Comedian Nick Vatterott doesn’t think outside the box so much as set the box ablaze with a blowtorch. The Chicagoan-turned-New Yorker, who returns to town for a Comedy Central record taping, has never been known for conventional stand-up—his sets are better understood as a series of microperformances than as flowing, cohesive pieces. Trained in sketch and improv, Vatterott celebrates the what-the-hell-?! glitches in his brain, weaving them into his comedy in a way that elicits confused laughs until he circles back to make sense of his nonsense. It’s a nonlinear, almost Jeopardy-like approach in which the punch line precedes the setup. (It’s this technique that made his six minutes on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon way back when in 2010 so damn brilliant.)
But of course he doesn’t work on such a high plane that he fails to embrace the low-down side of showmanship. He’ll get loud, he’ll play characters, and he’ll be intentionally obnoxious, his devilish smirk the tell that he’s working with something up his sleeve. But not once during his stand-up do you feel a step ahead; on the contrary, his roundabout ways mean a joke might not register with the audience until he’s minutes deep into its execution. A short, simple example of that method: An old opening bit of Vatterott’s features him at the mike stand with an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, announcing “I’d like to sing a song for you tonight.” And as the guitar falls apart and drops at his feet in pieces, a look of befuddlement dawns on his face. Sean Flannery and CJ Sullivan open.