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Series / Nathan for You

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"Well, I have an idea but it's...pretty crazy."

"My name is Nathan Fielder, and I graduated from one of Canada's top business schools with really good grades. Now, I'm using my knowledge to help struggling small business owners make it in this competitive world."

Nathan for You is a docu-reality comedy television series starring Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder that ran for four seasons, from 2013 to 2017. 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." After its debut, it became a critical and cult favorite, with the stunt from season 2's "Dumb Starbucks" gaining major viral attention and news coverage.

On October 17, 2018, Comedy Central announced that Fielder had decided against doing a fifth season, ending the series.

"Some Tropes might happen here, and if they what?":

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Only one woman finds the "8 minute delivery or free pizza" funny.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Grand Finale, "Finding Frances", centers around Bill Heath, the Bill Gates impersonator who appears several times throughout the series, as Nathan assists him in tracking down a lost love from his past. While Nathan has a plotline of his own and plays a central role in the search itself, the episode is distinctly Bill's.
  • Advance Notice Crime: In "Claw of Shame", Nathan performs an escape act before a robotic claw pulls his pants down in front of a group of children, which would theoretically make him a sex offender. Before he begins, he makes sure to deliberately state to the camera (and the cops) that he is doing this of his own free will, with full knowledge of the consequences.
  • 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.
  • All for Nothing: After chickening out of skydiving with a lame excuse about meeting a friend for lunch, Nathan becomes paranoid that the skydiving instructor doesn’t believe him, and invites him along to meet the “friend”, leading to an awkward lunch with a random stranger Nathan finds in the restaurant parking lot and pays to pretend to be his friend. After the lunch, the skydiving instructor asks if Nathan would like to go back up now that he’s free, and Nathan, unable to think of another valid excuse, reluctantly agrees, meaning the entire thing was pointless.
  • All There in the Manual: "The Movement" book fills in all of the (fake) backstory Jack Garbarino alludes to on the show and functions as a complete fictional autobiography, including his childhood with Steve Jobs, troubled relationship with a real estate agent, humanitarian career, and eventual Heroic BSoD moment that causes him to become a maltheist and create the fictional workout program. Pointedly, "The Baboons" are a terrorist organization as opposed to primates, indicating that the real Garbarino didn't read the book when he talks about Dende being "carried off" by them (in the book, he's shot to death in a terrorist attack).
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: At the end of the performance in "Smokers Allowed", Nathan delivers a warning about the dangers of smoking to the audience at the bar.
  • 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
  • Anti-Hero: Nathan uses extremely unscrupulous methods to accomplish his goals, and is rather clearly more selfishly motivated than he lets on, but generally always shows remorse and tries to set things right when he feels that he has done something truly wrong.
  • 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%.
    • There are some subtle but notable differences between Nathan Fielder and "Nathan." Other than the pilot, which references Fielder's friendship with H. Jon Benjamin, "Nathan" doesn't seem to have had any prior career in entertainment. On a similar note, "Nathan" has no friends whatsoever, not even casual acquaintances, with his quest for friendship being a running theme on the show; Nathan Fielder is close friends with Benjamin, Tim Heidecker, and several comedians in real life. Also, a few bits of dialogue throughout the series indicate "Nathan" has never been in a long-term relationship, whereas the real Fielder was going through a divorce during the first season. Pointedly, the only reference to the divorce occurs off-camera in "The Movement" and we only get to see and hear Brian Wolfe's response to it.
  • The Atoner: Nathan becomes this after "Dumb Starbucks", reflecting on all of the people he had stepped on to gain fame and 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.
    • The Bill Gates impersonator comes off as little more than a pleasant eccentric in most of his appearances, but "Finding Frances", which centers around his past, reveals him to be substantially more self-aware and manipulative than he lets on. The episode still paints him in a relatively sympathetic light by the end, however.
  • 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.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: There's always a very thin line between the real Nathan Fielder and the show's "Nathan," but a subtle instance of the "real" Fielder coming through occurs in "The Movement" when Nathan and Brian Wolfe are staking out Jack Garbarino. After a cutaway we find Wolfe giving Nathan advice on how to move on from a divorce; Nathan Fielder had actually just gone through a divorce prior to the episode's filming, indicating he broke character (albeit off-camera) to open up to Wolfe about it.
  • 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, but at least one kid realizes that nearly getting arrested for indecent exposure is weird dream to have.
    "You dreamed of doing that?"
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite their absurdity, Nathan's schemes have a rather shockingly high success rate, though they're usually deemed too Cool, but Inefficient by his clients for them to ever seriously consider using full time in their businesses.
  • Butt-Monkey: Nathan himself tends to get stuck in awkward situations and mocked by others several times an episode.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Simon, the security guard in "Clothing Store/Restaurant," certainly believes in it. Called Back in the season 2 finale, where Nathan tries to sell a Reality Show about Simon's "crippling obsession with large breasts."
  • Call-Back: In season 3, Nathan learns that the rude private investigator he sometimes connects with once did a Penthouse photoshoot as an "adult entertainment model". This is passive-aggressively alluded to 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.
  • 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Many of the people Nathan meets tend to be hilariously eccentric. Nathan himself also qualifies, considering how bizarre his business schemes always are.
  • Cold Ham: Nathan's narration tends to use flowery language and sweeping, often grossly over-generalized and exaggerated statements about the importance of his actions in his usual droning monotone.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Nathan is very detached from his emotions and is willing to engage in criminal acts for the sake of succeeding. Said criminal acts are so absurd, though, that they always manage to be absolutely hilarious.
  • 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.
    • Nathan's legal council, retired judge Anthony Filosa, is uncannily good at offering sober and impartial analysis on the legality of Nathan's schemes, no matter how absurd they may be. While he's clearly bewildered by the problems that Nathan comes to him with, he never once loses his dignity when assisting him in dealing with them.
  • Complexity Addiction: If the general idea for a plan is too simple or too successful, Nathan will needlessly complicate it (for example, arranging a burner phone dead drop in the ocean with a stranger on Craigslist).
  • Crazy Enough to Work: The underlying theme of most of Nathan's plans. They might be completely insane, but they are successful surprisingly often (especially in Season 3.)
  • Credits Gag: "Claw of Shame". At the start of the show Nathan tries to get advice from escape artist Mark Paskell, who's skeeved out by the idea of a stunt involving indecent exposure. When Nathan asks if he can credit Paskell as a consultant, Paskell says "I'll get back to you on that" over and over. This leads to a Brick Joke at the end of the show, where Paskell gets a prominent "Consultant" credit, including his picture. He gets three more credits in the final credit roll: "additional consulting", "ethics adviser", and "special thanks".
  • Cringe Comedy: The show produces a lot of hilariously awkward moments, but not in a mean-spirited way, with Nathan generally being the butt of the joke.
  • 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".
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Nathan occasionally alludes to one that might explain his strange behavior, mentioning in particular a "non-sexual incident" from his childhood that has caused him to have major trust issues.
    • The Bill Gates impersonator Bill Heath's own dark and troubled past becomes the whole point of the series finale "Finding Frances." Although he's always seemed like a loveable eccentric in his previous appearances, Nathan learns that as a young man he was involved in a serious relationship with a woman who loved and wanted to marry him, but that Heath first tried to pressure her into sex and then cheated on her when she refused to sleep with him before marriage. After their breakup he went to Hollywood hoping for stardom, placing his dreams ahead of their relationship; not only did Heath never make it, but Frances married another man.
  • 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.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Nathan. Give him even the slightest, most surface level amount of positive reinforcement, and he'll be all over you like a puppy dog.
  • Determinator: Nathan is always several magnitudes more invested in his schemes succeeding than the people he is ostensibly trying to help are, and will go to great and unnecessary lengths to ensure that they do.
  • 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 called The Banzai Predicament to record a song with one.
  • Fake Band: Nathan Fielder formed The Banzai Predicament for the show only to prove that smoke detectors can be musical instruments.
  • 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.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Every season except for Number 2 features at least one episode where Nathan does something to help a private individual instead of a business or otherwise focuses on him attempting some insane stunt
    • The second segment of "Haunted House/The Hunk" is about Nathan creating a fake reality dating show so he can meet women.
    • "Claw of Shame" is about Nathan's efforts to successfully perform an escape act before a robotic claw pulls his pants down in front of a group of children, which would theoretically make him a sex offender.
    • The second segment of "Nail Salon/Fun" is about Nathan trying to prove he's fun to be around by making friends with a man on Craigslist and then stealing his urine to test it for hormones that will prove he was having a good time.
    • "The Hero" is about Nathan attempting to turn an average man's life around by getting him a girlfriend and national recognition for performing a tightrope stunt for charity.
    • "Finding Frances", the season 4 finale, is two hours long and has Nathan go on a road trip with Bill Heath (the Bill Gates impersonator) to search for Bill's long-lost girlfriend.
  • 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.
  • Grand Finale: While the future of the show was still up in the air when the episode debuted, many viewers suspected that "Finding Frances" was intended as a farewell for the show, and Fielder's later decision to end the series officially turned it into one.
  • Group Hug: During the closing credits of "Claw of Shame", there's a very obviously staged one with Nathan and the kids, in a blatant ploy to portray him as a Friend to All Children.
  • Heel Realization: Several episodes climax with Nathan getting confronted over his unscrupulous actions, which finally seems to awaken his conscience, leading him to try to make amends (in a typically convoluted way).
    from "Electronics Store": Here was a woman who thought she was sharing a genuine connection with someone, but it was all just a calculated ruse to get information, a classic bait-and-switch. And in that moment, I realized I'd become no better than the corporation I was trying to defeat. That in my efforts to take down Best Buy, I became the Worst Guy.
    • In the series finale, the Bill Gates impersonator has one after Nathan has him engage in an acting exercise where he's forced to experience his breakup from his ex-girlfriend's perspective. Looking at their relationship from Frances' point of view causes a minor Villainous BSoD moment where he realizes all the misery in his relationship and his resultant loneliness is his own fault. The experience allows him to finally let go when Nathan puts him in contact with her.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": The Bill Gates impersonator spends almost all of his screen time being referred to as "the Bill Gates" impersonator. It isn't until the series finale when we find out that his first name actually is Bill.
  • 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.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: This line 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.
  • Insanity Defense: In "Electronics Store", when Nathan announces that he's going to sue Best Buy, he decides the best way to protect the owner of the smaller local store he's helping is to have him declared insane by a psychologist. This gets accomplished by having the owner simply tell the doctor about Nathan's business plan, which involved a room with a tiny door and a live alligator. Yes, Nathan's schemes are so bizarre, simply giving an honest account of them to a clinical psychologist can get you diagnosed with psychosis.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: The title is a grammatical nightmare that evokes the names of a certain type of small, skeevy-seeming business by squeezing together egotistical naming, a snappy-sounding adage that was seemingly picked and then forgotten about, and ambiguous wording.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Brian Wolfe, the private investigator, is very rude about it, but he is right that Nathan's nerdiness is endearing.
  • 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.
  • LOL, 69: In "Dumb Starbucks", when Nathan sets up an exhibition of art parodying well-known corporate logos, two of the pieces are the 7-Eleven logo rendered as "7-SixtyNine", plus the 76 gas logo turned into "69".
  • 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 and releasing the film as The Web, 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's quest for friendship and/or a girlfriend. In the series finale, he scores a pair of minor- albeit strange- victories by forming a friendship with the Bill Gates impersonator and spending a lot of leisure time with him, and developing a seemingly genuine romance with Maci the prostitute, to the point the series ends with Nathan sending the camera away while the two of them share a moment.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: To ensure that no one actually buys any of the $1 TV sets in "Electronics Store", Nathan stations a live alligator (named Herbert) in front of the room where they're located.
  • 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.
  • Not So Stoic: On very rare occasions, someone will say or do something so bizarre that Nathan's usual unflappable poker face will be briefly broken by sheer disbelief. While he's quick to regain his composure and return to being Comically Serious, these moments still stand out.
  • Off the Rails: A common theme in many episodes is Nathan getting sidetracked from his original goal, often due to strange behavior by the clients or other people he interacts with. This is best seen in "Antique Store", where he ends up interviewing a random drunk guy and his brothers after the man reveals that they have had threesomes together.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Man: Retired judge Anthony Filosa, who is occasionally brought in for legal counsel, always offers frank analysis that points out just how illegal whatever scheme Nathan is currently attempting is. What makes him even more impressive is that he always manages to also offer sound workaround advice to get Nathan out of having to face repercussions for his actions.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Nathan asking the Asian stunt car driver in "Nail Salon" to speak in an exaggerated Chinese accent is the only time in the series Nathan uses racial stereotyping for humor, and one of the few times Nathan seems to want to humiliate someone who hasn't already said or done something insulting to him. While part of the humor of the show arises from Nathan putting other people into awkward situations, it's the only time in the series he seems to demean someone for their identity or culture.
  • Oven Logic: In "Pet Store/Maid Service", upon learning that one maid takes four hours to clean a house, and two maids take two hours, Nathan proposes a service where 40 maids clean a house in six minutes.
  • 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 often wears pink clothing but is awkward and timid.
    • Played straight with the cynical gun store clerk that Nathan briefly interacts with in "Horseback Riding", whose chiding of Nathan for being a soft Wide-Eyed Idealist is interrupted by his ring tone; a cartoonish-sounding high-pitched voice saying "uh oh" repeatedly.
  • "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... 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.
    • Nathan's Heel Realization in "Dumb Starbucks" comes after Elias, the coffee shop owner he initially was trying to help, told him off.
      My friends don't hire lawyers to come and sign contracts... My friends don't have cameras and lights and lawyers. And producers. That's not how you establish a friendship.
  • 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 points out that his interns are unpaid when introducing them to the audience.
    • 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. Related to this is how Nathan will seize on someone else's inappropriate suggestion and play it to the hilt, like how an offhand comment by Judge Filosa in "Claw of Shame" inspires Nathan to use an audience of children for his escape stunt, and how Elias, the coffee shop owner in "Dumb Starbucks", brainstorms the idea of a parody of The Rolling Stones called "(I Can't Get No) Erection", which Nathan proudly performs at an Open Mic Night.
    • Nathan's 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).
    • If Nathan uses any music at all, it will be royalty free and he will make a point of mentioning it.
    • An unintentional one occurs anytime the Bill Gates impersonator shows up and Nathan asks him to do an impression; the impersonator consistently confuses Gates with Steve Jobs and talks about manufacturing computers rather than programming software. It becomes something of a Brick joke in the series finale when Bill Heath admits he's never really been a Bill Gates impersonator and only told Nathan he was one to get on TV.
  • 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.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The meek and awkward Nathan and the loud and abrasive Brian Wolfe, respectively. Their intense clash of personality causes Wolfe to be one of the show's most prominent recurring characters.
  • Sensory Abuse: One of the Uber riders in "Andy vs. Uber" considers Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5" to be this.
  • Shallow Parody:invoked The whole Dumb Starbucks concept is a deliberate invocation of this, since the point is that it's not supposed to be a clever parody of Starbucks, just enough of a parody that it qualifies under fair use law.
  • 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. They eventually become friends.
  • Slice of Life: After merely presenting a typical night at a bar as a theatrical production for a form of Loophole Abuse in "Smokers Allowed", Nathan gets positive feedback about the "play" being a powerful depiction of everyday life, with comparisons to the work of Sam Shepard and John Patrick Shanley, which leads him to stage a reproduction of the bar scenes with an actual script and actors.
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • The Stoic: Nathan's voice is always flat and he almost never raises it.
  • Stylistic Suck: "The Web" is purposely bad, featuring a horrible story and script with stilted acting.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: A few throughout the series:
    • Nathan takes pains to point out that whatever happened to give him trust issues as a child, it was a "non-sexual incident."
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Assistance: It's very rare for a client to remain supportive of Nathan's ideas for an entire episode. In fact, they're usually clearly against it from the beginning but too polite to say anything.
  • Vacation Episode: The season 4 finale, "Finding Frances" has Nathan traveling to Arkansas and Michigan. Although they're there to find the Bill Gates' impersonator's long-lost love, the Arkansas leg of the trip becomes a literal vacation when the investigation stalls out and Nathan and Bill spend several weeks going to football games and sight seeing while they wait for a crack in the case.
  • 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.
    • The MTV producer to whom Nathan pitches Simon Sees seems to figure out that the whole thing is a gag but still plays along.
  • 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.