Nathan Fielder's Best Pre-'Nathan for You' Work

"You might be surprised what you learn!"

Nathan Fielder’s quasi-reality TV show Nathan for You returns for its third season on October 15 — conveniently, a couple weeks before Nathan’s hemorrhoid surgery!

Nathan for You is about Fielder’s mission to help improve real small businesses. His suggestions often work as flash-in-the-pan promotions — good for TV, but lacking the longevity to achieve real profit. The show gained steam during the first season when Fielder revealed that he was behind the 2012 viral video “Pig rescues baby goat.” He followed that up in season two with Dumb Starbucks, a performance art parody of the coffee giant, adding “Dumb” to all the items to sell them legally. People were fast to catch on to Dumb Starbucks, forcing Fielder to come clean before the season premiered. He didn’t have the surprise of “Pig rescues baby goat,” but the hype machine worked.

Nathan for You brought Fielder to comedic prominence, seemingly out of nowhere. His pre-Nathan output, however, is a goldmine of dry, deadpan humor and awkward situations.

“Bob and Choice”

Nathan plays “Dead Choked Man” as Bob struggles to decide whether to bury or eat him. Bob quibbles for quite a while with the devil and angel on his shoulders, and then struggles to move Nathan’s limp body once he’s finally decided to eat his lower half and bury his upper half (because it has a soul).

“watch this”

The preview for “watch this” is, as you can see, just a black screen. “You might be surprised what you learn!” Nathan writes, and you will be. He does one million sit-ups, but you know the real reason he’s fighting back? The government. The anti-humor premise is funny to begin with, but Nathan surprises and delights by bringing in totally unrelated subject matter.

‘Top Chef - Season 4 Ep 7 (part 3 of 4)’

Much like watch this, the premise is dry (it’s a Top Chef parody), but it turns out that Tim M put poo in his cake, which Nathan was not happy with. It’s a parody of a parody.

“hiLarious clip from 30 Rock!!”

Again, Nathan takes a standard YouTube trope (the funny clip re-post) and makes it dumber and better. At a bad punchline, Nathan — who never appears in the video — begins laughing uncontrollably.

“Trouble Sleeping”

Nathan appeared briefly on the Canadian sketch comedy show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, hosting his own segments, “Nathan Fielder (On Your Side)” and “Nathan Fielder Reports.” The sketches watch like Nathan for You previews, with Nathan talking to normal people about simple topics, like sleeping. He extends silences and makes his on-camera partners uncomfortable and uncertain about how to respond. It’s awkward, but so is the local news.

Nathan Fielder plays up his own obliviousness, making the viewer and whoever else is on screen feel strange about how earnest he is. His jokes aren’t complex and can be understood at a literal level. Sometimes they’re just about as bad as jokes your dad would make (“But though he is old, the sandwiches are FRESH.”). He’s not even mocking dumb humor. He’s just making it so self-consciously dumb that it becomes funny again. Fielder realizes it’s difficult to make people laugh. It looks really bad when somebody tries to make a joke and comes up short. Instead of participating in the deluge of bad comedy, Fielder stands out by making his worse. He doesn’t force the laughs; he lets them happen.