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Comedian Nathan Fielder talks behind-the-scenes of TV show, turns questions onto students

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Nathan Fielder speaks at Ryan Auditorium on Saturday. Fielder, whose show

Nathan Fielder speaks at Ryan Auditorium on Saturday. Fielder, whose show "Nathan for You" airs on Comedy Central, was A&O Productions' spring speaker.

Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

Nathan Fielder speaks at Ryan Auditorium on Saturday. Fielder, whose show "Nathan for You" airs on Comedy Central, was A&O Productions' spring speaker.

Julia Doran, Reporter

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Comedian Nathan Fielder discussed the process behind his work while joking with an audience of more than 600 on Saturday night as A&O Productions’ spring speaker.

Fielder, who started his career performing stand-up comedy and producing short films, is well-known for his reality comedy series, “Nathan for You,” in which he plays a consultant who offers outlandish advice to small business owners. The show is set to run for a fourth season on Comedy Central.

“A big part of the process for the show is trying to find people who seem to be open to an experience that’s different from their day-to-day activities,” Fielder said. “A lot of the time we end up going with people who just don’t ask a lot of questions.”

The sold-out event was held in Ryan Auditorium and moderated by WBEZ reporter Greta Johnsen (Medill ‘12).

Fielder said he uses awkward silences to get otherwise reluctant business owners to commit to his often bizarre plans, such as suggesting a frozen yogurt establishment introduce a feces-flavored yogurt to attract curious customers.

“A lot of the show is weirdly freeing because I find I can put aside the part of me that feels anxious about needing to fill the silences,” he said. “People will open up because they feel like they want to please you, and if they think you’re not getting that because of the silence, they’ll say something different or new.”

Fielder also said while his team devises a plan for each segment, they stay flexible so the plot can adapt to the guests’ reactions. For example, he showed one “dream scenario” that developed differently than expected, in which he easily persuaded a real estate agent to guarantee that all her homes are ghost-free to attract more clients.

Fielder also brought audience members on stage and jokingly pried into their personal lives before letting them ask questions. He asked about a variety of topics, including sex, relationships and Greek life.

“One day I’ll crack this fraternity thing,” he said after talking to an audience member. “Isn’t it funny? I feel like I’m asking questions to someone in the CIA. Everyone’s like, ‘They’re all good. I wouldn’t say one is worse than the other. They’re all equal and they don’t make us do anything. We have friends for life, guaranteed.’”

Communication senior Caroline Reedy said she enjoyed Fielder’s awkward yet confident presence and his propensity to make people uncomfortable.

“He has such a dryness to his humor that’s really unique, and he really takes his time with everything,” she said. “It’s not over-the-top. He can just elaborate on things people say and make them funny and make them feel weird.”

Eytan Boclin, A&O’s director of speakers, said he admires Fielder’s comedy for its clever style.

“He’s really smart and precise and has a really, really unique voice,” the Communication senior said. “He makes such deliberate, funny, awkward choices and his commitment to whatever bit he’s doing is incredible.”

Email: juliadoran2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @_juliadoran  

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