The Business of Comedy

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Nathan Fielder ups the ante in his new show. 

For the uninitiated, Nathan For You is a show on Comedy Central in which Nathan Fielder, the show’s star, attempts to help small businesses with bizarre business strategies and ideas. These concepts range from one episode where a Burger Shack guaranteed that its burger would be “the best the customer had ever eaten or money back,” to the opening up of a “Dumb Starbucks,” which sold everything Starbucks sells, but with the word “dumb” in front of it. Nathan’s ideas have had varying degrees of success and insanity built into them. Early in the first episode of the third season, however, it became apparent that Nathan was taking this season to another level.

The show kicked off with Nathan attempting to help an electronics store owner compete against the Best Buy that had been taking all of his business by turning Best Buy’s price match policy against it. The plan was to sell TVs at the electronics store for next to nothing, and then force Best Buy to match that price through that guarantee. Then, the owner would buy up Best Buy’s entire inventory and sell the TVs at whatever price he desired without competition. However, Nathan had to be sure to no one would take advantage of the electronics store prices in the process, and it was in this plan to resist any customer inquisition that the madness of Nathan became apparent. After instituting a black tie dress code for the store, creating a fake wall behind which to put the TVs, and making the door for that wall two feet tall, Nathan, for his last line of defense, put an alligator between the customer and the TVs.

It seems that this season, rather than simply trying to help these businesses with “out of the box” ideas, Nathan has resorted to seeing how much he can get away with. He wants to see how ridiculous of an idea he can give to the business owner without it being met with laughter. This trend from the helpful to the absurd has gradually progressed since the first episode. Nathan’s plans have increasingly become more intricate and have required more interference on his part to achieve success. For example, his first ever idea was for a frozen yogurt shop to sell a poo-flavored yogurt in order to attract attention. In this instance, the yogurt shop only needed to either accept or reject the idea and see if it would work. Contrast that with this more absurd idea in a later episode when Nathan tries to trick customers into buying from a gift shop by telling them its part of a movie. He then actually turns store footage into a movie when he finds out that his plan was completely illegal. To top it off, he then creates his own awards show and gives his movie top prize to prove that it was a legitimate film. Something like that can only be done once, and as soon as Nathan leaves, the business is no better shape than when he first rolled into town.

The absurdity has always been the best part of the show though, and it seems that Nathan has realized that he’ll get farther along with his bread and butter. Creating insane scenarios, and taking them as far as he can makes for a better show and ensures that the trajectory of any episode take a path no one would be able to predict. It enables him to reach new levels of awkward and new heights of ridiculousness (even higher than when he put the mailbox for a mail-in rebate at the top of a mountain). Of any show on television, his might be the one least encapsulated by a synopsis. It’s one thing to read about absurdity, but it’s a completely different thing to see it unfold, and cringe as the people involved get roped into his mess. Nathan has turned his show into must see TV, and has made it so that we can’t help but get roped into his mess, too.

 

Devon Higham ’17 ([email protected]) hopes to actually have time to watch TV again when the semester ends