My first encounter with Nathan Fielder’s distinct brand of humour came late last year, albeit indirectly. I had seen the glowing reviews for the second season of How To with John Wilson and decided to jump on the bandwagon, only to be blown away by the sheer originality of its content and the simplicity of its concept, though it’s impossible to describe the show to anyone and do it justice. Yet I tried, with one friend, based on my description of the show, going so far as to recommend Nathan For You due to their similar styles of humour, unaware at the time that Fielder also serves as a producer on How To with John Wilson, even helping pitch the show to HBO.
For those unfamiliar with Nathan For You, or Nathan Fielder for that matter, he is a comedian, actor and filmmaker from Vancouver (with his Canadian nationality being something he highlights in the show’s opening sequence), and the show centres on him trying to help actual struggling businesses with intentionally outlandish concepts, while Fielder plays a fictionalised version of himself, conveying an awkward yet misguidedly confident personality, which also parodies the Don Draper-esque archetype of a marketing consultant.
It is this shared awkwardness in their personas that make Nathan Fielder and John Wilson kindred spirits of comedy. However, Wilson injects more of a personal angle to his character that occasionally blurs the line between performance and reality, in addition to the fact that he spends the vast majority of the time behind the camera. Fielder, on the other hand, is front and centre in Nathan For You, doubling down on overtly awkward interactions with his subjects to elicit the responses he wants from them. And that’s part of the genius of the show; it’s scripted no more than it needs to be, as the reactions from the business owners he “helps” and the customers he interacts with is at the heart of the show’s appeal. Of course, there would be no reactions without Fielder’s intentionally bad ideas for businesses and the awkward but deceivingly ballsy manner with which he deals with them, and boy is he good at it.
If all this isn’t enough to convince you, Nathan For You is regarded by many as one of the best comedy shows of the 2010s, and is the highest rated Comedy Central show ever on IMDb, a network that has produced the likes of South Park, The Daily Show, Key & Peele, Broad City, and freaking Chappelle’s Show! Not only is it in special company, but for viewers it’s the cream of the crop.