Nathan Fielder has become a modern master of the rising art form that is cringe comedy. Rather than be a crude wisecracker or chop buster, Nathan has made his mark as someone who can scratch that one part of people’s brains that they didn’t think could be scratched. There’s no better example of this deep-sided, socially awkward style of comedy than in his Comedy Central series, Nathan for You.
Parodying business-centric reality series, such as Kitchen Nightmares or Bar Rescue, Nathan Fielder portrays a business consultant just trying to help struggling businesses all over America…by offering next to the worst pieces of advice possible.
Updated on July 9th, 2021 by Sean Cubillas: Nathan for You has withstood the test of time by being one of Comedy Central’s most memorable and acclaimed comedy series, despite a relatively short run on air. Since the show was brought to HBO Max, its popularity and viral nature have only expanded. This has not only brought more attention to Nathan Fielder’s various business exploits but, as per The Hollywood Reporter, HBO has even announced that it will be producing a new comedy series helmed by Fielder.
15 Hotel/Travel Agent (8.6)
Nathan Fielder’s lack of social understanding is no more apparent anywhere else than in “Hotel/Travel Agent.” In the hotel portion, Nathan tries to help a struggling hotel by tapping into the oh-so coveted “Parents who don’t want their kids to know they’re having sex” market. To alleviate certain couple’s concerns, Nathan helps build a sound deprivation box that couples can put their kids in.
It’s not as bad as it sounds, but Nathan still finds a way to make things worse. That unnecessary and convoluted sense of escalation is a huge part of what makes Nathan so special and what sells the quieter yet still incredibly ridiculous portions of this episode which include a funeral home/travel agency and a really shady way to escape traffic jams.
14 Haunted House/The Hunk (8.7)
The first half of this episode is business as usual (as far as Nathan Fielder is concerned). A haunted house is struggling to get customers, so Nathan concocts this idea to make the house so scary that people would sue them. He does so by creating an elaborate setup where customers are taken from the haunted house and are made to believe that they contracted a deadly virus.
The second half of the episode showcases Nathan’s iconic loneliness and awkwardness when he creates an entire, dating show, similar to The Bachelor, to help him therapeutically get over his fear of women. Nathan, of course, is the titular Hunk of this fake series. While Nathan’s advice alone can be valuable, this episode shows how he’s willing to go the extra mile for others (and himself) with large, elaborate production design.
13 The Claw Of Shame (8.7)
Some episodes of Nathan for You are dedicated to showing the mettle of its host character, and “The Claw of Shame” does this well with its high stakes. Nathan sets up a challenge where he needs to escape a pair of handcuffs in under 90 seconds. The punishment for failure is that a special robot would come and pants him in front of a group of kids (Who’s being punished the most here?).
Most of the episode shows all of the detailed work that goes into both training Nathan as well as designing a robot that would pants him. “The Claw of Shame” is one of the best examples of the domino effect of over-thinking that Nathan Fielder has become famous for. But for those that need more proof, this episode also ends with a nice trip down of Nathan’s recent failures.
12 The Richards Tip (8.7)
“The Richards Tip” shows one of Nathan’s most complex ploys to get restaurant customers. Amazed by how generous celebrity tips can get really viral, Nathan decides to help a diner by staging one for himself. Doing so becomes much more complicated than one can imagine when Nathan begins auditioning celebrity impersonators, hiring someone to legally change their name so that he can get a credit card with the celebrity’s name, and personally handcuffing himself to that person when he discovers that they have a criminal history.
People can’t say that Nathan is lazy, and this episode is just a taste of Nathan’s hilarious work ethic and dedication to maintain authenticity in a world where most people wouldn’t bother to change the legal name of celebrity impersonators.
11 Santa/Petting Zoo (8.8)
“Santa/Petting Zoo” helps establish one of Nathan’s recurring characters and shows how good this series is as a whole at staging viral events. In the Santa portion, Nathan helps a struggling Santa Clause impersonator by having them work out of a season at a discounted rate. However, Nathan soon realizes that the guy has a criminal history which puts a strain on their relationship.
In the petting zoo portion, Nathan tries to help a petting zoo by staging a viral video where their pig saves a baby goat from drowning. This ends up becoming an actual viral video still on YouTube today, further blending the show with reality. In the last bit of the episode, Nathan is on a stakeout to find some graffiti artists and uses his own image as bait. For what is essentially a sketch/prank show on Comedy Central, this episode is classic for showing Nathan’s ability to blur the lines between what’s real and not in his show.
10 The Movement (9.1)
“The Movement” is the greatest example of the snowball effect of Nathan Fielder’s plots. When a struggling moving company turns to him to help stabilize their income, Nathan starts a fitness craze that rocks the country. Initially, he recommends that the company tell people to move boxes and furniture for them as a work-out regimen, either getting them to do it for free if not outright charging them for the workout.
Seeing that such an idea would be a hard sell, Nathan hires a bodybuilder to become the company’s spokesperson (that he later distrusts and stalks), writes an entire autobiography about him that involves a “jungle child” getting eaten by a baboon, and manages a promotional campaign across various, morning news shows across the U.S. This episode shows one of Nathan’s most viral, media stunts yet and proves that, with enough dedication and production, he is able to get people to believe or buy anything.
9 Smokers Allowed (9.1)
Fans already know that Nathan Fielder is a smart, business professional in his own right. Little did they know, he is also a theatrical genius. When smoking bans make it hard for a small-time bar owner to attract customers, Nathan hatches a plan to circumvent smoking regulations. If he can portray the entire bar as a stage play entitled “Smokers Allowed” and all of its patrons as “performers” smoking, then he can pass off the act as a performance, not a health code violation.
Things get a little tricky, however, when Nathan starts to see the project as an actual art piece and pivots towards creating an actual stage play…of people just hanging out in a bar. “Smokers Allowed” is a rare look at Nathan’s artistic side and another classic example of his egotistical one.
8 Andy vs. Uber (9.1)
In the Season 2 episode, “Taxi Service; Hot Dog Stand,” Nathan helps drive up business for a taxi company by convincing them to give free rides to pregnant women. As luck would have it, Uber would capitalize on the idea and also promote pregnant riders via an Uber branded onesie. With the taxi industry already struggling as is, Nathan helps launch an all-out war between taxi drivers and the Uber corporation.
That is no exaggeration. Nathan Fielder’s plan is to threaten Uber with a secret, sleeper cell group meant to sabotage the rideshare service. For anyone, especially a Canadian immigrant, this would be quite the legal bind. Fortunately for him (and one unsuspecting cab driver), he manages to get his green card. While this episode did show an oddly genuine look at the affected workers of a dying industry, it also shows Nathan Fielder going way too far to help them.
7 Gas Station/Caricature Artist (9.2)
In an effort to bring in new customers to a lowly gas pump service, Nathan advertises that the establishment would be giving away cheap gas. The catch, however, would be that they would have to claim a rebate…at the top of a mountain…after answering a long line of riddles. In “Caricature Artist,” Nathan is at the service of a beachside, cartoonist. To help him find new customers, Nathan turns to the one thing that many artists turn to during a rut: Shock Value. When Nathan has him draw offensive caricatures of all of his patrons, things go a little better than expected, and he learns a little bit more about people’s dark sides.
There’s not exactly a thematic correlation between these episodes but overall this is a great recommendation for those interested in the show’s exploration of darker comedy.
6 The Anecdote (9.2)
While Nathan for You likes to keep its content straight, for the most part, it does acknowledge every now and then that they’re more comedy than documentary series. Surprisingly, this doesn’t stop the tone in any way. In “The Anecdote,” Comedy Central schedules Nathan for a promotional appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! This forces Nathan to confront his inherent, social awkwardness but doesn’t stop his natural ambition.
After studying the trends of several talk show guests, Nathan constructs what he believes to be the ultimate anecdote for Kimmel’s show, jampacked with a wedding experience, a bump with the police, and a hilarious twist. This episode both shows Nathan’s surprising level of detail when it comes to his social consciousness and his best stride yet at achieving unnecessary realism.
5 Souvenir Shop; ELAIFF (9.4)
While having a solid business plan can help any profession, rarely anything can compete against the raw drawing power of a celebrity appearance. By faking a film shoot with a Johnny Depp lookalike, Nathan uses just that to help a souvenir shop. When a crowd collects outside the shop to get a look at “Johnny Depp,” Nathan brings some of them into the store as “extras” playing customers.
Unbeknownst to them, Nathan actually charges them. For obvious reasons, this sparks another legal battle for the business professional (he gets into quite a few) and encourages him to not only film an entire movie but also start his own film festival. Here, Nathan shows his Kubrickian side in all of the worst ways. Instead of actually making a good movie, he goes to great lengths to justify a cheap one in an effort to scam people.
4 Electronics Store (9.4)
Entering the competitive world of electronics, Nathan’s focus in this episode is to help a small, electronics store compete against a newly built Best Buy. The plan is simple: Abuse Best Buy’s price match program to buy out their TVs. This meant that the electronics store had to sell $1 televisions of their own so as to buy Best Buy’s TV cheaply.
As an insurance policy, however, Nathan derives a variety of convoluted tasks for customers to do before they can even reach the TVs. As amusing as this is, this obstacle course doesn’t scratch the surface of Nathan’s issues when he finds himself in the middle of a legal battle with Best Buy. In both his attempt at cheating people as well as prepping false witnesses for his legal battle, this episode has Nathan at his sleaziest while still being incredibly awkward about it.
3 The Hero (9.4)
Nathan Fielder doesn’t just care about helping small businesses. Behind the suit is a confident, sophisticated altruist just looking to help his community. When he comes across Corey Calderwood, an arcade worker looking to improve his life, he uses that exact expertise to help him. And what better way to find self-improvement than in a massive, media stunt?
To portray Corey as a local hero, Nathan schedules a huge charity event that would have him walk across a tight wire between two buildings. However, in Corey’s best interest, he isn’t actually the one to walk the wire. Nathan himself volunteers but only after disguising himself as Corey, assuming his life and getting him a girlfriend. This is one of Nathan’s most involved stunts that becomes so elaborate that he starts questioning who he is and who he’s doing all this work for.
2 Dumb Starbucks (9.5)
In “Dumb Starbucks,” Nathan helps a local coffee shop compete against the famous coffee chain by stealing its name and logo. By parodying the property as “Dumb Starbucks” and replicating all of their products as “Dumb,” Nathan believed that he could skirt copyright law and drive up business.
While the legitimacy of the copyright issue was a little muddy, Nathan’s jab at the coffee giant did legitimately spark the biggest media buzz the series and any of its businesses have ever seen. This show is mostly jokes, but few other episodes have had people connecting with it on such a deep level.
1 Finding Frances (9.6)
After interviewing his Bill Gates impersonator from the Souvenir Shop episode, Nathan learns of the impersonator’s passing, youthful romance. Entranced, Nathan starts an entire, cross-country journey to help “Bill Gates” (real name, Bill Heath) find his lost love. This journey has Nathan stage yet another film, learn some dark secrets about Bill, stage another performance to help Bill cope with his relationship issues, and begin a new romance as he learns more about the escort industry.
This episode is a fun exploration of Billy Heath’s quirky history and an oddly cathartic, emotional journey for Nathan himself, making this episode a distinct and surprisingly fitting season finale for the series.
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