Nathan Fielder: Deadpan and Awkward Silences

June 18, 2014 by Nevin Thompson

Is he a prankster, an Andy Kaufman-esque deadpan performance artist or a comedian? Or all of the above?

It’s hard to describe exactly what UVic grad Nathan Fielder does, but his comedy of “deadpan and awkward silences” is getting to be very popular. In fact, this former Victoria resident has just been written up in the New York Times.

He was born in Vancouver, where he attended Point Grey Secondary School. Fielder was a member of the school’s improv comedy group, which also included comedian Seth Rogen.

Fielder graduated in 2005 with a Commerce degree from the University of Victoria. In short time he had snagged a spot on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. His “Nathan On Your Side” segments from that show are the basis for his new Comedy Central Show Nathan For You.

Dumb Starbucks

Fast-forward to 2014: earlier this year Fielder received plenty of fame and notoriety for “Dumb Starbucks” a prank or (depending how you want to look at it) performance art piece which saw him set up an outdoor replica of a Starbucks outlet in the middle of Los Angeles.

Everything, from the menu to the look and feel of the servers (Fielder put out a Craigslist ad for former Starbucks baristas) was identical to Starbucks. The catch? Fielder inserted the word “dumb” into everything.

The word “dumb” alone provided the legal cover Fielder needed for the stunt to qualify as parody. His parody popup also had people lining up around the block.

Dumb Starbucks cups hit eBay for as much as $500, and a guy began hawking bootleg Dumb Starbucks trucker caps in the parking lot, alongside indie bands giving impromptu performances and a group opposed to plastic waste, which organized a protest.

Pig Saves Dog Viral Video

In another strange, hilarious sketch, Fielder tried to figure out how to create a viral video for a petting zoo.

His idea was to persuade a pig to rescue a goat that had fallen into a duck pond. Fielder uploaded the obviously fake rescue attempt to YouTube, and, overnight the obviously fake video went viral, being picked up by major television networks all over the world.

His most recent concept is to attempt to free himself from handcuffs before a robot can pull down his pants… while he stands in front of a “live studio audience” of children.

Comedians as Entrepreneurs

“Being a comedian is like being an entrepreneur — you have to develop something that people will value,” says Brocks Smith one of Fielder’s former teacher at UVic’s business school.

Smith continues:

Nathan starts his show, in part, with a visual of “his” University transcript, complete with C level grades, the subtext of which is that people should by wary of his advice. Nathan was actually a very strong student. In our entrepreneurship program, his innovation project team set a new record (by quite a lot) for profit made in 10 days with $5 of capital. His team sold product placement in a student’s guide of Victoria DVD, featuring funny vignettes that Nathan wrote.

We’re hoping Nathan Fielder can somehow make it back to Victoria to show us whatever new trick he has up his sleeve next.


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