Comedy Central’s new show, Nathan For You, has almost totally flown under our cultural radar. It received few reviews, and no review from a popular outlet. This is a mistake not only because the show is consistently funny and intelligent, but because it features a type of comedy rare these days: a sort of absurdist, incoherent, and mundane humor that actually works. In a sense, I'd describe this as pure comedy with no ulterior or secondary motives besides getting a laugh. Humor, even if we like to think otherwise, most often works within an ulterior purpose or function. Some find humor insightful, others wise, cathartic or satirical, and others see humor as highlighting unspoken aspects of life. (Even the show about nothing, Seinfeld, doubled as perceptive and brilliant depictions of people.) Nathan For You is just funny, bafflingly so, and accomplishes nothing else. This is a good thing.
The sketches might follow a similar pattern, i.e. helping a small business with a dismal business proposal (poo-flavored frozen yogurt…), but even then, Fielder breaks that pattern as often as he uses it. His conceit of satirizing small business in America is both illuminating yet obvious. He highlights some of the absurdities of small businesses, the delusions of money and fame, but it never reaches the point of social commentary. The structure of the show invites some thought, but the thought is never rewarded with analysis. Moreover, as a viewer, I always find myself laughing, but laughing in a confused manner. Watching the show, and rewatching the sketches, I still don’t fully know how to classify this type of humor. Fielder could be compared to Borat and Tom Green, but importantly differs from both. His targets are often middle class or lower middle class workers, not the best target for any sort of satire, and in each sketch it remains uncertain if these jokes are being made at someone’s expense, and if so, whose. Sometimes this atonal quality emerges from the natural flow of the sketches themselves, and sometimes, Fielder will bombard a sketch with so many different tonal elements (sincerity, cynicism, satire, slapstick) as to purposely confuse the viewer. READ MORE