Every so often, a young comedian will rise up and challenge the traditional format of comedy. Performers like Andy Kaufman, Demetri Martin, Mitch Hedberg and Bo Burnham have become immortalized for their creative and off-kilter approaches to the craft. But perhaps nobody fits the bill better than Nathan Fielder, the Canadian comedian best known for turning reality TV on its head.
While most comedians showcase their jokes in a stand-up format, Nathan Fielder has deviated from the norm by presenting his humor through a mockumentary-style TV series. The series, “Nathan For You,” follows the comedian as he goes from small business to small business, proposing outlandish ideas to each of their owners.
The owner doesn’t realize Fielder is filming a comedy show, nor do they know he’s playing an awkward caricature of himself. Rather, the owner is under the impression that both the documentary and Fielder’s mannerisms are completely genuine, resulting in hilariously authentic interactions between the two.
“Nathan For You” aired on Comedy Central for four seasons before Fielder decided to move on from the project. The world hasn’t been quite the same without his quick-witted humor, which is why everyone should be excited about Fielder’s deal with HBO: In mid-August, Fielder signed a one-year deal with HBO, under which he will serve as the executive producer on the upcoming docu-series, “How To… With John Wilson.”
Furthermore, the deal grants Fielder a comedy pilot to an untitled show, in which he will direct, write and star. If the show turns out anything like Fielder’s past projects, HBO subscribers are in for a treat.
The news about Nathan Fielder’s newest deal is cause for celebration, and what better way to celebrate than by reminiscing over the comedian’s greatest moments of all time? While Nathan Fielder’s fame stretches far beyond “Nathan For You,” including roles on shows like “Rick and Morty,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “Jon Benjamin Has a Van,” his most ambitious and monumental achievements occurred on his own hit series. The following moments are only a fraction of what Fielder has accomplished thus far in his still-flourishing career:
1. Creating a fake dating show to confront his deepest insecurities
It’s never easy to admit your own insecurities, especially with a camera crew recording everything for posterity. But Fielder does exactly that in one of his series’s episodes, revealing his struggles to interact with the opposite sex. After multiple attempts to interact fail, Fielder realizes that his best icebreaker is actually his camera crew.
Ultimately, this leads Fielder to staging a fake reality dating show, called “The Hunk,” in a rented-out mansion full of young women, handpicked by the comedian himself. Fielder even hires a host to make the event feel legitimate.
Is Fielder actually getting over his fear of women? Of course not. Remember, it’s all just a character he plays, and he’s using his fake insecurities to conceal his satirical intentions. Through his incredibly awkward interactions with the various women, it becomes evident how vapid and self-centered they all are.
Fielder is the king of cringe comedy, and he uses that innate ability to highlight people’s true intentions, which is exactly what makes his intricate ideas so successful and hilarious.
2. The time he used parody law to challenge a major corporation
Considering how far Fielder is willing to go for a punchline, it shouldn’t be surprising that many of his plots have received an outrageous amount of media attention. Take, for example, his plot to help the owner of a struggling coffee shop. The owner tells Fielder that he can’t compete with coffeehouse giants like Starbucks, which in turn inspires one of Nathan’s greatest ideas ever: Dumb Starbucks.
Under the Fair Use Doctrine, otherwise known as “parody law,” Nathan is able to utilize the Starbucks copyright without acquiring permission from the company, as long as it serves a comedic purpose. By putting “Dumb” in front of the Starbucks sign and logo, Fielder takes advantage of a massive loophole and starts his own coffee shop under the satirical name. He even designs the inside to be aesthetically identical to the actual chain in every possible way.
Dumb Starbucks received a ton of attention, as both curious news teams and intrigued bystanders flocked to the shop to buy their “Dumb Lattes” and “Dumb Cappuccinos.” Some members of the crowd even began to speculate that Banksy was the one behind the mysterious shop, completely unaware that the true mastermind was really a quirky and humble comedian.
Though health inspectors were forced to pull the plug on the social experiment after just a few days, Fielder’s legacy will live on forever through the many viral news clips that Dumb Starbucks generated.
3. Crafting a hit song around a smoke detector
Nathan Fielder’s best stunts show how dedicated he is to his craft and how far he is willing to go to exploit a loophole. In Season 4 of “Nathan For You,” Fielder approaches Byrnes Logistics, a shipping logistics company responsible for exporting products, including smoke detectors, all across the world.
He decides to take advantage of the fact that musical instruments ship duty-free, advising the company to ship their client’s smoke detectors as musical instruments.
Once again, Fielder goes all out to make his idea a reality. He redesigns the smoke detector packaging, rebrands it as an instrument and even records an instructional DVD that he plans to include in each box — you know, so people can learn to play the smoke detector.
But that’s only the beginning: To ensure the product can be taken seriously in a court setting, Fielder attempts to further legitimize his smoke detector instruments by forming a popular band.
After an entertaining series of auditions, Fielder finally forms his band — The Banzai Predicament. The band records a pretty catchy song, but, unfortunately, the obnoxious sound of the occasional smoke detector keeps it from getting any airtime.
Does this stop Nathan? Of course not. In a series of convoluted steps, Nathan essentially frames the gas company Shell Global for stealing The Banzai Predicament’s only song, which incites the band to protest against Shell. The protest, completely funded by Comedy Central, involves the band playing on the back of a semi-truck while they hand out free gas in front of a major Shell gas station.
Needless to say, the ridiculous stunt gets tons of media coverage, which is exactly what Fielder wants. In his mind, this viral demonstration of the smoke detector’s musical potential is more than enough to qualify it as an instrument. Fielder suddenly feels comfortable sending a small shipment of smoke detectors overseas and is soon pleased to find that they arrive tax and duty-free.
Will the loophole continue to work with larger shipment sizes? Probably not, but Nathan doesn’t dwell on that. He takes pride in his scheme, successfully highlighting yet another loophole and crafting it into something equally impressive and entertaining.
Though virtually every part of Nathan Fielder’s upcoming HBO series still remains a complete mystery, his new network is sure to give the comedian more freedom than he’s ever had before. It might not be the same zany format as “Nathan For You,” but Fielder will surely bring the same iconic wit and charisma to HBO.