Nathan Fielder’s docu-series, The Rehearsal became one of HBO’s smash hits of the past summer. The six-episode first season depicts an elaborate social experiment where he helps regular people prepare for big decisions in their life by practicing the outcomes over and over in meticulously planned simulations.
But before Fielder had an HBO-sized budget to fund his ideas, he was the creator of Nathan For You, a Comedy Central show where he brings his ideas to small businesses around the country to help them improve.
The ideas are always off the wall—but they frequently work, much to the surprise of everyone involved. Here are some of my favorite schemes from Nathan For You, from the weird to the straight-up insane.
24-Hour Antique Shop (Season 3, “Sporting Goods Store / Antique Shop”)
To increase business and foot traffic at an antique shop, Nathan proposes they change the shop’s hours to stay open 24/7. Banking on the promise of drunk patrons from nearby bars coming in to check out the store, he enforces a strict “you break it, you buy it” policy and makes the aisles in the shop comically narrow.
He tries to sell his plan to the owner by bringing a drunk guy in a sumo wrestler costume into the shop. It works, just like he said it would: the drunk guy (named JJ) knocks almost $300 worth of antiques off the shelves and has to pay for all of it.
The Claw Of Shame (Season 1, “The Claw Of Shame”)
In this Season 1 episode, Nathan stages a challenge with real life stakes: He must pick the lock on his handcuffs before a robotic arm pulls down his pants, exposing him to a group of children.
He first establishes intent (to ensure that if he fails, he’ll actually face consequences) and has police officers onsite to arrest him and register him as a sex offender if he fails.
The robot unbuttons his fly and gets Nathan’s pants down, but, luckily, he’s able to pick the lock before the robot’s claw can grab the waistband of his undies. No children were scarred.
Ghost Realtor (Season 2, “Mechanic / Realtor”)
Nathan creates a plan to boost a real estate agent's business by marketing her as an agent with ghost-free homes. If she can certify that her listings are ghost-free, people will be more likely to trust her.
It turns out Sue actually claims to have experienced contact with ghosts in the past—when they bring a medium into one of her homes, she shares that she had an experience with an incubus in Switzerland.
With the help of a priest, they perform an exorcism on the demons in the house, as well as the demons in Nathan’s hemorrhoids. When it’s time to exorcize the demons from the agent's spine, she has a very visceral reaction and cries and yells as the priest performs the ritual.
Dumb Starbucks (Season 2, “Dumb Starbucks”)
Using “parody law” à la Saturday Night Live, Nathan is able to rename a coffee shop “Dumb Starbucks” by classifying it as an art gallery.
It’s a slow first day, with very few sales—but the next morning, there’s a line outside the door full of people and reporters dying to get the scoop on “Dumb Starbucks.” There’s even a rumor Banksy was behind it. Nope, just Nathan.
It goes insanely viral, with Dumb Starbucks cups selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Nathan even goes on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with some Dumb Starbucks product (although the muffins actually have a Vonn’s sticker still stuck to the packaging).
Gas Station Rebate (Season 1, “Gas Station / Caricature Artist”)
To trick people into buying gas from a certain station, Nathan advertises an extremely low price that’s only available through an in-person rebate located at the top of a mountain.
To his surprise, many of the customers show up the next day ready to take a trip to the top of the mountain. The group spends a grueling day hiking and answering riddles. Many customers leave, but by the end of the night three people remain.
The group sets up camp for the night, opening up to each other about past regrets and mistakes and philosophizing about life. They never reach the rebate box, but the customers all agree they’re leaving with something better than a rebate: friendship.
The best part of the bit are the graphics that accompany each customer during the hike. I lose it every time I see these people spending a full day hiking in the California heat, only to be reminded they’re doing this for a rebate of $7.
The Hero Pig (Season 1, “Santa / Petting Zoo”)
Deciding a petting zoo needs a “Shamu,” Nathan tries to market one of the pigs as a hero by staging a viral video of a rescue. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though:
Using PVC track and scuba divers, Nathan stages a video of a professional pig “saving” a goat.
He makes everyone present at the shoot sign an NDA saying if they reveal the secret, they’ll be punished by death penalty (it’s not enforceable).
The video goes viral right away (thanks to Reddit, eBaum’s World, and a bodybuilder message board). Brian Williams literally reported the story on NBC news (although he did say they had no way of knowing if it was real or not).
The Movement (Season 3, “The Movement”)
To cut labor costs for a moving company, Nathan markets “moving boxes” as the newest workout craze. After finding a professional bodybuilder to use as a spokesperson, Nathan begins to lay the groundwork for the scheme.
They claim the bodybuilder got his physique from moving boxes, saying he never set foot in a gym. The bodybuilder ends up on morning shows and news casts around L.A., sharing his fabricated weight loss journey and a regrettably false anecdote about being childhood friends with Steve Jobs.
People actually buy it—they pay the moving company for offering them a workout.
Summit Ice Apparel (Season 3, “Horseback Riding / Man Zone”)
After learning that the Canadian outerwear company, Taiga, is antisemitic, Nathan sets out on a mission to create his own clothing line that raises Holocaust awareness.
He sets up a pop-up shop where people with Taiga jackets can come to the store and trade them in for “Summit Ice” jackets. Lots of people legitimately support the idea, eager to trade in their jackets now that they know Taiga’s antisemitic ties.
Even celebrities have gotten in on the trend: Summit Ice’s “Celebrity Gallery” shows people like Jack Black, Alexandra Daddario, John Mayer, Blake Griffin, and Seth Rogen (who’s producing a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie) rocking the Holocaust-conscious jackets.
The Banzai Predicament (Season 4, “Shipping Logistics Company”)
This one is a wild ride, but it starts as a ploy to decrease shipping costs for smoke detectors. Since there are no tariffs on musical instruments, Nathan proposes they market smoke detectors as a legitimate musical instrument.
After creating a band and recording a song (“Orphaned Skies”) with a smoke detector sound included, Nathan realizes the song won’t get any play time on the radio. Capitalizing on a Shell scandal at the time, Nathan sets up a “protest” with a stage attached to a tanker of gas so the band can play while giving away free gas.
The band, named The Banzai Predicament, claims Shell used “Orphaned Skies” without their permission in a PR stunt (although they kind of did—at a fake Shell town hall meeting organized by Nathan himself). The story is widely covered by L.A. news casts.
Yet again, the plan works: Nathan is able to ship a box of smoke detectors labeled as musical instruments without being stopped by customs.
Chili Suit (Season 4, “Chili Shop / Massage Parlor”)
To help a struggling chili shop ramp up their business, Nathan crafts a plan to discreetly sell chili inside Bakersfield Condors games.
Nathan creates a suit with an elaborate pumping system so the chili can be sold to fans inside the arena without attracting suspicion from the staff.
They’re not in the clear yet, though. Since fans have to pass through metal detectors to enter, Nathan sticks a pacemaker to his chest and somehow convinces a doctor to take an x-ray while he leaves his shirt on. Now when he’s stopped at the metal detectors, he can show the security guards his x-ray. Sorry officer, I’m setting off the alarms because of my pacemaker, not because I’m wearing a chili-pumping suit.
She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.