Comedy Central's 'Nathan For You' is back with more marketing tips that go hilariously awry
At its core, Nathan For You is aimed at helping small businesses with unusual marketing ploys. But the Comedy Central series goes quickly — and hilariously — off the rails.
Take Thursday's fourth-season premiere (10 ET/PT), arriving after a nearly two-year break: Nathan Fielder, 34, decides to help the owner of a California diner drum up more customers in a scheme that involves a fake tip, a celebrity impersonator, a made-up newspaper, a legal name change, an armed robber and handcuffs.
Next week, the Canadian comedian takes on Uber, after he accuses the ride-sharing giant of ripping off one of his Season 2 marketing gimmicks, in a plot that even one of its participants says goes "too far."
But it all goes down easier with Fielder, who admits he's much like the character you see on TV: Unassuming, socially awkward, and with a penchant for guilt-tripping folks into going along with his ever-more-outlandish requests, delivered with a sheepish grin.
"I'm not the person who, if you talk to at a party, will make you feel the most comfortable," he says. "A lot of what you see is me. ... I guess it’s a big part of the show. They probably are willing to go along with things because they don’t want to hurt my feelings in some way."
Nathan is best known for viral moments. In 2013, a video of a pig "rescuing" a baby goat whose foot was "stuck" in a trout pond hit morning news shows — until it was revealed as an elaborately choreographed stunt. Last season, Fielder created an elaborate mock Starbucks store, adding "Dumb" to its title to cloak it in fair-use parody law, before getting shut down by the health department. And in one elaborate segment that took eight months to film, he helped a moving company find free labor when he positioned furniture lifting as an exercise regimen called "The Movement," complete with a book that became a hit on Amazon.
But Fielder insists virality is not a goal, adding that half of his ideas "are completely shut down by lawyers" before production even begins. The rest take unexpected turns (including this season's finale, which will air over two hours, four times the show's usual length) by treading into new territory.
"It’s a very inefficient show to make," he says. "The show is designed with the hope that things will happen that are more unique and special than anything we expected, and we’re prepared to abandon the plan and go in another direction. The unexpected moments are the most honest, usually,"
Because moments in the show veer toward the surreal, he says Comedy Central suggested a title card reminding viewers that real people, not actors, participate. But he declined, believing it would seem "prank-y."
"The biggest thing we’ve tried to avoid is for the show to feel like normal reality shows, which are really formulaic and repetitive. We don’t want to be that kind of show." (It isn't.)
"I always like people not being able to anticipate what we do," he says, hoping the secret finale "will feel incredibly satisfying to viewers who’ve followed the show, yet something you could never have seen coming."