Nathan Fielder made a quiet return to social media last weekend, playing an overly holistic pharmacist in a short Instagram video and simmering speculation that everyone’s favorite big-hearted, form-bending reality show Nathan for You might return to Comedy Central sooner than later.
When last we convened with Nathan, Fielder was displaying an increased willingness to experiment with how his show could affect the real world – a conceit that slowly ramped up with follies like season 1’s viral petting zoo video and the tour de force of Dumb Starbucks. In 2015, Fielder and his team published a book, staged a death-defying tightrope walk for charity, and produced an absurd “slice of life” play that’d make Samuel Beckett flinch. They also took their biggest, most socially active risk when they manufactured their own line of softshell jackets in the third season’s sophomore episode, “Horseback Riding/Man Zone.”
According to their website, Summit Ice is a branded all-season apparel company – production is outsourced to Port Authority – that aims to promote awareness of the fact that “over ten million people, including six million Jews, were massacred by the Nazi regime in Germany” in the Holocaust. “Holocaust education is essential to prevent this catastrophic episode of history from repeating itself,” they continue. All proceeds go to support the nonprofit Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, which had raised over $300,000 in time for the venture’s one and only statement of profit to Entertainment Weekly back in 2015.
Long before Bandcamp gave 10% of their proceeds to the ACLU for one day or YMCAs hung banners declaring that all are welcome here, Nathan for You was creating and envisioning a world where corporate social responsibility is pure and just. Fielder’s bitterly saccharine brand of comedy hangs its hat on micro-transactions in gas stations and pet stores, but the activism inherent in Summit Ice should come as no surprise.
What’s most fascinating about Summit Ice is its horrible prescience. Since the 2016 United States presidential election, a surge of anti-Semitic hate crimes has swept the country including attacks on synagogues and cemeteries and the reality that Commander in Chief Donald Trump – for all his grandstanding about calling things what they are – refused to acknowledge the Jewish genocide in a White House press statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Violent anti-Semitism was on the rise in the few years before Summit Ice opened its doors, but it’s unlikely that even a mind like Fielder’s could have foretold the scope of the bullshit.
And if the mere thought of new Nathan for You isn’t enough, here’s this: reached for comment, a spokesperson for the VHEC told us that they “have committed to Nathan and his team not to discuss this with media until a timing of their choosing, appropriate to their filming and broadcast schedule.” It’s unclear yet what Fielder has up his ergonomically designed sleeves, but in a reality that buzzes with the loud threat of global nuclear war, that’s music to our ears.
Noah Jacobs is a writer, podcaster, and mark who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.