If you’re a cringe-humor aficionado, chances are you know that Nathan Fielder is returning to HBO this summer with a brand new show. Set to premiere on July 15th, The Rehearsal follows the Canadian self-proclaimed business wiz as he gives people a chance to rehearse moments for their own lives.
If you’re feeling impatient for this new show, you’re not alone. To tide you over, (and hopefully get you even more excited), we’ve taken the liberty of ranking the top ten episodes of Nathan For You, Fielder’s mostly unscripted show where he plays a fictionalized version of himself who helps struggling businesses using really bad (but also kind of genius?) ideas. From the viral sensation that is “Dumb Starbucks,” to a gas station rebate that requires its recipients to partake in an epic hike, there’s a whole lot of gold to choose from.
Here are the most exceptional episodes from the comedy series:
Some of the best Nathan For You moments include wacky recurring characters. There’s the Bill Gates impersonator, the sleazy lawyer, and, of course, Brian Wolf the private investigator. In “Private Investigator/Taxi Company,” Nathan enlists the self-proclaimed expert-PI to track his whereabouts to determine whether or not he is worthy of a five-star review on Yelp. The real kicker of the episode, though, is that Brian is a total jerk, (he even calls Nathan the “Wizard of Loneliness”—ouch) and if there’s anything we know about Nathan, it’s that he loves to push buttons.
Somehow the episode gets even better after that, when Nathan pivots to helping a struggling taxi company. His idea? Give patrons the option to choose from a number of topics to discuss with the driver to avoid awkward small-talk. This is one of Nathan’s more solid business ideas – which means there’s inevitably a catch. Nathan doesn’t let the driver pick his own topics. Instead, he forces him to maintain conversations about marine biology, despite him knowing nothing about the subject.
Some say that this doesn’t count as an episode because it’s technically a feature-length film, but I’m putting it on the list anyway, god damnit! Running at an hour and 24 minutes, “Finding Frances” sees Nathan helping the series’ beloved Bill Gates impersonator reunite with his long-lost high-school sweetheart, Frances. Their mission inevitably sees a hefty collection of oddities, like fabricating a fake movie to get access to high school yearbooks, and Nathan forging a close connection with an escort.
But what’s so great about “Finding Frances” is that, beyond all of Nathan’s comedic antics, the episode/film is incredibly well-made, poignant, and surprisingly moving. If watching it doesn’t make you think about your first love for at least a second, then I don’t know what will.
If there’s anyone who can turn a sales pitch for a realtor’s revised business model into an exorcism, it’s Nathan Fielder. In “Mechanic/Realtor,” Nathan convinces a struggling real estate agent to start selling homes under the premise that they are totally ghost-free. But when Nathan gets a medium into one of the prospective homes to confirm this new tagline, he senses a violent presence. Commence the newest entry into the Conjuring franchise.
The remarkable thing about this episode is that it highlights just how good Nathan is at getting people to do completely outrageous things—from Sue the Ghost Realtor, to the mechanic who he convinces to use a lie detector to prove to customers that he’s not ripping them off.
If you watched Nathan Fielder’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2017 and were captivated by his anecdote about a luggage switch that resulted in him almost getting arrested, this episode will provide you with some delightfully on-brand context to that.
“The Anecdote” sees Nathan in a state of panic after being invited onto the talk show, terrified that he’ll be boring. The solution? Easy. Come up with the perfect anecdote, which, in Nathan’s eyes, includes him flying to a wedding, accidentally grabbing the wrong suitcase, putting on the suitcase owner’s suit which has a little baggie filled with powder in the pocket, and getting pulled over but then let off the hook when the suit owner tells the cop over the phone that the substance is actually his mother’s ashes.
If you’re disappointed to hear that the story Nathan told Jimmy that night was fabricated, don’t be. Nathan orchestrated that sequence of events to actually happen so that it didn’t feel like a cheat – a madness which is beautifully captured in “The Anecdote.”
One of Nathan For You’s most surreal, intricate conceits, “Smokers Allowed” sees Nathan troubleshooting the business model of a struggling old bar. He suggests to the owner that if people could smoke inside the bar, they’d swarm to it like moths to a flame. Luckily, Nathan finds a loophole that states that, under theater law, people can smoke indoors – if they are part of a play. So he stages the bar like a slice-of-life production, where an “audience” can sit in chairs and watch customers drink. This is an undeniably ridiculous idea that culminates in what is probably the show’s most meta episode.
Yes, Nathan For You boasts a stellar conceit—but the real star of the show is Nathan and his almost-unwatchable awkward demeanor. That’s why “Haunted House/The Hunk”—the episode where Nathan fabricates a Bachelor-style dating show in order to help himself get more comfortable with women—is one of the show’s finest moments. During his sham reality show, The Hunk, Nathan awkwardly refuses a kiss, expresses that he feels threatened by the alpha-type host, and many more moments that you simply have to see to believe.
The other half of the episode sees Nathan attempting to troubleshoot a haunted house with low visitor rates. The plan? Make the house so scary that customers sue for emotional distress. Nathan attempts to achieve this with one of his wildest, most out-of-box ideas to date, and it’s nothing short of an utter joy to watch.
“Dumb Starbucks” is by far the most iconic episode of Nathan For You. It follows Nathan as he attempts to help a struggling coffee shop owner and, unsurprisingly, takes it way too far. As he brainstorms his business model, Nathan discovers that it’s a copyright infringement to replicate someone’s brand word for word. That is, unless it’s a parody. So, he transforms the small coffee shop in question into a “Dumb Starbucks,” that brings in masses because people think it’s just… Starbucks.
What’s so fun about this episode isn’t just Nathan’s wild idea, but the media attention that Dumb Starbucks quickly garners. Shortly after it opens, hour-long lines start forming, and news outlets co-opt the store as a comment on consumerism—some even positing that it is Banksy himself who is responsible for it. That’s just Nathan’s influence, I guess.
It’s a nearly impossible task to pick the most outrageous character from Nathan For You, but a professional Santa with a sweeping gun collection might just take the cake. In this episode, Nathan helps out this Santa by suggesting that he offer photo ops with kids during the summer instead of just the winter. But when the mall that he hopes to host this event at shoots the idea down because of this Santa’s criminal record, Nathan realizes that defeat isn’t an option, and he is going to have to simply turn the whole operation into a heist.
The other half of the episode includes one of Nathan’s more well-known business ventures. While assisting a struggling petting zoo, Nathan realizes that places with viral videos tend to attract more business. So he decides to stage one of his own, where a pig rescues a baby goat. The best part of “Santa/Petting Zoo” is that Nathan’s animal rescue video actually goes viral, ending up on talk shows like The Today Show and Good Morning America.
“Souvenir Shop/E.L.A.I.F.F.” is a prime example of Nathan taking an idea and pushing it to its very limits—and beyond. In this episode, Nathan decides to help out a Hollywood souvenir shop by staging a fake film shoot inside. Then, when tourists start to gather around, he offers them roles in the film, where they play customers who spend an exorbitant amount of money at a souvenir shop.
Everything seems to go well—until Nathan and his team get word that their scheme was definitely felony fraud. To combat this, they have two options: either offer the extras/customers refunds, or actually make a movie. I’m sure you can guess which option Nathan picks. This is by far one of the wildest and most unpredictable episodes of Nathan For You, and, as a bonus, it introduces us to the eccentric Johnny Depp and Bill Gates impersonators.
I’ll be the first to admit that every episode of Nathan For You is a masterpiece in its own right. But there is one that stands out above the rest, and that is “Gas Station/Caricature Artist,” which follows Nathan as he attempts to help a struggling gas station by having them offer the lowest prices in the country (after rebate).
There’s a catch, of course: in order to receive the rebate, the customer has to drive an hour and a half to a mountain, climb it, camp overnight, and answer a ton of riddles along the way. What’s even crazier than Nathan’s plan, though, is that there are a few people who are actually willing to do it. This episode sees the most bizarre characters, the most entertaining conceit, and as a bonus, a conversation where the gas station owner tells Nathan that drinking the pee of small children is good for your health, which causes Nathan to break character out of shock for the first and only time in the entire show.
Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter at @aurora_amidon for her latest questionable culture takes.