In the docu-reality comedy Nathan for You, Nathan Fielder (Important Things with Demetri) uses his business degree and life experiences to help struggling companies with strategies that no traditional business consultant would dare to attempt. From getting buzz for a yogurt shop by introducing a controversial flavor, to helping a taxi company reinvent the cab ride, or finding a legal way for a gas station to charge $1.75 per gallon and still make money, Nathan goes as far as it takes to make his ideas come to life. But because of his unorthodox approach, Nathan's sincere efforts to do good often draw real people into an experience far beyond what they signed up for.
Nathan for You premieres tonight with Yogurt Shop/Pizzeria, Thursday, February 28 at 10:30/9:30c, following the premiere of The Ben Show. To celebrate, we caught up with the man himself to see if he could help us better sell our brand of interviews.
As you'll see, he's not that willing to help. Here is our conversation with the great Nathan Fielder.
What do you suggest we do to change up this interview? How do we get more eyes on it? What can we do differently?
Nathan Fielder: What do I suggest? Aren't you an interviewer? This is your job!
I thought the point of this show was to take a business, and give them an idea to get more costumers in the door. I thought this would be an obvious question. I thought this was your angle...
Nathan Fielder: No one has asked me how to do a better interview. The important thing is to be polite. If you want your interview to be controversial, and spread around, I'd use some racial slurs in there. It won't help your career, but people will pass it around.
I wasn't too worried about my career. I was just trying to play off the concept of the show.
Nathan Fielder: Um...I definitely gave you a hook. I don't know if it's sustainable though. People will be all, "What is TVweb doing?"
Now, am I supposed to provoke you into saying something racially charged? Or am I supposed to throw out some racial epitaphs during my questions?
Nathan Fielder: I don't know. I apologize, cause I'm not an expert on interviews.
I didn't know you needed to be an expert on anything. I thought your goal was to take something, and make it better. Give it a special little boost. Am I totally wrong on the concept of your show? Do I have the wrong show, here?
Nathan Fielder: That is the concept of the show. I guess...Let me go to TVweb.com...How long have you been working there?
Nathan Fielder: You were around at the start of the Internet...
TVweb is new. We used to just be Movieweb, which had a TV section. Now, TVweb is its own thing.
Nathan Fielder: For an Internet company, you guys have been around for quite a long time. I see, cool. I'm looking at it now. It's a Beta site. It looks good. Great...Well, my first advice is to get a better interview. You really started off on the wrong foot getting an interview with someone no one knows. Or cares about. (Laughs) I would go for a bigger star than me.
That's not good advice. And you're totally wrong. If this show is a hit, people are going to come looking for more information. All those sites that passed on you won't have the interview, thus they will all have to come to me.
Nathan Fielder: Sure. That is one way to see it. I guess you could go around getting autographs from everyone on the street as well.
(Laughs) I don't want to go that far. Autographs aren't even worth that much nowadays.
Nathan Fielder: Its nice of you to think the show might become a hit. Then the Interview might get read. Yeah.
Let's hope! Now, how did this whole show come about? This is really way off the mark from anything we've ever seen in reality television. It's a completely unique take on what a docu-series can be.
Nathan Fielder: I worked with Comedy Central on some other projects. I worked on a couple other shows for them. I had this idea, and we pitched it. They bought the pilot. I'm from Canada. I did a similar type of thing in Canada. Not this exact type of thing, but I had a segment on a show called This Hour Has 22 Minutes. It was there that I did a different type of...I don't know how to describe them. They were in the same tone, with experts, or just people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the show was shot...I did funny interviews out there, and this became an expansion of that idea. Sorry, I'm not that articulated about this.
How did you get hooked up with the businesses we see in each episode? Did they know you? Did you seek them out? Was there an open casting call?
Nathan Fielder: Since it's a new show, and no one knows it, we would seek out businesses in the certain categories that we needed. So we would have an idea about a certain type of thing, a certain type of business, and then we would try to find one that would be willing to try an out of the box idea. Someone that wanted to be filmed doing it.
How much resistance did some of these people show when first hearing your ideas? Did they say, 'No!' To anything, or was it a take it or leave it scenario, where they had to go along with some of these crazy promotions you were offering them? I haven't even seen a full episode of the show yet. I just saw one of the clips...
Nathan Fielder: Basically, I will go to them with an idea. We try to do ideas on the show that haven't been done before. So we're certainly not giving them the notion that all of these ideas will work. We try to do stuff that will hopefully work in some capacity. We hope, but we're bringing ideas that have never been done. So I will sit down with them and I will pitch an idea that I have. A lot of the time, you can see, in their faces, that they might not want to do it, or that they think it's a bad idea, but they will do it...Maybe because they don't want to hurt my feelings. That happens sometimes.
So far, you seem like a nice enough guy. Are you so nice that people don't want to tell you no, because they are worried for your emotional state. Is that what you are telling me?
Nathan Fielder: I'm not super sensitive...But, people...I don't know...I don't want to be around people that want to hurt my feelings...So, just like most people, I'm sure...So, you know...I'll take it if someone gives it to me. If someone wants too...
Here, though, you ride a tough line of them not wanting to hurt your feelings, while at the same time not wanting to hurt their business...
Nathan Fielder: Yeah. I think it's enjoyable to see that dilemma in every business owner's face, where they are putting their own business on the line for the sake of not hurting my feelings. (Laughs) That is a funny dilemma to be in.
Have you shot the entire season already?
Nathan Fielder: Yes, we did 8 episodes.
Is there something that doesn't work out for the company? Do any of the ideas go horribly wrong? Or, do they not work out for you?
Nathan Fielder: What parts of the show have you seen?
I only got to see the stuff that was online. The yogurt clip. There aren't too many available yet. I'll have to wait and watch it on Thursday with everyone else.
Nathan Fielder: If you've seen the yogurt clip, that is a good example of the things we do. Sometimes it is sillier than others. Your question was?
Did any of these ideas ever blow up in your face? Did any of these things not work out, or go so horribly that it was a disastrous process?
Nathan Fielder: Most of the ideas in the show are not super sustainable. We always encounter complications with the ideas. Even though this is a documentary format, we try to plan out what is going to happen. But there are always things that happen that we don't expect. And we have to roll with the punches. Some of the fun comes from getting in a situation where I have no clue how this is going to turn out. (Laughs)
Have you come up with an idea that you felt was a little too brilliant to give away? That it was something you should be holding onto for yourself?
Nathan Fielder: What was your sense from watching that yogurt clip?
That it was really funny (laughs)!
Nathan Fielder: yeah. I guess we get...I mean, I don't know...They don't have the poo yogurt there any more. If they did keep it, they could get known for that. I'm sure word of mouth would spread. I think a lot of these people are good, smart small business owners. They're not people who just necessarily are looking to squeeze a dollar out of every corner they can. They are just nice people who want to run a nice business. A lot of these ideas are maybe for the more scheming type. When they are presented with this, I'm not sure it's within their natural personality to keep it going forever. But we never had stuff...We did have stuff that blew up in my face, but it was nothing that ever hurt any of these businesses. Hopefully....
If it blows up in your face, that makes for good TV, I would imagine?
Nathan Fielder: Well....Yeah, I think I try to step in-between any harm that might come to the businesses, and I put myself on the line, instead of them...But, there is definitely a lot of surprises in the show. And a lot of stuff we haven't even talked about yet. It's a lot of fun to come up with an idea that has no real comparison in the real world, and really execute it, and absolutely see what happens, and see how people respond. It is endlessly fascinating to do.
Did you taste the yogurt?
Nathan Fielder: Yes, I did. I tasted it later...
What did you think?
Nathan Fielder: It didn't smell so bad. But it tasted terrible. It was bad. It was really bad.
They have those Every Flavor Beans from Harry Potter. Kids love that stuff. Those stink monster toys were popular when I was a kid. Young boys especially love gross stuff. I would imagine this poo yogurt might actually sell...
Nathan Fielder: Well, thank you. That's what we try to do. Even on Comedy Central and stuff, we always try to make it so that the ideas have...We don't want it to be an idea that would never work for anyone. We want the ideas to actually work. Often times, it requires more from the business owners than they are willing to put in. To associate your business name with such a crazy marketing idea, sometimes, is a difficult choice to make. Yeah, I don't know...I think a lot of the ideas we've come up with are very smart. More of them are on the very dumb end. (Laughs) I do something in the show that goes beyond helping the businesses. I try to inspire the at home viewers. Later in the season, I do an escape for real. I do a couple of other things. You'll have to watch to see those.
I'm definitely going to watch the show. The idea behind it is so appealing...
Nathan Fielder: That is why I kind of struggled when you put me on the spot about coming up with something...To come up with each idea takes a lot of thinking. We have really smart people working on the show, helping me out. It might not seem that way, but we do think a lot about these ideas, and how they will play out. There is actually a joke of a concept, and that can only be taken so far.
Is it a little more intense than sitting down to write out your average sitcom?
Nathan Fielder: The benefit is that we don't have to write a script with everyone's lines. We can come up with an idea, and then decide where we want to go with it. Then we hope it happens. In a way it's easier, but in a way it's harder. You never have control over your environment.
I would think some of those aspects would be a little more challenging. But what do I know?
Nathan Fielder: I can't compare it to what its like to do something like Workaholics, because its not that type of show.