thought about. Comics like Jeff Foxworthy and Rosanne Bar were great to watch because I felt I knew the people they were speaking about. Comedians like Phil Hartman, Lily Tomlin, Farely, Sandler, etc kept me up at night laughing to point where choking on beef jerky was plausible. Mel Brooks and Jonathan Winters were godlike. It didn’t matter if it was clean or vulgar. If it was funny I was on board.
At first, I was afraid to attempt stand-up. A good friend of mine, Andrew Ryan, knew I loved the idea and would consistently ask when I was going to try. I hated it every time he asked because I felt so guilty not tot try. I knew it was a craft that took a long time of being bad to be good. Those guys on Netflix take years to hone that hour. It takes years of silent rooms to figure things out if not ever. There has to be a masochistic element to the individual to do stand-up. I almost stopped hanging out with him because of it. Ha! He knew it was a passion of mine and like his passion for music he wanted me to pursue comedy. So finally one day he asked again and I just said, "F- it, let's go". He drove me to St Louis and open mic at The Heavy Anchor.
I got up and did 5 minutes to a dark and semi-empty room. I wasn't funny at all. I just talked about growing up in a small town. Chad Wallace, who has become my friend was the host and said to me, "Tell your story first, the funny will come". Being funny wasn't an objective. Just getting on stage and standing there was the goal. After that, it was over with for me. It grabbed me and I haven't stopped. I have been able to meet some great people and make great friends. Becoming friends with comedians like Adam Thacker, Cori Stewart, Elijah Zion, and so on has made it that much better.
If I had to say what made me funny I would say, scoliosis. Not so much the diagnoses I was given at 14 but the insecurities that come along with it. Growing up my way to fit in was humor. That was my contribution (I like to think so at least). Humor was my way of dealing with everything. I found that making others laugh made me neat. Roasting myself before others could, was my go-to strategy. I was never mean with humor though. I enjoyed every one of all personalities. I would blend or acclimate to whatever type of person.
I definitely wasn't a ladies man by any means. I was a strong 4.5 maybe a 5 on a good day. So to compensate I would attempt to charm with my comedic abilities. For the most part, I assume humor worked for me. I'm sure there were a lot of times where I was just loud, annoying, and doing a bad Andy Kaufman impression. Can't win them all. Even George Carlin or Steven Wright had nights with silence replacing laughter.
"I'm not for everyone. I'm barely for me" - Marc Maron
When I moved back to the area I didn't stop with stand-up. I kept driving to open mics every week. Fortunately, the stand-up scene has grown to be a powerhouse in St.Louis. Every night has multiple open mics and multiple showcases on the weekends. It didn't take me much time to notice that stand -up was nonexistent here. I thought it would be pretty easy to bring a show to the area. With so much talent in St.Louis, it was a no brainer. So, I approached Spokes in Farmington with the idea of a showcase.
Chris Spence was very receptive to it and agreed to give it a go. Shortly after we had a show with STL native Andrew Frank headlining who brought Angela Smith and Lucas Hinderliter to feature. The show was a hit and soon after there was another show at Spokes with Rafe Williams (just released his first special), that was also a success. I wanted to bring stand-up to the area. Lay a foundation of comedy down here and it’s working. I've been fortunate enough to produce multiple shows at Hubs Pub, Desloge VFW, Terre Du Lac Country Club, Salted Duck...and the list is growing all the time.
Today, I will produce a show anywhere. Coffee shop, laundromat, bank lobby, VFW, civic center, parties, corporate events, etc. It’s doesn't matter where I fry the fish as long as it gets fried.
My goal has always been to produce a fun and professional show. Laughter is a priority. Things are so divisive now over such trivial things. Family members won't talk to each other because somebody voted that “so and so” or someone doesn’t like that “so and so”... Laughing seems to trump that, no pun intended! Hard to fight when you're laughing. As they say in the biz, "Thanks everyone, that's my time!"