Talking To Nathan Fielder About His New Consulting Comedy ‘Nathan For You’, And How To Improve Splitsider
Everything can grow and evolve, and that couldn’t be more evident in the career trajectory of Nathan Fielder. In just four short years, he’s gone from performing in the syrupy wilderness of Canada on comedy series This Hour Has 22 Minutes to being a writer and standout performer on Comedy Central shows like Jon Benjamin Has A Van and Important Things with Demetri Martin. This year, his unique brand of bitterly dry humor steps out on its own with Nathan For You, a new Comedy Central series where Fielder consults businesses on how to do everything better.
We talked with Nathan all about his 8-episode run of consulting gigs all around the country, and the brilliant disasters that will occur over the first season. And just for good measure, we asked him to give us some tips on how Splitsider, like Nathan Fielder, can grow and evolve. That’s where things got awkward.
Your new show, Nathan For You, stars yourself as a consultant. Where did you get the expertise?
I did my undergraduate at a Canadian business school. So I have a Bachelor of Commerce degree. So that’s my entire business background. I got OK grades. They were pretty good.
Do you think you were successful in consulting these businesses?
Well, I go to them with very out-of-the-box ideas. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know. I hope.
In the pilot episode, you introduced poo-flavored yogurt. I wanted to know what you thought of the taste.
Well, it didn’t taste good. I mean, the smell wasn’t actually that bad unless you got really up close. It wasn’t as bad as the real stuff. But the taste, when it first hits your tongue, it’s not that terrible. But then like a split-second later, all of these disgusting flavors just kinda burst in your mouth. I’m not really good at describing things, but it’s not something you would want to eat a lot of. I don’t even think it’s enjoyable as a bad food, even though I’m sure it’s not as bad as the real thing.
Then I have to ask: why introduce the flavor?
Because the benefit of the business is not about the flavor tasting good. The benefit is that they have a flavor that is controversial, and that you can’t get anywhere else. So it would bring people into the place, and they’d try it as a novelty, and then hopefully they’d just buy another flavor. But the goal is to get people in the store. And in that way, I think it’s a successful idea.
You’ve written for other Comedy Central series before, including Important Things With Demetri Martin and Jon Benjamin Has A Van. What did you take from those experiences as a writer?
Working for Demetri and Jon, I learned a lot. Writing for other people, you have to learn to communicate something that’s funny on paper so that other people find it funny. My background is, I usually write and direct and make stuff for myself. So when I’m writing for myself, the only person who has to find the script funny is me. Writing for other people, they have to find it funny.
Was that tough?
Well, it’s always nerve wracking. When you’re writing for someone else, you want them to like your stuff. But it was a good learning experience for me, and I liked working with both of them. They were really different shows: with Jon Benjamin Has A Van, it was more coming up with stories, and with Important Things, it was more sketch-related. It was fun, I like writing for other people. Let me know if my answers suck, I’m new to this interviewing thing.
So working on Nathan For You, how staged were the consulting experiences? Were you heavily scripting your scenes or just winging it?
Before we go in, I have a plan of what I’m going to say, and I have a plan for where we wanna go with it. But because we’re dealing with real businesses and real people, it often goes in an unpredictable direction. Which is really fun, but things can go wrong very easily. We definitely don’t prep anyone to what’s going to happen. We just go in and see what happens and hit the tone right.
What do you hope viewers gain from watching you consult on the show?
I think people can learn to think more creatively, and see that ideas that sound crazy can actually work. But as the season progresses, we do a lot of stuff that is for the audience, and inspire the viewers at home. Like, one time in the season, I overcome a personal fear of mine in order to inspire the viewers. I also do an escape this season. You should get excited for that.
We have intel from Comedy Central that something really controversial happens in the show’s second episode.
I don’t know about controversial, but there’s definitely a big surprise in the second episode, so people should tune-in to watch that. The result of one of the ideas I have goes a bit beyond the scope of the show. I’m not allowed to talk about it.
As a parting gift, we asked you to give Splitsider some tips on how to become a better site.
Yeah. You guys asked me to take a look at Splitsider, and the first thing that jumps out to me, about the site, I guess… it’s a comedy site, right?
Well, the first thing that jumps out to me is that for a comedy site, the articles aren’t very funny. It’s more like I’m reading about comedy than actually laughing. So…
Well, that’s really the point of the site. The tagline reads “inside jokes”, and that’s kind of funny, because it has a double meaning.
Your tagline is “inside jokes?”
It should be, like, “no jokes.” Because there are no jokes on your website. Splitsider: No Jokes. I don’t know what your approach is, but I’m just saying that when I read the website, I didn’t laugh. The articles were good, and I liked reading about things. But I didn’t laugh.
So how do you think we can improve our reader experience?
I guess you should just make it clear to the reader that if you read this site, you won’t be laughing at all. So, maybe upfront, just write “don’t expect to laugh while reading this.” Like, I read this: “Jennifer Aniston has joined the cast of a new comedy called She’s Funny That Way from veteran director Peter Bogdanovich.” The only thing I laughed at was the name Bogdanovich. Did you guys make that up or is that a real name?
That’s a real name.
Then yeah. No jokes.
Nathan For You premieres Thursday at 10:30pm EST on Comedy Central.
Terron R. Moore is a writer in New York, NY. You’ve previously seen him at VIBE, Bullett, and Ology, among others. Follow him on Twitter, he’s a real funslinger.