Nathan for You star Nathan Fielder did a Reddit AMA with fans yesterday that’s full of great responses on everything from how he keeps a straight face while filming the show to what it felt like to be called a “wizard of loneliness” by the private detective last season: “As mean as that was, I thought that was incredibly poetic for a guy like him. Very unexpected. But I guess there are many sides to all of us.”
Click through to read some of Fielder’s best responses from yesterday’s AMA.
On how the show keeps the business owners from knowing Fielder is a comedian, and whether or not anyone has found out during shooting:
In general, there seems to be an understanding that when participating in a reality show you’re not going to get full information about what will happen so that authentic moments can be captured on camera. The people that appear comfortable with this are usually the ones we end up involving in the show - those that seem open to an experience or adventure that’s different from their day-to-day life. Often in the casting process we’ll encounter business owners that have lots of specific questions about the show and exactly what we’re planning to do with them. Because going into a shoot we don’t want participants knowing any of that or that it’s a comedy show (as this would take away from them acting naturally), we usually end up avoiding these more controlling/protective personality types as the chances they’re going to get very upset by an experience they aren’t prepared for is much higher. And the goal is never to get people upset.For your second question, we’ve definitely had business owners that start to realize that the show isn’t as straightforward as they first thought it would be (this probably happens with most of them), but we’ve only had it happen once where someone mid-way through shooting realized exactly what the show was. For that segment, we ended up having to re-shoot it with another business since it was difficult to continue after that.
On pitching Nathan for You to Comedy Central:
I had actually pitched Nathan for You to Comedy Central before I started working on Jon Benjamin Has a Van. It was inspired by segments I did for a Canadian series called This Hour Has 22 Minutes where I’d interact with real people in an interview setting. I first began doing these segments in 2007. But it’s always interesting to watch different approaches to dealing with real people, and it was very educational to work with Jon and see how he operated. You Can’t Shoot Here is one of my all time favorite comedy bits.
On times it was hard for him to keep from laughing:
It might be surprising but keeping a straight face in many of the situations we get into on the show is quite difficult for me. I began to realize that I’ll sometimes do this thing where I act like I’m picking a piece of food out of my back teeth to cover the fact that I’m smiling. Then if I can’t get it together within a few seconds, I might ask for some dental floss or something because I’ve clearly been picking at this tooth for 20 seconds or so.Some moments that stand out off the top of my head would be the Gas Station episode where the owner told me that he drinks his grandson’s urine to ward off fear. I often laugh when I feel uncomfortable too, so I remember having to turn my head away a couple times during the realtor segment when she was getting the exorcism. There are many more, but I can’t recall them right now.
On his business school grades:
True fact: The business program I went to actually let you negotiate grades. Like it was part of the curriculum. They said “In the real world everything is a negotiation..” or something like that. So if you could prove that you deserved a higher grade because you did something “entrepreneurial” in the real world, they’d give it to you. I would say things like, “I changed the tire on my bike instead of bringing it to a bike shop, which shows self initiative - a trait that’s very important to running a business.” And they’d bump me up one letter grade. Nuts.
On the gas station owner telling him he drinks his grandson’s pee last season:
At first I though he was kidding, and it took me asking a lot of questions before I realized he was for real. As crazy as it was though, I still felt the need to be respectful of this practice if it came from a culture or tradition I didn’t understand. Weird, conflicting emotions inside of me.
Some more info on his “Claw of Shame” stunt from last season:
For legal reasons, I can’t really get into the specifics of that one. But I definitely made sure that I’d be able to get out of those handcuffs before we did it in front of an audience.About the pin drop: The pin really did slip from my fingers and catch on my sweater. That was not something that was planned. But what we didn’t show in the episode is that I had a second backup pin taped behind my ear with a band aid (skin color so you couldn’t really see it). In practicing, the pin was really easy to drop, so I wanted a backup. If the pin hit the ground, I would have gone for my backup pin.
On Kyle from last season’s “Teen Street” segment:
We have a lot of footage of that teen telling me his tricks about how to make money. He was very confident and was big into living the American Dream. At the time, he sold bubble gun (squirt guns that shoot bubbles) for a living. He sold them door to door. He told me that he’ll put the gun in someone’s hand and let them try it for a moment, then he quickly takes it back which he said creates a “fear of loss” and makes them want the bubble gun really bad - to the point where people beg him for it. He said on a good day he’d sell $200 worth.
On “The Hunk” segment:
Oh man there were so many. I actually had butterflies in my stomach during a lot of those dates. Rachel, who doesn’t like wearing socks, was tough to get a read on. But a fascinating person. LA, the lady who was trying to promote her album, was also a delight. Lais, who tried to kiss me.. that was a really intense one for me. It was very surreal how seriously competitive the women were getting. Actually, a fight broke out (verbal, not physical) between two of the women over how much time they were getting with me. We ended up cutting it from the episode because it felt a bit too much like a moment you’d actually see in The Bachelor, but it was a very crazy moment and a very surreal night
On his onscreen persona:
I definitely play up certain parts of my personality and exaggerate vulnerabilities I have for the sake of comedy. I feel like the Nathan on the show has a much tougher time reading social cues and is way less self aware than the real me. He’s also much more confident. So yeah, it’s different, but at the same time it’s not like in my real life I’m strollin’ around scorin’ babes. It all comes from a real place. A lot of the time I feel like I’m emulating a younger version of myself.
On what music he’s into:
Only the coolest bands.