The funniest show on television returns tonight, but wait, there’s more: It returns with an hourlong special event. Nathan For You: A Celebration might look like any old boring-ass clip show, but believe you me that this special is good, perhaps even the best meta-special you’ve ever seen. And yes, I’m fully aware it airs the same night as The President Show’s “very special episode.”
In the three seasons he’s spent meddling in small businesses, Nathan Fielder’s met some unusual characters and changed their lives in, uh, bonkers ways. Tonight he checks in on several of them: the “ghost realtor,” who’s since turned ghost realty into a way of life; the teen from “Catching a Vandal,” now a vape pen salesman in a happy monogamous relationship; the private investigator with a salacious past; and Corey Calderwood, the average joe he turned into a hero. He also delivers the proceeds of his Summit Ice line of jackets to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and brings to fruition his second-season scheme to sell alcohol to minors.
It’s funny! Very, very, very funny. As with any good Nathan For You, what starts out as cringe humor never remains cringe humor, always probing its way to something more empathetic and human and totally bizarre. (Okay, maybe sometimes it stays cringe humor—every series has its foibles). Fielder’s subjects reveal themselves to him in the strangest ways—often touching, often transcendently funny—and he remains deliciously unflappable through it all. There’s a bit about OJ Simpson that caused me nearly to collapse giggling, and a musical montage that was as close to perfect as I’ve seen in some time.
The special is hosted by Anthony Napoli (from season one’s “Nathan the Hunk”), who assumes a heavily mannered, soft-spoken affect almost identical to Fielder’s; he even walks like Fielder, deliberately and awkwardly. The whole thing is so painstakingly orchestrated that you almost long for a whole season of this—Nathan checking in on his old conquests—though of course that would probably take another two years to produce. Ah, but how wonderful when the wait proves worthwhile.
Nathan For You: A Celebration airs tonight at 10 p.m. on Comedy Central.
Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Follow him on Twitter.