Nathan Fielder is not trying to deceive readers that he does not like people, as evidenced by years of well-documented evidence. After all, Fielder is best known for the Comedy Central series Nathan for You, in which he visits struggling small businesses with ridiculous plans that, most often than not, don't do the businesses any good (at least not in the manner the owners of these businesses probably signed up for).
Given everything weve seen from Fielder, it's probably easy to dismiss him as a ludicrous person. This attitude tends to represent a rather uncharitable view of the comedian, his methods, and his work, but is it possible to negate his genuine interest in others? Is it possible to negate his desire to despise his subjects, or is it possible to dismiss them as such?
Fielders' most recent project, The Rehearsal, which is now available on HBO Max every week, falls somewhere between reality TV and social experiment, and his path also relies on a structure that helps execute the series' vision.
Fielder's methods instill in us uneasyness. As social creatures, most of us shy away from situations that are beyond our comfort zone and acceptable when other people are involved. They are there for many, as well as surprising educational, or even sometimes emotional, revelations.
Fielder's onscreen personality would give glimpses of vulnerability in much of Nathan for You, and it was never more evident in "Finding Frances," the series' conclusion, where Fielder joins Bill Gates impressionist Bill Heath in his quest to find his long-lost love. At one point, Fielder convinces Bill to give a well-rehearsed performance at a high school reunion.
Fielder has gone from comedy to a near full-blown social experiment. He finds willing participants who are struggling with their next move, including a man who wants to have children and a man who wants to ask his brother for access to his inheritance.
Fielder does not make any attempt to dismiss anything that is extremely sensitive about the topic he is dealing with this time around. A rehearsal in which an actor plays one of his participants tells Fielder that he is a horrible, manipulative person, is a representation of that anxiety that offers insight through humor.
Fielders aim in putting people in these increasingly bizarre situations is less about humiliation, but more about two things: a genuine interest in people and a curiosity about the oddities in life, notwithstanding manipulated circumstances. Sure, real life does not contain elaborate rehearsals. We rarely get to give things that are unpleasant or frightening a trial run until we feel we can handle it. But the desire to do these things does.
To laugh at something is to dismiss it as serious, but this isnt because he isnt. Life is beautiful and sad and real, but it is also funny and strange and uncomfortable. These things and events seem to exist in opposition to each other. Both are beneficial to your health.