10 Unforgettable Times Nathan Fielder Messed With Your Food

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Screenshot:  YouTube/Comedy Central
Screenshot: YouTube/Comedy Central

Nathan Fielder has no fear. Despite his timid demeanor, he goes full force into every experiment born from his own sick and twisted brain, putting himself in situations where others have surely wanted to inflict harm on him. But still, through four seasons of Nathan For You on Comedy Central and at least the first episode of his new HBO show, The Rehearsal, he’s come out unscathed, even when messing with the most sacred thing of all: our food.

In The Rehearsal, Fielder puts his knowledge of building a business to the test. In the first episode, he builds an exact replica of Brooklyn’s Alligator Lounge (complete with a “functioning” pizza oven) so that one man can rehearse a tough conversation he needs to have with a friend at the real bar. There are even hired extras running the bar to make it all feel as accurate as possible. (I won’t give away anything else—you really have to see it to believe it.)

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But before building an entire pub from scratch, Fielder tried his hand at helping struggling businesses survive in Nathan For You, and along the way he appeared to learn a lot about everything from frozen yogurt to chili to Starbucks. Some of these lessons were learned the hard way, making them even harder to watch. Here are 10 cringeworthy (but hilarious) times Fielder messed with our food and drinks and got away with it.

Yogurt Shop

In the very first episode of Nathan For You, Nathan Fielder jumps right into the food industry fray with—what else?—poo-flavored frozen yogurt. In an attempt to help a struggling frozen yogurt shop, he introduces the novelty flavor to get buzz about the store going; after all, who wouldn’t stop by to at least see if the gimmick is real? The most cringe moment in this segment comes when Nathan brings in real people as a focus group to try the poo-flavored yogurt without telling them what they’re in for.

Pizzeria

Sure, a 35-minute pizza delivery guarantee is good, but what about an eight-minute pizza delivery guarantee or you get a pizza for free? That’s what Nathan promises customers of a pizza shop, with just one catch: the free pizza is just one inch across. Nathan goes out with the delivery person to see reactions from customers firsthand, and while there are still plenty of moments when you might be watching through your fingers, the show’s humanity really starts to comes through as Nathan spends more time with the delivery driver.

Restaurant Bathrooms

“Toilet for one? Now seating at Billy’s.” That’s one sign that Nathan hangs in a local restaurant to lure customers to use its bathroom in a neighborhood where public restrooms are few and far between. Once inside the restroom, they’ll be shown a commercial for the restaurant, hopefully encouraging them to stay and enjoy a meal after they do their business. The viewer anxiety kicks in when Nathan reveals he’s been secretly filming people on the toilet to prove that his marketing concept works—a fact that, as expected, some people are very unhappy to hear.

Burger Joint

If you claim to have the best burger in Los Angeles, put your money where your mouth is. At least that’s Nathan’s strategy for this burger joint. He puts a promotion in place that promises customers $100 cash if they try the burger and don’t think it’s the best in the city. Luckily Nathan takes the stress off the business owner and offers up his own money to anyone who feels the burger is inferior, so the only entity really losing cash is Comedy Central.

Blind Date at Quiznos

Product placement plagues all television shows these days, and Nathan For You is no exception. When Nathan wants to set up one of his staffers on a blind date, he sends him straight to Quiznos to make good on a sponsorship and even has a marketing person from the brand standing by to help the dater casually drop in Quiznos-approved language. The whole segment is “mmm, toasty.”

Liquor Store

It’s a real bummer that liquor stores can’t cash in on all those teens trying to buy booze—or can they? Nathan comes up with a totally legal longterm layaway program that allows kids to buy alcohol that they will in fact own but can’t access until they turn 21. If that seems like a raw deal for the kids putting up the money, don’t worry, Nathan’s thought of everything. He has recreated a classic “parents’ basement” photo booth of sorts right in the store, so the teens can take pictures of themselves with the alcohol (without drinking it) to use to brag to their friends.

Dumb Starbucks

When the Dumb Starbucks storefront first popped up in Los Angeles, some people speculated is was an art installment from Banksy. Lo and behold, it was Nathan, whom some might call the Banksy of Comedy Central. This episode really put Fielder on the map, with national television coverage about the potential purpose of the store, the legality of the location, and its ultimate demise. It was a short-lived coffee shop, but it sure was dumb while it lasted.

Hot Dog Stand

What really makes all of Nathan Fielder’s projects great is his talent for escalation. In many cases, the stakes couldn’t be lower, like in this episode about waiting in line for a hot dog. What starts as an experiment in letting people cut the line at Pink’s Hot Dogs ends with a stranger being held hostage at sea.

Chili Shop

If a man came up to you at hockey game and offered you chili from his sleeve, would you take it? A surprising amount of people would, apparently, as proven by this episode where Nathan goes the distance to get a local chili shop owner’s food served at a sports arena. This is one of the show’s greatest examples of going over the top, inventing new business solutions whole cloth and spending thousands of dollars to really commit to the bit.

Chinese Restaurant Marriage

A Chinese restaurant is a romantic enough place for a wedding, right? Or at least in Nathan’s case, a secret wedding. When Nathan feels at risk of deportation he (naturally) rents out a Chinese restaurant and changes every item on the menu to something unappetizing, like “turtle with face” so that his unsuspecting friend Andy has no choice but to order the item with the most unassuming name: the “Ai-Doo.” Nathan then goes so far as to hire an officiant to conduct the entire ceremony in Mandarin so Andy doesn’t know what he’s agreeing to. Cheers to the happy (?) couple.