by Henry Lamb
With the fall TV season heating up now with hit shows like The Walking Dead and Saturday Night Live raking in massive audiences, it might be easy for a small cult favorite to fly under most viewers’ radars. The reality show Nathan for You, a master work from the show’s creator Nathan Fielder, on Comedy Central has slowly amassed a small but diehard fan base. The show centers around Fielder, who plays a version of himself with his awkward tendencies amped up to 110 percent, as he attempts to help real struggling small businesses with out-of-the-box, absurd ideas.
With each passing season, Fielder rises to the task of upping the ante with increasingly bizarre ideas. These concepts can range from selling a feces-flavored frozen yogurt to sneaking bags of steaming hot chili through a specially designed fat suit into a pro hockey game. Fans find themselves lured to the show’s “it’s so crazy, it just might work” aspect. However, Fielder also ventures into other concepts outside of his business ideas, such as when he crafted and fabricated “the perfect late night talk show story” (to withstand media scrutiny and make sure he wouldn’t have to lie, Fielder later goes on to act out each part of the story on his own).
Sometimes, though, it’s not the ideas that make the episodes, but the preposterous lengths Fielder is willing to go to succeed. In one episode, in order to save a failing souvenir shop on Hollywood Boulevard, Fielder pretends to film a movie in front of the shop and asks pedestrians if they’d like to be extras in the “movie.” The extra’s role: to walk into the shop and buy a souvenir. In order make the film appear legitimate and avoid any lawsuits from the extras over the scheme, Fielder creates his own film festival. Part of the fun of the show is watching Fielder get lost in the tedious details of bringing his ideas to life.
The final ingredient that tops this genius work is Fielder’s relentlessly awkward character. The show treats the viewer to endless cringe-inducing moments between Fielder and the small business owners he attempts to help. A running gag in the show watches Fielder casually ask his clients if they want to “hang out in a social setting” when their business has concluded.
When asked whether the character in the show matches Fielder in real life, Fielder responded that he’s always been slightly awkward and that “[he] started to see what was funny… and [he] went in the complete other direction where [he] started to embrace [the awkwardness] and even exaggerate it.” Fielder excels in using his experience in awkward situations to push others to say or do foolish things.
The show airs on Thursday nights at 9 pm on Comedy Central.