‘Nathan For You’ Season 4 is must-see comedy
Owen Lane | Wednesday, September 27, 2017
“Nathan for You” compels its audience to do two things. For one thing, of course, it makes them laugh. A lot. The sheer conceptual originality of “Nathan for You” separates the show from anything else on cable or streaming services, and this unique take on comedy pays its dividends in laughter. The most accessible show from Abso Lutely Productions, Nathan Fielder’s “reality” TV show renders humor in a way you’ve never quite seen before, but that novelty does not prevent fits of tear-inducing laughter. Remarkably, this show also forces its viewers to ask questions with each strikingly original episode. “Can this possibly be real?” “Do these normal people know they are the butt of a joke?” “Am I terrible for laughing at this?” All of these questions have certainly flickered through my mind during every episode of “Nathan For You.”
Last Thursday, “Nathan For You: A Celebration” aired on Comedy Central. Acting as a sort of prologue to “Nathan For You’s” fourth season (which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m.), the hour-long special revisited some of the lives that host and creator Nathan Fielder has touched throughout the show’s tenure. The special’s host, Anthony Napoli (fans will remember him from “The Hunk” episode), began by describing “Nathan for You” as “ … a modest show, where a young Canadian set out to help struggling small businesses.” The description was a fitting introduction for a show with a premise based around good intentions gone horribly awry. Visiting the dingy home of the slacker turned hero at the end of Season 3, Thursday’s “Celebration” revisited the theme of Fielder’s television personality uncomfortably prodding people’s personal lives under claims of benevolence. You don’t need to look far for the Facebook metaphor.
You can hardly blame a new viewer for doubting this program’s authenticity. After all, the show features a preternaturally awkward host somehow cajoling generally likable folks into enacting hyper-elaborate, impractical and ethically ambiguous business practices. Fielder pitched his bold business tactics across Los Angeles: convincing an anemic frozen yogurt shop to offer a feces flavor to attract customers, challenging a private detective to a sabotaged game of cat and mouse for a perfect Yelp review and rebranding a struggling coffee shop as “Dumb Starbucks” in order to copy the popular chain’s logo and product offerings. The show’s most consistent source of humor is Fielder’s ability to match his ludicrous ideas with a passive-aggressive deadpan. Fielder’s refusal to even smirk when he is proposing his ideas to business owners is undoubtedly crucial to the implementation of his plans.
I propose that “Nathan for You” has no better-suited audience in America than the Notre Dame student body. Consider the fact that a huge portion of Notre Dame students are enrolled in a premier undergraduate business school renowned for its emphasis on values and morals in business. “Nathan for You” satirizes nearly every aspect of businesses, big and small. The almost 2,000 business students at Notre Dame would be all too familiar with some of the insidious marketing and advertising practices that Fielder so deftly parodies in “Nathan for You,” but you do not need to study business to enjoy the grand tribute to LA weirdoes, kitschy small businesses and the show’s gauchely swaggering host.
Although no official remarks have been made about ending the show soon, Fielder appeared on Bill Simmons’ podcast, “The Ringer,” and discussed the time-intensive nature of creating even one episode of “Nathan for You.” After a two-year gap between the show’s third and fourth seasons, it may be difficult for Fielder and his team to continue to create such elaborate television for much longer. It is worth noting that the best two current television comedies, “Nathan for You”and “Rick & Morty,” have become renowned for their lengthy production times. If slightly longer waits are the cost of fine comedic craftsmanship, then I think we should all get accustomed to waiting. For now, just tune in Thursday night. TV comedy this good cannot be ignored.