The first season of Comedy Central’s Nathan for You is on the short list of funniest things I can ever remember seeing. Just ticking off the names of some of the sketches makes me start laughing again: The Claw of Shame, Caricature Artist, Librarian’s Quest, etc. If you’ve seen the show you know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t seen the show, I have excellent news for you: Every episode from Season 1 is available on Comedy Central’s website as part of the lead-up to Season 2’s July 1 premiere. Go. Enjoy.
I bring this up now for a couple reasons. First of all, because I will take any excuse at all to talk about how much I loved the show. Second, and slightly more relevant, because the show’s star, Nathan Fielder, got the big ol’ #longread treatment in a New York Times Magazine profile released this morning. In it he talks about everything from his work on the show, to his social media “experiments,” to his infamous Dumb Starbucks firestorm, to his love of both of magic and letting things get awkward as hell. You should go read the whole thing. Here are a few highlights.
On Dumb Starbucks, and how much he enjoyed toying with people who thought he was championing their cause:
“People had responded to it as an anticorporate thing, and when I did that news conference, I think they were disappointed,” he said. “Because I was like, ‘No, this was just purely to make money.’ Which is a totally corporate mentality: We found a loophole to make more money. That made it so much more funny.”
On turning down more money and bigger buzz to make the show he wants:
Tacked to corkboard above Fielder’s desk there was an array of index cards that he was using to map out the order of his show’s coming season. In a vote of confidence, the network ordered 10 episodes, but Fielder, who directs, co-writes and stars in the show, asked them to reduce the number to a more manageable eight. “Maybe that was stupid, because I get paid per episode,” Fielder said. “But it takes a long time to make the show, and I just want to execute it well.” He said that the network’s marketing department suggested leading off with the Dumb Starbucks episode, capitalizing on the buzz the cafe had generated. But Fielder, worried about overdoing it, was resistant. “My focus is on creating an enjoyable season,” he said, “and I think a lot less about what would serve ratings.”
Here’s a quote from some no-name Canadian loser he used to know, idk Seth or whatever:
In 10th grade, at Point Grey Secondary School, he joined a student improv-comedy troupe, the luminary of which was a burly older kid named Seth Rogen. “He had this deadpan, dry delivery; he was very precise,” Rogen told me, recalling Fielder’s performing style. “He wouldn’t say anything, then he’d come in at the end with a line that killed — a joke that changed the whole scene or escalated it.”
And finally, on letting things get awkward and using silence to find the real treasure:
Fielder gradually honed his awkwardness as a comedic weapon. “I embraced that weird part of me,” he said. “Like, right now, I don’t want there to be awkwardness between us, and I want you to be comfortable, but it takes effort for me to do that. In the show, I’ll just let uncomfortable moments happen.” […]
“Usually if someone gives you a social cue that he feels uncomfortable with something you’ve said, you’ll jump in with a caveat and move on. Everyone’s default state is this pleasantry state. My goal in the show is to undercut that as quickly as possible. If you really do let it sit, it’s sometimes amazing what comes out of people.”
Again, the whole thing is a really great read, and you should check it out. And then you should watch or rewatch Season 1. If Season 2 is as good as it sounds, it’s gonna be a fun, weird summer.