Boy, did we get an earful back when Broad City screened a sneak-peek of season 2 and we spilled the beans. And who can blame Comedy Central for wanting to keep a lid on such hilariousness? Last night at NYU Skirball Center, during his New York Comedy Festival appearance, Nathan Fielder confirmed that “Comedy Central is paranoid about stuff leaking,” and implored his adoring fans not to film the unaired episode of Nathan For You that he was about to screen.
But he wasn’t about to leave it at that. In the spirit of his show, in which he devises hilariously hair-brained business strategies for mom-and-pops laboring under the illusion that he’s an expert fixer, Nathan announced that he had devised a strategy to stamp out bootlegging. “This right here is a compressed-air/water fire extinguisher, which can shoot water with fairly good accuracy up to 85 feet,” Nathan said, showing off a steel canister. “Right now, we have them stationed throughout the theater.” Ushers in the balconies hoisted their extinguishers to show they meant business.
“If at any point anyone choses to take out their phone during their show,” Nathan said, “It will get destroyed.”
That was good enough for me, but Nathan drove home the point by calling on a volunteer and giving him a prop iPhone to hold up. After the guy (filmmaker Ben Fraternale) took a seat on stage, Nathan told him, “Let’s say it’s during the show, I’m talking, we’re showing video and you decide to be one of those douchebags and take out your phone and film. So, this is what’ll happen.” And with that, Nathan hosed him down – not just the prop phone, but every inch of the guy, from top to bottom.
Luckily, Nathan had a change of clothes on hand (the cheapest items he could find at Salvation Army, he said) – and a bedsheet for the guy to change behind. In front of the entire audience.
When the poor bastard was done changing, Nathan dropped the bedsheet to reveal the new outfit: a DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD shirt and a fedora. (Nathan was wearing his Summit Ice fleece, naturally.)
Luckily, before Nathan kiboshed filming, a couple of audience members got this footage of him kicking off the evening with a Lana Del Rey cover.
As it turned out, there was no call for such an abundance of precaution, because the “unaired” episode being shown was set to premiere that very night. “You’re paying to watch something that is airing on tv,” Nathan informed everyone. (Later, Nathan showed a clip from a show that wasn’t airing in a couple of hours, in which he helps a hotelier by building an isolation chamber that allows parents to have sex in the same room as their kids without being seen or heard. Not to spoil anything, but porn stars get involved.)
The Q&A portion of the show was just the kind of letdown that Nathan’s “clients” must experience on a regular basis; Nathan said he likes to “get a sense of the person” asking questions, so each time he called on people (just three of them, it turned out), he brought them up to the stage and asked them a string of questions like: “What do girls talk about when there’s no boys around?” and “Are you in a relationship right now?” Finally, he let them ask questions such as, “Since the show aired, has anyone who’s been featured on the show contacted you once they realized it was a comedy show?” Nathan’s answer:
The short answer is: We try to find people that don’t ask a lot of questions. But, it’s mainly geared toward we don’t want people to be upset with their experience, we really want people to enjoy it when we make the show. There’s kind of an understanding that when you participate in a reality show you don’t get full information of what’s going to happen. Sometimes people do ask a lot of questions before, and those people that want to know exactly what we’re going to do might be more likely to get upset if it goes in an unexpected way, so we try to find people who seem open to an experience that’s different from their day-to-day lives. So we try not to tell them, you know, that the intent is always comedy in certain instances.
But then we also, when we’re there – you know, Clark [who helped mop up the fire-extinguisher puddle] is one of the producers on the show and there’s a whole team… [The clients are] very uncomfortable when they’re with me but there’s a whole team of people that really work hard to make sure they’re comfortable and enjoy at least their time when they’re not with me.
In the first season we had a couple things where we had people who, you know – we had one person, I guess, who wasn’t that into the experience and we felt really bad. We were kind of new at it. But we’ve gotten better at making sure people leave happy. Grantland actually did this article where they contacted all the businesses that we went to and asked them what they thought of their experience, how was it, and everyone seemed to enjoy it and they were happy and they watched the show and they seemed to like how they came across and everything. So, we’ve had a lot of positive experiences with people and so people seem to be… and some people we have on again sometimes, like the private investigator and Simon the security guard, who is one of the few people that I actually continue to text with. He texted me once: “The show’s really great, you’re like the skinny guy and I’m the big guy.”
Later, someone asked about a sketch that didn’t make it to air. Nathan’s response:
We shot something this year with a hypnotist. The concept was, we wanted to subconsciously put product placement into people’s brains… I really liked the idea and it was great but then we realized that a lot of people just think hypnosis is not real, and it was tough to convey what was happening. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it was one of those ones that we just had to not do because it was this abstract thing where everyone saw it in a different way: if you believed in hypnosis you saw it one way, if you didn’t you saw it another way, so it was hard to get the funny parts to work properly.
Finally, Nathan showed some clips from the newly released DVD of Seasons 1 and 2. Trust us, you’ll want to buy this just for the return of the Bill Gates impersonator, who cluelessly takes a call from AT&T customer service while doing the audio commentary for his episode.
All in all, a fine evening. And don’t worry, Nathan, when you were queuing up the videos, we totally didn’t see your google search for “How to kiss a girl.”