10 times Nathan Fielder proved he is the undisputed king of cringe

By Simon Bland

Published Feb 27, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 8 minutes

Celebrating its 10th birthday this week, Comedy Central’s Nathan For You proved once and for all that there are no bad ideas, just a lack of determination to see terrible ideas through to their full potential. During its four brilliant seasons, this faux docu-reality series took rubbish career advice to unprecedented new levels while delivering some of the finest slices of cringe comedy we’ve ever had the massively uncomfortable pleasure of laying our peepers on.

Unfamiliar with this Tim and Eric-produced gem? Framed in a reality show format, Nathan For You follows Nathan Fielder, an entrepreneur who, as the show’s title sequence explains, “graduated from one of Canada’s best business schools with really good grades.” This alone should let you know he’s the real deal but his brains are put to the test each week as he visits a different struggling business and helps them dream up unconventional ways of fixing their footfall that typically devolve into overly-convoluted madness.

He’s also a guy who oozes a shifty-eyed awkwardness that infects each of the business owners he’s trying to help. With that in mind, we’ve gathered ten of the most squirmingly uncomfortable Nathan For You moments that prove why Fielder is the undisputed king of cringe.

1. “Park your car”

The plan: Season three’s ‘Nail Salon/Fun’ episode finds Fielder visiting an Asian salon owner who’s struggling to help her customers avoid chipping their nails after they’ve had them painted. With this issue happening most frequently when customers reach for their car keys after leaving the salon, Fielder comes up with a quick fix: a salon-run valet service. However, after noticing outdated stereotypes about Asians being bad drivers, he decides to hire an Asian stunt driver to masquerade as a salon employee and provide the valet service.

The pain: If we’re going to do this, we best start strong. This clip is so painful to watch, it’s kind of hard to believe it actually exists—and yet, at the same time, it also embodies exactly what makes Nathan For You such a great watch. After hiring an Asian stunt driver, Fielder remains worried that her lack of an accent might hinder his plans. But when the driver asks him what kind of accent he’s looking for, we’re given one of the cringiest moments in the show’s history. The deer-in-the-headlights look, the prolonged “I’m not racist” preamble, the line itself… It’s almost too much to take in.

2. “Soundproof box”

The plan: Another from season three, this clip finds Fielder helping a hotel owner eager to get more family bookings. As Fielder sees it, the real reason families don’t visit is that it’s hard for parents to get intimate while sharing a room with their kids so he comes up with a simple solution: what if there was a soundproof box that parents could place their little ones into whenever they wanted to get intimate on holiday? “Kids wouldn’t see this as a prison,” he assures the hotel owner. “It’d be a fun, isolation box that kids of all ages could enjoy.” Obviously.

The pain: To assure his definitely-not-a-prison box works, Fielder hires a kid actor to sit inside it while two porn stars loudly go at it on a nearby bed. As if hearing loud banging while a young boy plays obliviously inside a spaceship-themed child cube wasn’t weird enough, when the boy’s parents decide to check in on the experiment, things get pushed to a new level.

Turns out, Fielder decided to give his porn stars names to help make things more real but when the kid’s parents discover the horny duo have their names, it becomes too much for them (and us) to bear. On the plus side, the kid looked like he had a grand old time.

3. “Grandson’s pee”

The plan: A first-season clip, this entirely bizarre moment comes while Fielder is trying to help a small-town gas station owner. His grand plan is to offer the guy’s customers the cheapest fuel in the US but with one lofty catch. Drivers can only claim this amazing deal via a rebate: a process that involves them sending off a form to request a partial refund. However, as with most moments on the show, this process is far from easy with customers required to submit the form in person on top of a huge mountain. So far, so weird… but things soon get far weirder. 

The pain: After a handful of tenacious customers actually take him up on his rebate scheme, Fielder’s forced to pivot and claim that the real takeaway from this endeavour was the friends he made along the way. It’s here where things get bizarre. After referencing a hiker who was willing to drink his own pee to get to the top of rebate mountain, the gas station owner reveals that actually, that’s no biggie. 

In fact, he’s been doing it for years after his grandma told him that drinking a child’s piss cures anxiety. It’s a moment illustrative of the off-the-cuff magic that makes Nathan For You so uniquely awkward and one that leaves everyone speechless.

4. “Poo-flavoured yoghurt”

The plan: The key to revitalising a run-of-the-mill frozen yoghurt shop? A brand new buzzworthy flavour, of course—and Fielder has just the thing to get people talking. For the show’s debut episode, the business whizz put his unconventional skills to the test by concocting a ‘poo’ flavoured dessert to help bring more customers into a Los Angeles store. Despite being a considerably ‘out there’ idea, this questionable flavour is an instant hit. Nah, not really. It’s a poo-flavoured frozen yoghurt. Unsurprisingly, people rightly hated it.

The pain: There’s plenty of awkward gold in Fielder’s first show. From his tense conversation with a rival PR guy who’s wholly against the idea of feeding people a poop-flavoured treat, to the moment Fielder comes to his senses and actually tries to convince the store’s dumbfounded owner that maybe selling a faeces-flavoured dessert might actually put customers off.

However, the best bit has to come during a focus group where a subject correctly identifies the poo flavour almost immediately. What follows is Fielder politely prodding the taster to admit that she’s tried poo before. Cue lots of awkward looking around the room.

5. “Man zone”

The plan: In order to help the owner of a boutique women’s clothing store retain her customers, Fielder suggests creating a designated “man zone” where bored hubbies can hang out while their partners shop for clothes, guilt-free. However, the idea’s integrity is somewhat undermined when the emotionless Fielder tries unconvincingly to sell his connections to the common bloke to the very store owner he’s trying to help. “Trust me,” he smiles. “I know guys. All we need is a beer in our hand and a bro by our side and we are out of the way.” Lads, lads, lads, etc.

The pain: Making good on his promise, Fielder builds a man cave attached to the boutique where he lures bored guys for a bit of quality man-time. There’s just one problem: the chemistry between the socially awkward Fielder and the new mates he’s trapped isn’t exactly glowing. Plied with free beers and plenty of sport on the telly, Fielder does his best to dish out some classic man-speak as nonchalantly as he can: “You know what I feel like? A mother effin beer!” It’s just so convincing.

6. “Astronaut Santa”

The plan: While working with a sporting goods store that’s struggling to make ends meet, Fielder suggests getting the endorsement of a major sporting star to help boost their reputation. That said, hiring a professional athlete to champion your brand can be pricey but what if you got in early and hired a sports-obsessed child in a long-term contract? That’s the plan. But when Fielder discovers that some of his would-be stars might actually prefer to become astronauts when they’re older, he’s forced to recruit an old friend to help squash their dreams.

The pain: The joy of Nathan For You is meeting the oddballs Fielder’s schemes bring him into contact with. Fans of the show will recognise the star of this clip as the out-of-work mall Santa that received help in season one via summer-time Christmas family photo opportunities. Here, Fielder ropes him in as a fake astronaut charged with the task of convincing kids that reaching for a career in the stars isn’t a good idea.

There’s just something about hearing a burly guy with a scruffy beard tell a child that his “whole life has been a nightmare” and that most of his pals have died in space or gone insane from loneliness that’s deliciously uncomfortable to watch.

The clip.

7. “Party planner”

The plan: Here’s a doozy of awkwardness. While trying to help a party planner offer a bespoke service that allows her customers to only invite desired guests to their shindigs, with invites to unwanted attendees going straight to spam, Fielder finds himself in a number of weird situations that make a whole bunch of people wish they could be anywhere else. It’s another episode that reunites him with one of his most disconcerting pals, Bill Gates impersonator and definitely not a stalker, Bill Heath, a guy who seems coated in layers of strangeness, each of which is slowly revealed whenever he opens his mouth.

The pain: From Fielder’s tense chat with the tech guy responsible for packaging his party invites with hidden spam phrases (“I’ve never seen a spam email that says ‘do you want a one-inch penis?’”) to his not one but two failed attempts at picking up his client’s dog, there’s plenty here to keep you hiding behind your hands.

However, it’s his rubbish house party that really takes the cake. After many painfully prolonged silences, Heath finally arrives as Gates for the event’s entertainment and somehow makes things even more bizarre.

8. “Splash to the mouth”

The plan: Owning a car wash is a great way to make a living but without dirty cars, you’re not going to make much money. To fix this issue, Fielder helps a local car wash owner attract more business by advertising a “bird poo special” for cars splattered with fowl faeces. How can he guarantee vehicles will get soiled enough to warrant a trip to the car wash, you ask? By placing a bunch of chickens (and a peacock for good measure) in a tree and temporarily stopping cars while they drive under it. Easy.

The pain: With so many bright ideas flying around, there’s no telling what might happen whenever Fielder puts his skills into practice. That’s the case in this brief-but-memorable scene where his own scheme ultimately ends up working against him after an unfortunately-placed bird poo splatters off of the roof of a car and into Fielder’s open mouth. Gross out and hilarious in equal measure, it’s bested only by Fielder awkwardly asking to be named his client’s latest employee of the month just a few scenes later.

The clip.

9. “Smoke detector”

The plan: Appearing in the show’s fourth season, ‘Shipping Logistic Company’ sees Fielder help an organisation avoid hefty tariffs by convincing those in charge that the smoke detectors they’re shipping are in fact musical instruments. To do this, he must use the only sound the device makes—an ear-piercingly high-pitched bleep—in a song, which in turn requires him to form his own band. After gathering a group of musicians, he quickly identifies the most talented among them, strips him of any proper instruments and sets him up with a smoke alarm instead.

The pain: Determined to write the song that will eventually feature the smoke alarm’s flinch-encouraging bleep, Fielder’s new bandmates are forced to sit through a teeth-clenching, bum-shufflingly awkward acapella rendition of a terrible love song he has penned himself. Thankfully, a more talented member of the band swiftly takes the lead and when their new track is finally played (complete with added smoke detector bleep) the ridiculousness of the whole situation is impossible not to laugh at. 

10. “I love you”

The plan: According to a California law, it’s illegal for customers to smoke inside pubs. It’s an issue that’s caused local bar owner Ellen to lose a big chunk of her regular income. But luckily, Fielder has found a workaround. It seems that smoking can be carried out if it’s an integral part of a live performance, and if he can repurpose Ellen’s bar so that all patrons become unwitting extras in a free-form play, then technically they’ll be able to smoke to their heart’s content. Simple, right?

The pain: In order to enact his plan, Fielder’s forced to hire a group of local actors who will form the crux of his play. However, when it comes to luring believable performances out of them, he soon finds himself in a situation that gets harder to watch by the second.

Unconvinced by a female actor’s delivery of “I love you,” Fielder decides to sit in on the scene himself and ask her to repeat the line back to him until he’s convinced it feels real. The repetition is both hypnotic, excruciating and seemingly never-ending; it starts funny, quickly becomes weird, unfunny and then circles back to hilarious. It’s delivered so many times, it’s actually quite difficult to look at.

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