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. With the series’ recent arrival to HBO Max, it’s time for new fans to check out and old fans to revisit some of the series most acclaimed episodes (according to IMDb).
10 The Movement (9.0)
“The Movement” is a great 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.
9 Smokers Allowed (9.1)
Fans already know that Nathan Fielder is a smart, business professional within 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 “Smoking 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 artistic piece and pivots towards creating an actual stage play…of people just hanging out in a bar.
8 Andy vs. Uber (9.1)
In the Season 2 episode, “Taxi Service; Hot Dog Stand,” Nathan helps drive up the 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.
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. Unfortunately for Nathan, some people really wanted that rebate.
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. To help give the local artist a selling point, Nathan has him draw offensive caricatures of all of his patrons. Things go a little better than expected, and Nathan learns a little bit more about people’s dark sides.
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 at 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. And, in grand Nathan fashion, he stages everything in real life to make sure that his story is real.
5 Electronics Store (9.3)
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.
4 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.
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 the best interest of Corey, 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. Who’s the real hero here?
2 Dumb Starbucks (9.5)
In “Dumb Starbucks,” Nathan helps a local coffee shop compete against the coffee chain by stealing their 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 thing 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.
1 Finding Frances (9.6)
In another classic break from the regular formula and one of the most distinct season finales in recent memory, Nathan Fielder attempts to help one of his old partners find love. In the Souvenir Shop episode, Nathan enlisted the help of a Bill Gates lookalike, someone that he’d invite over for a podcast interview.
It’s there that he 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.
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