Review of “The Rehearsal”


Jack Armstrong, Staff Writer

One genre of comedy that I feel is incredibly challenging to perfect is the “live-stunt comedy,” which is when a person goes out of their way to portray a character or a version of themselves, enter the real world, and use an intense amount of improvisation to guide their way through a story or joke. This form of comedic filmmaking or television making is one that I believe has two standout figureheads. I believe that these two people are paving the way for this style of comedy and have perfected the artform, proving that every new project they take on will be unique and undeniably funny. The first example is Sacha Baron Cohen. Known primarily for his role as Borat in the many films and live appearances he takes on, Cohen has been known for playing other characters earlier in his career like Ali G and Brüno that have generated very similar responses that Borat has. Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters are usually eccentric and push the boundaries of comedy, resulting in some of the most raunchy, vulgar, and yet hilarious jokes I have ever seen. However, with all the eccentricity that Cohen brings to his roles, rarely does he play a character that stays grounded and takes an entirely different approach to the live-stunt. This is where Nathan Fielder comes into the picture. Fielder is who I believe to be the other and, in some instances, smarter comedian in the live-stunt genre. Fielder’s strategy of comedic writing makes both the victim of the punchline and the audience watching his show question if this person actually acts this way. Nathan Fielder is primarily known for his satirical reality show known as Nathan For You which follows the character of Nathan Fielder, a graduate of an unnamed Canadian business school, as he helps struggling business owners try to reinvent interest in their products, advertisements, and anything else under the sun. The main joke of each episode is how they go about improving these businesses. For example, a liquor store is struggling to keep customer interest in their products, hence why they call Nathan. Nathan’s plan for this store is to allow underage people into the store to purchase liquor, the only catch being the underage people aren’t allowed to take home the liquor until they are legally allowed to drink. This plan is ridiculous, yet these people take full advantage of the idea and implement it into their store. Fielder’s ways of deception are unbelievably tricky to nail the more you think about it. He has to craft a way to come up with a middle ground between too normal and too crazy. The situation can’t be too normal because the entertainment value wouldn’t be there, but the situation can’t be too crazy either because the store owner has to believe the idea and go through with it, resulting in no joke in the first place. Nathan Fielder’s meticulous and detailed jokes are what made Nathan For You such an entertaining, yet cringeworthy show to watch because on the one hand the jokes are funny, but on the other hand they are actually happening to these businesses. The most clever part of all is that Nathan’s acting is just as meticulous as his writing, making every single person involved in this project question if this guy is playing a character or not. The biggest deception is that the character of Nathan and the real life Nathan have the same exact name, Nathan Fielder.

All of this to say, Nathan Fielder is back with a brand new project, The Rehearsal. This new show decides to ask and answer the question, “what if we could rehearse a conversation before it actually happens?” Nathan Fielder returns with his “master of manipulation” attitude to sway people to let him help prepare for some of the next steps in their lives like coming clean and preparing for parenthood. As a diehard fan of Nathan For You, The Rehearsal seemed perfectly like a Nathan Fielder comedy that tries something completely different than his other show. During the summer, episodes would come out weekly and I would hear very positive things about it. But, I feel like I never really heard a lot of people watching the show. Right before the summer ended, instead of taking a night to read some of J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace for my AP Men and Women class (sorry Mr. Somers), I decided to binge watch every episode of The Rehearsal in preparation for the finale releasing later that week. Each episode only ran about a half an hour long, so I was only really missing out on two and a half hours of reading Disgrace. Needless to say I was blown away by the turn this show took. I prevented myself from speaking to anyone about the show until the ending in case the show finished its first season worse than anyone could have expected. But alas, the finale was just as brilliant as the rest of the episodes.

Something I least expected was how much of a central figure Nathan became in this show. Being used to the style of Nathan For You, in which Nathan was the star of the show, I was surprised to see that the show was not actually about him. He spearheaded the jokes and wrote all of the circumstances, but the real meat of the show came from the interesting people that Nathan winds up helping. Those were the real punchlines of the jokes. Yet, The Rehearsal ends up placing Nathan more in the forefront and, without spoiling it, becomes a full examination of Nathan as a person which is unbelievably fascinating and brilliant. It feels almost in a way a second look at his actions during Nathan For You. This is a very hard piece of media to avoid spoilers because it would greatly ruin the experience of this show. In a future article, I could potentially go more in depth about the themes that the show tackles because they are very important for any aspiring actor, writer, or… empathetic person in general. I may go more in depth later especially because the show just got renewed for a second season; which it wholeheartedly deserves. Watching the show and Nathan himself become more vulnerable as the show goes on, you can’t help but feel bad because he’s choosing to pour his insecurities as a writer in front of millions of people. It’s tragic but brilliant. It makes me wonder though, how is Nathan Fielder going to go about creating another season seeing how personal and thought-provoking the first season was throughout the duration of its runtime?

What mainly upsets me is that not enough people are aware of this show or Nathan Fielder in general. I feel that, especially now because his two shows are now available on HBO Max, he will get a boost of popularity that he most definitely deserves. If this article hasn’t emphasized this enough, you have to watch both The Rehearsal and Nathan For You to understand why Nathan Fielder needs to be more popular. His writing is so unique and you can’t deny his cleverness in the slightest. It’s tough not being able to fully discuss this show in this article out of fear that the people editing it will get spoiled, but I see this as an opportunity for you to watch the show in time for a potential follow up article about this show. Moral of the story, I love Nathan Fielder and you should too. He’s too underrated for his own good.