In his act, comedian Nick Vatterott is all over the place. He rants about Dunkin Donuts’ tuna fish sandwich, throws in an impression of a local bodega character, or pretends to forget what he’s doing altogether. When watching him on stage, you’re witnessing a scatterbrain who somehow tightened the screws in his skull, getting himself together to deliver the audience a diverse and seriously hilarious show.
Vatterott has been living in Greenpoint for almost three years, but still doesn’t quite understand the neighborhood. “I always walk by Europa, which plays crazy European techno,” he said. “I know if I go there, I’ll get punched. Everyone who walks by there is either Polish or a hipster and you try to guess which one they are. Are they Polish or just ironically old?” Even in conversation, he finds a way to work in some jokes.
For seven years, Vatterott was an improviser with Chicago’s Second City, where he taught classes and worked for their touring company, performing on Norwegian cruise ships and in ski lodges across the country. In 2008, he took his money from those gigs and moved to North Brooklyn, trading in improv for stand up. “Stand up and improv are like your children, you can’t pick a favorite one,” he said. “Stand up is this addictive, weird, fun thing that’s brought me so much amazing stuff. It’s so fun to work on stuff in front of an audience and there’s nothing like destroying by yourself in front of people with your own thoughts… But some of my favorite moments ever in comedy have been when I was improvising with a team or group of people that I knew very well. Some of my favorite stand up moments are an improvised riff or exploring something on stage that naturally occurs. There’s something about a live, conscious stream of thought that can’t be made again in another moment. There’s nothing like it.”
Vatterott has managed to combine his two great loves into “Klusterphuk,” a show he produces at Long Island City’s The Creek and The Cave. Three improvisers and three stand ups switch places, taking on the other’s talent. “I try to get a bunch of people I think will work together best,” he said. “I tell the audience at the top. It’s important to shape an audience’s perception of the show. It’s a tool people can utilize to make the show as great as possible.”
Although Vatterott performs at better-known venues like Caroline’s and Gotham, he most frequently gets up at alternative shows, which tend to be more receptive to his brand of oddball comedy. In 2010, he appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” pulling a prank on the audience where he pretended to forget one of his jokes. Then, he took out a giant list, going over his whole set, and making it clear that he was just messing with them.
This type of mischief is common in Vatterott’s act. “I get bored of talking about ‘Oh, I saw this,’” he said. “I want to do weird stuff, and f-ck with the audience, where they won’t know if I’m for real or not.”
Jared Logan, a fellow stand-up comic who also started in Chicago, said, “Nick’s comedy is hysterically funny, but more important, it’s utterly original. It is offbeat and idiosyncratic and weird, but he’s always able to relate to the audience because he has a joyful sense of playfulness that a lot of other comics don’t have. He’s fascinating to watch because even though he works hard to perfect each bit, no two performances are the same.”
Vatterott’s manager at 3 Arts, Avi Gilbert, concurred with Logan: “[Nick’s] a comedic step quicker than everyone around him.”
Even though Vatterott has gained recognition in the stand up and improv worlds, he still doesn’t have a specific goal for the future. All he wants is to keep doing what gives him the most joy in life. “No one ever winds up where they think they’re going to wind up. Jon Stewart never thought he’d be on a fake news show. I don’t know if Conan thought he’d be a ‘Simpsons’ writer turned talk show host on TBS, or if Drew Carey ever thought he’d host ‘The Price is Right.’… As much as you have a say where your kite goes in the sky, you only have a little control over it. The overall goal is to keep out of the kitchen. Stay out of restaurants and waiting tables, which I’ve done for so long. I just want to do projects that are interesting to me, and get paid to do comedy and what I love. That is the goal to me.”