Nathan For Us

A local eatery in my hometown of Strongsville, Ohio was on a reality show called Restaurant Impossible a few years back. The name of the restaurant was The Mad Cactus and it has been an awful establishment for as long as I can remember. The experts on Restaurant Impossible came in with full confidence that they could turn things around. It was a big production. The place got remodeled and the menu changed completely. The show led viewers to believe that everything had been turned around and the business was going to thrive.

We’ve all seen this stuff, right? The shows where some know-it-all “expert” finds a struggling business and then yells a lot while pouring money into the operation. There’s usually a tight deadline that they just barely meet. There’s contrived drama and suspense, and most of us know that it’s stupid but we just can’t turn away.

I’ll admit that I’ve been sucked into watching shows like this. Bar Rescue is a guilty pleasure for me, but I prefer to think it’s only because the show takes itself too seriously. For instance, watch the made-for-TV anger that the host has in this clip.

Do legitimate health inspectors even react like that?

This kind of reality TV is everywhere and we’re all eating it up. There’s definitely some shame in it, but this is setting up my point – All of these shows contribute to why I love Nathan For You so much. The Comedy Central series returns for its second season on July 1st and it might be the best possible response to our fix ‘er up reality TV culture.

The general idea is that Nathan Fielder is a business expert with some outside-the-box ideas, which are all completely absurd. However, most of the guests on the show don’t realize that it’s a joke because these ideas are executed with the same confidence and production value that an actual TV expert would have. They go along with him because he’s a guy with a TV show, even though it’s obvious that they have some second thoughts about his suggestions.

One of his best ideas in the first season is a promotion he runs with a pizza place. The idea is that if the order isn’t delivered in 8 minutes, customers will get a free pizza. However, the size of the pizza isn’t specified in the promotion and when the driver is inevitably late, customers receive an additional free pizza that is the size of a Ritz cracker. Obviously people aren’t pleased, hilarity ensues, and the promotion fails. The business is no better off for having worked with him, but the best part is that he sells these ideas with the same unfounded confidence you might see on Restaurant Impossible or Bar Rescue and the show works with the same formula.

He’s also looking out for us as viewers and provides tips for business success that we can use. Here is one of my favorite segments, where he demonstrates that confidence is everything in business… by only allowing himself to use the words of a child during a job interview.

I’m so happy that someone has come along to make a mockery of these experts who claim to work miracles on failing businesses. I would have much preferred that The Mad Cactus had been featured on Nathan For You instead. I’m pretty sure that place would have met the same fate either way. It shut down last year because Restaurant Impossible doesn’t account for deeper-seeded problems, like bad management or a restaurant owner with a cocaine problem (just a guess, but ya know, probably). If business miracles are a myth, we should at least get to laugh about them. Nathan For You gives that opportunity to US!

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