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Nathan for You: The experimental comedy's 10 best (worst?) business ideas

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Comedy Central

A week before the official premiere of its fourth season, Nathan for You is back with an hour-long special celebration, where Nathan is following up with a few of the small businesses he “helped” with his unconventional marketing strategies.

In order to honor everyone’s favorite graduate from one of Canada’s top business schools (who got really good grades), we’re taking our own look back at Nathan for You’s first three seasons and ranking his 10 most ambitious, ridiculous, magnificent stunts.

Catch the Nathan for You special Thursday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. Season 4 premieres Sept. 28, also at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

 10. “Private Investigator” (season 1, episode 8)

The business plan itself — getting a private investigator a good Yelp review by… hiring the private investigator — is a little cursory by Nathan Fielder standards. What elevates this idea to a masterpiece is Fielder’s strategy of getting several semi-convincing lookalikes to scurry around him and create khaki-wearing chaos.

 9. “Yogurt Shop” (season 1, episode 1)

It is impossible to hear Nathan Fielder say “poo” without giggling. This cannot be true for just me. And if laughing at poo-flavored frozen yogurt is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

8. “Dumb Starbucks” (season 2, episode 5)

This episode embodies the “is this just dumb enough to work, or is it just dumb?” crux at the core of every good Nathan for You idea, but it became a bona fide publicity phenomena in the real world as well. Was it an art installation? Was it Banksy? Was it idiotic, or was it genius? Turns out, neither. Or both. It was Nathan for You.

 7. “Caricature Artist” (season 1, episode 4)

Nathan’s plan to turn caricature artist Greg Dohlen into an insult comic becomes its own piece of art when it becomes apparent how readily “The King of Sting” adopts his mean — and very racist — new persona.

 6. “Haunted House” (season 1, episode 5)

Haunted houses are scary, but they still operate within an understood framework — you’ll go into this building, they’ll frighten you with some made-up scenarios, and you’ll leave the same way you came. What Nathan understood is that in order to be truly terrifying, the haunted house needed to break the fourth wall… and convince the patrons they were accidentally infected with a deadly disease.

 5. “Hot Dog Stand” (season 2, episode 7)

In part 1 of his business strategy for Pink’s Hot Dog Stand, Nathan implemented a plan to allow customers to skip the line if they had somewhere important to be, like a doctor’s appointment. But when one customer lied in order to get ahead, Nathan knew he couldn’t be allowed to get away with it. And thus was born the ultimate revenge plot: convincing the man he won a prize for being Pink’s ten millionth customer, luring him out to the middle of the sea on a boat, and then forcing him to take a piece of gum from an ordinary pack of gum.

4. “The Claw of Shame” (season 1, episode 7)

This wasn’t an idea Nathan had for a small business — it was a challenge he set for himself in order to prove he was as fearless and risk-taking as he wants his clients to be. So the purpose of the Claw of Shame may have been a little shaky, but the suspense is truly genuine when Nathan has to escape handcuffs in order to prevent himself from becoming a registered sex offender. In the immortal words of Nathan Fielder: “Something might happen here and if it does… SO WHAT.”

3. “Electronics Store” (season 3, episode 1)

If you’re going to sell television sets for $1, customers have to be willing to go through a tiny, very dangerous door. That’s Business 101.

2. “The Hero” (season 3, episode 8)

This idea is notable not only for its bittersweet conclusion but the tremendous amount of prep it took to allow Nathan to walk across a wire between buildings in a body suit to convince onlookers below that he was actually a different guy, the guy who would become a hero. Nathan spent seven months learning how to walk on a wire and over $10,000 building a training set for himself, all for that moment of glory that he didn’t even get to be himself for.

 1. “Gas Station” (season 1, episode 4)

The ultimate Nathan for You business idea. In order to cash in on a lucrative gas station rebate, customers needed to complete a hike to the top of a summit, answer a series of riddles, and spend the night, only to learn that maybe the real rebate was friendship all along. And trying to keep a straight face as the gas station owner talked about drinking his grandson’s pee might be the most inspiring thing Nathan has ever done.