Comedy Central Nathan for You, Canadian comedian Nathan Fielder's quasi-reality-show-cum-absurdist-comedy on Comedy Central, is truly a one-of-a-kind television program. A dark, malevolent take on entrepreneurial fixer-upper shows such as Bar Rescue and Kitchen Nightmares, Nathan for You features Fielder giving advice to real-life business owners — specifically, advice so wrongheaded and, at times, questionably legal that you wonder why the business owners in question agree to go along with his off-kilter plans.
The answer, of course, is easy: Appearing on TV is in itself its own free press. With the third season of Nathan for You premiering tonight, we've ranked all of Nathan's business ideas, from the most disastrous down to the least. We stuck strictly to his business ideas for this list, so more abstract segments featured in the show — the "Claw of Shame," the dating-show parody The Hunk, and a few others — have been left out for coherence.
That doesn't mean they're not worth checking out, though — and if you haven't been watching this underappreciated show thus far, now's a great time to catch up. There are some business owners that Nathan just flat-out rubs the wrong way, and Marky Sparky Toys owner Mark Rappaport is certainly one of them. Nathan's idea to sell the unpopular Marky Sparky product Doink-It by essentially bullying children and calling them "babies" is met with resistance by Rappaport from the beginning — and by the segment's end, Rappaport is outright hostile to Nathan.
Once you see Nathan's "parting gift" to Rappaport, the latter's frustration makes sense. Notable for the return of James Bailey, the former criminal turned mall Santa from season one. James Bailey, Mall Santa: Nick who also happens to have a criminal record and an extensive gun collection.
So the plan to sell discounted kids-with-Santa photos in the summer quickly goes awry when the Southbay Pavilion Mall finds out about Bailey's criminal past and cancels the promotion. Nathan and Bailey go along with it anyway, though, and the results — including a potentially violent encounter with mall security — have to be seen to be believed.
But when Valley's Pizza Land customers are confronted with the gimmick's "catch" — the "free pizza" is, in fact, an inch-wide pie — their reactions range from incredulousness to downright rage. Bugs A to Z: How do you back up the claim that you have "the best burger in L. After suggesting the plan to Pink's owners, they cut ties with Nathan and escort him off the premises, forcing him to act alone — technically more a failure than a success, then.
The return of Simon, season one's breast-obsessed security guard, provides for one of the series' most cringeworthy segments as Nathan attempts to develop a reality-TV show, Simon Sees, focusing on Simon's perversions and how they affect his ability to do his job. The show pitch is obviously turned down by a reality-TV exec — but Simon's own post-rejection persistence suggests that Nathan for You fans may not have seen the last of him.
Suggesting a mandatory policy that movie-theater patrons can't share their concessions with friends is one thing; installing a high-grade night-vision camera system in the theater in question and putting offenders' pictures on a bulletin board that equates them with public masturbators is another.
Suffice to say, the general manager of this movie theater was not pleased when he understood Nathan's outlandish pitch. Advertising a pet store on gravestones in a pet cemetery is pretty dark stuff, even for Nathan for You. This business plan — to allow attractive people to shoplift from a clothing store to spread word of mouth — only comes together after Nathan forces one of the attractive shoplifters, under threat of arrest, to encourage a friend to purchase something from Hardware, too.
Most notable for introducing breast-obsessed security guard Simon, who returns in more cringeworthy fashion in season two.
Sue Stanford, Real-Estate Agent: Only she knows for sure. A logically and legally sound, if terrifically convoluted, business plan: Hiring actors to stand in as "friends" for the relatively friendless deceased who have their services at this funeral home isn't quite a success or failure "I need a little more time to think about it, but Unsurprisingly, the Nathan-penned original song that the actors sing during the mock funeral, "Death Happens," didn't exactly sway her toward the affirmative.
Nathan attempts to gin up notoriety for this haunted house by creating an experience so scary that customers could potentially sue owner Bruce Stanton.
It doesn't quite go as planned. Although the couple faced with potentially contracting a disease "a step below AIDS" from a haunted-house worker are certainly terrified, they aren't litigious — and Stanton ends up bemused, if not exactly angry, at the whole enterprise.
Nathan's plan to give customers of this taxi service the option to have a conversation with their cab driver is pretty sharp — not wanting to have a conversation with a cab driver is a pretty small-scale, if still nagging, concern — but things quickly go haywire when a customer chooses the option to speak with cab-driver Ruban about specific topics such as, say, the types of whales that are native to California. Ruban pulls it off at the end and tells a few fibs in the process it's hard to believe that he actually fought and killed a great white shark , but the overall execution isn't quite a success, if not quite a failure either.
How does one measure success? His appearance on Nathan for You led to him getting his own reality show , Cry Wolfe. The first business plan featured in Nathan for You, conceived to drive notoriety and profits to this fro-yo shop, is probably one of the least extreme plans conceived for the show, all things considered.
It's not unthinkable that a yogurt shop would sell something so revolting, if only to get attention — and even though the plan doesn't bring "hundreds of thousands" of customers into the shop, as Nathan initially promises Yogurt Haven's general manager, he ends up bringing some curious fro-yo fanatics to the store nonetheless.
Allowing potential customers to use the bathroom of this restaurant without actually purchasing anything — and aggressively advertising the restaurant's food while the customers use the bathroom — is not actually a terrible idea, and it ends up attracting a few new customers to Billy's.
Nathan's request to have restaurant owner Gloria include him in her will, however, does not go over as well. Blind dates — especially those set up through online-dating services — can be treacherous territory.
Helio Coffee and Espresso Bar: You probably saw this one in the news: Los Feliz Car Wash: Greg Dolan, Caricature Artist: Nathan encouraging this caricature artist to venture into the realm of insult comedy actually pays off pretty well for the artist in question, as he largely satisfies customers with profane portraits. Nathan for You has always provided some unexpected insights into its subjects' moral character, and the curious racial prejudices revealed in encouraging Dolan to get nasty with his caricatures are so wrongheaded that his comfort in revealing them to a television audience becomes part of the joke itself albeit unintentionally.
The Help Maid Service: Can 40 cleaning-service workers clean a house in under six minutes? Well, not quite — but they did get the job done sufficiently for homeowner Jim, so the business plan was technically a success. As for finding Jim a new girlfriend: Better luck next time, perhaps. What begins as a convoluted rebate scheme for this gas station turns into an overnight camping trip and bonding experience, as well as one of the most shocking and surprisingly heartwarming episodes of television in recent memory.
Stick around for the episode's conclusion, too, when Sevan Gas owner Daniel Ashikian reveals an extremely gross homeopathic remedy that will have you crying with laughter.
Oak Glen Petting Zoo: Perhaps the most mesmerizingly successful scheme ever featured on Nathan for You, in which Nathan stages a viral video of a pig rescuing a baby goat from drowning at this struggling petting zoo. The video's extremely complicated making-of is almost as astounding as the real-life success of the video itself.
In keeping with the show's mean-spirited conceit, Nathan makes sure the petting zoo never receives initial credit for the video — but still, watching the show's explanation of how the video takes off is so bewildering, it might just give you chills.