Series / Nathan for You
"Well, I have an idea but it's...pretty crazy."

Nathan for You is a docu-reality comedy television series starring Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder. Fielder portrays a well-meaning business school graduate who offers to help struggling businesses with his (questionable) marketing ideas. These ideas run the gamut from "flawed" to "overly elaborate and insane." Debuting in early 2013, the show has been critically praised and has gained a cult following. Its fourth season ended on November 9, 2017.

This show provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Unimpressed by the usual ghosts and skeletons, Nathan makes a haunted house scarier by making visitors think they've contracted a deadly disease (complete with tense ambulance ride and hazmat suits).
  • Advertising Disguised as News: In "The Movement", Nathan buys a time-brokered interview on a local daytime talk show in Las Vegas to have the author of the titular book appear for an interview.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Nathan's crippling lack of social skills as well as his tendency to misread situations and monotone voice puts him into this territory.
  • And That's Terrible: In episode 2 of Season 2:
    Nathan: I assume it goes without saying, but in making this show, I ensure that every idea I present to a business I help is completely, one hundred percent legal. However, in the weeks since helping L.A. Fame, I discovered that certain elements of my marketing plan may have actually constituted fraud. And that's not good.
    • Also in episode 2 of season 3:
    Nathan: I recently discovered that by wearing one of my signature articles of clothing, I may have unintentionally committed a hate crime against the Jewish people. And that's not good. Explanation 
  • As Himself: Nathan Fielder, business school graduate, plays Nathan Fielder, business school graduate. Of course, Real Life Nathan is aware that his ideas are ridiculous, while Show Nathan believes in them 100%.
  • The Atoner: Nathan becomes this after "Dumb Starbucks", realizing all of the people he stepped on to gain his power. At the end of the episode, he vows to redeem himself by stopping other people from becoming like him. In the Pink's Hot Dogs episode, he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when he encounters one such person.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Nathan is absolutely terrible in his kissing scene.
  • Bad Impressionists:
    • One of the interviewees from the funeral home segment. "I am Sean Connery. I want a massage."
    • The Bill Gates lookalike. For a guy who is paid to pretend to be Bill Gates, he sure can't pretend to know anything about computers (though in "Finding Frances" we learn that he lied to Nathan about being a professional Gates impersonator, with the implication that he'd only claimed to be one to get on TV).
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Nathan is always meek and mild mannered, but he is also extremely manipulative and emotionally detached from others, which can cause him to do insensitive or even heinous things to people without batting an eyelash.
  • Blatant Lies: "My name is Nathan Fielder, and I graduated from one of Canada's top business schools with really good grades." The grades shown onscreen are just average, and while the University of Victoria has an excellent reputation overall, it's nowhere near the top when it comes to Canadian business schools.
  • Bleached Underpants: Brian Wolfe, the private investigator who insulted Nathan in the first two seasons, returned for season 3's "The Movement". In an awkward bit of small talk, Wolfe admitted that he'd posed in a nude photoshoot for Penthouse when he was younger, but that it didn't constitute pornography since there was no penetration involved between him and the female model, insisting that it was actually "adult entertainment modeling". In the Nathan for You: A Celebration special at the start of season 4, Nathan discovered that Wolfe actually had a prolific nude modeling career in The '80s and confronted him over it.
    • A subtle — and nicely passive-aggressive — Call-Back to this occurs a few episodes later, when a caption reading "Adult Entertainment Models" appears below two porn actors hired to have unsimulated (albeit censored) sex in a hotel room.
  • Brick Joke: In the episode about the gas station, one of the people Nathan meets is a proponent of alternative medicine who believes that drinking urine is beneficial. The conversation is mildly amusing, but given that the hikers are established to be weirdos with too much free time, it isn't that surprising. At the end of the episode, Nathan casually brings it up with the gas station owner, presumably expecting a funny, disgusted reaction. But to his (and the audience's) complete bewilderment, the owner has a very different response. (Note that Nathan very briefly breaks character at around 1:31.)
  • Broken Aesop: At the end of Claw of Shame Nathan starts to give the kids a "follow your dreams" speech, only to have one of them point out that nearly being arrested for indecent exposure is an odd dream to have.
  • Buxom Is Better: Simon, the security guard in "Clothing Store/Restaurant," certainly thinks so.
    • Called Back in the season 2 finale, where Nathan tries to sell a Reality Show about Simon's "crippling obsession with large breasts."
  • Character Development: The second season sees Nathan making an active effort to become a more social person, and later begins a Redemption Quest after becoming Drunk with Power during "Dumb Starbucks". Naturally, both of these are played for laughs.
  • Clipboard of Authority: Occasionally wielded by Nathan.
  • Clip Show: Nathan for You: A Celebration, a special that aired a week before season 4 began, featured clips and new segments following up on people featured on the show.
  • The Comically Serious: No matter what craziness is unfolding, Nathan remains completely serious. The few times other people attempt to crack jokes about the situation, Nathan acts both confused and offended that they're taking it so lightly.
  • Corpsing:
    • Nathan's usually good about staying in character, but occasionally someone will say or do something so bizarre, he breaks in a subtle-but-obvious way.
    • After he sees the ludicrous Simon Sees pitch tape, the TV producer has a big smirk and literally has to hold his fingers to his mouth to stop himself from laughing.
  • Cringe Comedy: The show produces a lot of hilariously awkward moments, but not in a mean-spirited way.
  • Cryptic Background Reference:
    • In "The Movement," Nathan's voice-over mentions that he has “major trust issues stemming from a non-sexual incident that happened when [he] was a child."
    • In "Computer Repair/Psychic", he claims that the NSFW selfies he has on his laptop are for "only for my doctor's eyes" and he takes them because of a "recurring medical issue".
  • Critical Research Failure: From the "Horseback Riding" segment:
    Nathan: I watched as, for the first time in history, a plus-sized man was able to ride a horse.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of feel-good, "save our struggling business" reality shows like Kitchen Nightmares and Bar Rescue, by replacing the knowledgable host with an awkward Cloudcuckoolander whose advice is absurd and impractical.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Nathan makes the viral video crew sign non-disclosure agreements so that they won't reveal the hoax — under penalty of death.
    • In the hot-dog stand episode, Nathan discovers that a customer has lied about having a medical appointment in order to cut in line for his hot-dog. In response, Nathan tells him he has won a "lobster dinner for one at sea" in order to lure him onto a boat. There, he scolds him for his behaviour and forces him to apologize to four people who were in front of him in the line. As if this wasn't enough, Nathan wants to sink the boat, leaving the customer to be eaten by sharks. Not surprisingly, Executive Meddling shoots down this idea.
  • Dull Surprise: Nathan's "jaw dropping" after opening the suitcase in "The Anecdote" was this (since he already knew it had someone else's suit in it).
  • Easter Egg: The logo for Summit Ice Apparel depicts white mountain peaks against a rounded black background, but if you look closer it also resembles Nathan's hairline.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Spoofed in Nathan for You: A Celebration when he travels to Vancouver. The montage establishing Vancouver as a location starts off with scenes of the city, then shows Canada-specific chains like Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire and Bank of Montreal, then a larger number of shots of massive American chains in the city like Home Depot and McDonald's.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: In "Horseback Riding/Man Zone", the gun shop clerk's rant criticizing Nathan's "bubblegum and sunshine view of the world" gets interrupted when the clerk receives a couple text messages. His text tone is the old ICQ "uh-oh" alert. The absurdity of a pompous guy using such a goofy sound effect actually makes Nathan break character.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "Shipping Logistics Company" centers around this, as Nathan tries to get smoke detectors shipped overseas duty-free by labeling them as a musical instrument, ultimately forming a band to record a song with one.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: The season 3 finale revolves around Nathan trying to create one of these by performing a charity wirewalk while made up to look like someone else.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: The escape stunt in the Claw of Shame episode is based on the idea that being arrested for indecent exposure and becoming a registered sex offender is this.
  • Girl of the Week: Nathan always overestimates his relationship with female clients to be something more, and attempts to ask them out at the end of the episode they're featured in only to immediately get shot down.
    • He did hit it off pretty well with Jasmine, although this was due to him pretending to be Cory at the time. He also did pretty well with the escort Maci in "Finding Frances". Part of this was due to him paying her for her company, but she also didn't seem bothered by his many social faux-pas' throughout their interactions, and she even claimed to have watched more of his show on her own time after he introduced her to it.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In one episode, Nathan stages footage of a pig rescuing a goat from a pond, hoping it will go viral and attract customers to a petting zoo. The video ended up becoming so popular that it was featured on news broadcasts around the world before the show aired. However, the news stations and the video itself did not mention the petting zoo at the height of the video's popularity, so this stunt didn't really help out their business at all.
    • The Dumb Starbucks coffee shop also ended up attracting similar viral attention.
    • A recurring theme in season 3 is that Nathan's outlandish plans actually work, but the business owners politely refuse to adopt them on a permanent basis.
  • Good-Times Montage: "Nail Salon/Fun" ends with one, as Nathan and his platonic Craigslist friend Brendan spend a day at Knott's Berry Farm set to "Steal My Sunshine" by Len.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: In "Finding Frances", Maci, the escort Nathan makes a semi-genuine connection with, is a sweet, down-to-earth Girl Next Door type.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Nathan. Whenever he has any sort of positive interaction with someone he'll either ask them out (if they're a girl) or ask if they want to hang out (if they're a guy). He's always flatly rejected.
  • Jerkass: Brian Wolfe, the private investigator Nathan hires to track himself down is quite a bully, to the point of calling Nathan a "Wizard of Loneliness". When he makes a second appearance, he calls Nathan both a goober and a nerd. They eventually patch things up and bond over Brian's "adult entertainment modeling", and Brian even tosses a football around with Nathan for a bit.
  • Latex Perfection: Subverted with Nathan's Corey disguise. It's very obvious when they're in the same room who's who. Nathan gets around this by only interacting with people who don't know Corey, and having a soundboard conversation with Corey's grandparents from a long distance away, with his face partially obscured by a loudspeaker.
  • Loophole Abuse: A common feature of Nathan's business plans. Most audaciously, he talked a liquor store owner into agreeing to sell liquor to minors. The catch was that the store would have to keep the alcohol in storage until the purchaser turned 21.
  • Loser Protagonist: Nathan has no friends and generally weirds out everyone he meets. The only reason he even seems to have a reality show is to use it as a means to have other people spend time with him, to the point where he'll always ask his client if they'd like to hang out with him after the show. Several episodes show Nathan to have a thinly-veiled resentment for how pathetic he is, leading to him taking every chance he can get to pretend to be someone other than himself.
  • Maintain the Lie: In "Souvenir Shop," Nathan realizes that his scheme of the week (staging a fake film shoot and bringing in volunteer passerby as "extras" who come in and purchase items from the store) constitutes serious fraud... unless he actually does release the film. Not only does he do so, shooting additional scenes to give it some semblance of narrative structure, he also creates a fake film festival so that it can receive an award and thus be granted additional legitimacy.
  • Mall Santa: One segment has Nathan attempt to help a down-on-his-luck Santa... who has a criminal record. In the Season 2 finale, Nathan hires him to brainwash children into "needing" a toy, a task he performs with alarming shamelessness. In season 3 he poses as an astronaut (!) to convince a boy to focus on playing soccer instead of dreaming about going to space.
  • Myth Arc: Nathan is helping many different clients over the course of the series. But one of the most consistent plot threads is his desire to eventually makes friends and hang out with others
  • No Social Skills: One of the biggest sources of humor is Nathan's complete and utter lack of any sort of charisma and inability to connect with his clients.
  • Only Friend: Nathan's employee Salomon appears to be the only person who's willing to spend any time with him. Naturally he's just as socially unaware and awkward as Nathan is.
    • In the first episode, he describes H. Jon Benjamin as his friend, since Nathan and Jon are friends in real life (he also hadn't quite established his character yet, so he didn't yet have a reason to have no friends). However, Jon proves himself to be not such a great friend when he attempts to sabotage Nathan's mock interview by having Nathan claim his mother was a soldier under Saddam Hussein and having Nathan say he's a child molester. Nathan refused to say the last bit.
    • In season 3, Nathan gains another in the form of Brendan, a man who responded to his Craigslist ad looking for a platonic male friend. While not quite as awkward as Nathan or Salomon, he's still far from a social butterfly.
    • In season 4, it's revealed that Bill Gates impersonator Bill Heath has been hanging out at the NFY office regularly since his appearance on the show.
  • Overly Long Gag: "I love you." "Again." in the smoking bar/avant garde theater episode.
  • Parody: The premise and style of the series resemble those of feel-good, transformational reality shows such as Undercover Boss and the gentler parts of Kitchen Nightmares.
  • Parody Episode: "The Claw of Shame" (season one, episode seven) abandons the usual format, being more like a one-off David Blaine-esque daredevil special.
  • Platonic Prostitution: The main subplot in "Finding Frances". When they're in Little Rock, Nathan suggests hiring an escort to help Bill improve his game in dealing with women. Bill dismisses the idea, but Nathan goes ahead and hires one, named Maci, because he decides he needs help with women. She offers a special $350 rate for an hour of "flirtation" and he pays it, but they end up having enough actual chemistry that he keeps paying for more "flirtation" sessions.
  • Product Placement: Nathan sets up a blind date between a colleague and a reality show contestant, but contractual obligations mean that it has to happen at a Quizno's sandwich shop. During the date, a company branding rep suggests Quizno's-related conversation topics to the colleague through a hidden earpiece.
  • Reality TV Show Mansion: In order to conquer his fear of talking to women, Nathan creates a fake Bachelor ripoff that includes a $5,000-a-day mansion and a host who isn't in on the joke.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Subverted by Nathan, who is awkward and timid but often wears pink clothing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Most of Nathan's clients try to be tactful and polite when they tell him they don't like an idea, but the outdoor retailer to whom Nathan pitched the Holocaust-themed Summit Ice display was very vocal in his disapproval.
    I have no faith in your competence in this business. I have no faith in your judgment whatsoever. The only thing I know about your judgment is that it's...doesn't exist.
    • He also got one from Elle, the Best Buy employee in "Electronics Store" :
    That's really weird that you'd take someone on a date and then ask them, "Hey, dude, like, why don't we sue Best Buy?" For all I know, you're crazy.
    • The hot dog line-cutter and Nathan actually exchange these when Nathan finally confronts him.
    Nathan: You shouldn't be laughing right now.
    Jonathan: No, but you're so weird.
    Nathan: No, Jonathan, I'm not weird.
    Jonathan: You are crazy.
    Nathan: No, I'm normal. I teach people lessons when they do something wrong.
    Jonathan: You're very manipulative and conniving, and I don't like it.
  • Refuge in Audacity: On the grounds that insult comedy is popular, Nathan encourages a caricature artist to produce extremely offensive drawings of his subjects.
    • In general, Nathan is willing to go to near-criminal extremes to help businesses so long as the business owner doesn't directly rebuff his attempts to.
  • Running Gag: Whether it's the Claw of Shame, the lie detector (the "Mechanic" segment), or the asteroids (the fake movie "The Web"), if anything computer-related fails, it's because of Windows 95.
    • Nathan consistently attracts and recruits the show's oddballs via Craigslist. (The ads themselves are pretty funny.)
    • Nathan always attempts to hook up with the woman he's helping out, only to get completely shot down.
    • In general, any sort of positive reinforcement Nathan gets from people, no matter how small or insincere, will lead him to take whatever he's planning Up to Eleven.
    • His use of a Paper-Thin Disguise whenever his plans call for him to go undercover, often involving huge fake beards and mustaches, or outlandish costumes (like a hijab or a Goofy Suit).
  • Scare Campaign: The Doink-It commercial, designed to traumatize three- to eight-year-old children into begging their parents for a plastic ball.
  • Schmuck Bait: In order to teach teens not to vandalize property, Nathan puts up posters that are designed to be irresistible to anyone with a dirty mind and a Sharpie. He even adds a "Do not draw a penis on this poster" sticker for good measure.
  • Sensory Abuse: One of the Uber riders in "Andy vs. Uber" considers Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5" to be this.
  • Shaped Like Itself: When alleged Movement workout creator Jack Garbarino talked about his charity work with "jungle children" on actual local TV news shows, he helpfully explained that "jungle children are children that live in the jungle."
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Brian Wolfe, a Jerkass private investigator who constantly bullies Nathan whenever they interact. Nathan's quest to get him to take him seriously becomes a recurring plotline throughout the series.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Even the ultra-deadpan Nathan can barely keep it together at the private detective's bizarre insult: "You're the wizard of loneliness!"
  • Something Completely Different: "Finding Frances", the season 4 finale, is two hours long and abandons the "helping businesses" concept altogether, instead having Nathan go on a trip with Bill Heath (the Bill Gates impersonator from season 2) to search for Bill's long-lost girlfriend.
  • Speaking Like Totally Teen: In the liquor store episode, the actor Nathan hired to hype the store to high school students.
    Hey man! Wassup? Dude, that internet these days is so dope, man! School sucks, dude! You can just go on the stinkin' internet.
  • Special Person, Normal Name: Invoked in season 4. To help drum up business for a psychic, Nathan designs an ad campaign where she specifically targets Maria Garcia, on the logic that there are thousands of Maria Garcias in Southern California.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Fielder's "Nathan on Your Side" segments on This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
  • The Stoic: Nathan's voice is always flat and he almost never raises it.
  • Stylistic Suck: "The Web"
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Nathan tells the dishonest hot dog stand customer repeatedly to "take a stick from this ordinary pack of gum." It's shock gum.
  • Teeny Weenie:
    • Nathan has to buy extra small condoms when he thinks he's going to get lucky with his stunt double's fiance. In Season 2, Nathan asks an exorcist to try to drive out any demons that may be inside him, on the off-chance they're responsible for his penis size.
    • In "Party Planner," the programmer Nathan hires mentions spam e-mails containing the phrase "one-inch penis," which even Nathan is utterly baffled by. Needless to say, while he repeatedly tries to figure out what kind of e-mail, addressed to what target audience, would include such a line, the programmer avoids eye contact at all costs.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The funeral home episode features one of these. All of the candidates are hired.
  • They Stole Our Act: In "The Anecdote", after going to extraordinary lengths to stage a series of events so he could truthfully tell a funny story as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the evening's first guest, Kirsten Dunst, tells a story with many of the same elements.
  • Turtle Power: Twice. First, a turtle goes on a job interview. Much later, for no apparent reason, Nathan uses a tiny one as a business card.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Nathan's narration is often hilariously contradicted by what's actually being shown onscreen.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Nathan's character on the show can border on this territory; his lack of awareness of other people's feelings, his overwhelming confidence in his own ideas, and occasionally even insulting the people he helps. However, it's somewhat tempered by the fact he's socially awkward and simply desires companionship.
  • Vacation Episode: The season 4 finale, "Finding Frances" has Nathan traveling to Arkansas and Michigan.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: One of the actors in the funeral home episode demonstrates a completely ridiculous "Canadian" accent. (When Nathan informs her that he is Canadian, she replies, "Oh... but you sound normal.")
  • Worked Shoot: After "The Anecdote" aired, fans debated whether Jimmy Kimmel and Kirsten Dunst were in on the gag.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Zig-zagged in "Dumb Starbucks"; an exact copy of a Starbucks shop, except everything (from menu items to the logo) is appended with the word "Dumb". He argues that it's actually an art gallery satirizing Starbucks, protected under fair use.
  • Yet Another Baby Panda: The viral video becomes one of these.
  • Zany Scheme: Most of Nathan's ideas belong to this category.