I had actually pitched Nathan for You to Comedy Central before I started working on Jon Benjamin Has a Van. It was inspired by segments I did for a Canadian series called "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" where I'd interact with real people in an interview setting. I first began doing these segments in 2007. But it's always interesting to watch different approaches to dealing with real people, and it was very educational to work with Jon and see how he operated. You Can't Shoot Here is one of my all time favorite comedy bits.
Intuition mostly. I trust the writers I work with and my own instincts. If we all feel like something is hilarious or fresh, I have to assume it is. And those are the things that tend to be well received.
It might be surprising but keeping a straight face in many of the situations we get into on the show is quite difficult for me. I began to realize that I'll sometimes do this thing where I act like I'm picking a piece of food out of my back teeth to cover the fact that I'm smiling. Then if I can't get it together within a few seconds, I might ask for some dental floss or something because I've clearly been picking at this tooth for 20 seconds or so.
Some moments that stand out off the top of my head would be the Gas Station episode where the owner told me that he drinks his grandson's urine to ward off fear. I often laugh when I feel uncomfortable too, so I remember having to turn my head a...
I definitely play up certain parts of my personality and exaggerate vulnerabilities I have for the sake of comedy. I feel like the Nathan on the show has a much tougher time reading social cues and is way less self aware than the real me. He's also much more confident. So yeah, it's different, but at the same time it's not like in my real life I'm strollin' around scorin' babes. It all comes from a real place. A lot of the time I feel like I'm emulating a younger version of myself.
I'm a big fan of Chris Morris. When I first began doing comedy a friend of mine introduced me to Brass Eye and I was blown away. It was so dense and visual. The pedophilia episode with the guy dressed as a school... oh man. So hilarious. He's definitely been an influence on the stuff I do. Among many others.
True fact: The business program I went to actually let you negotiate grades. Like it was part of the curriculum. They said "In the real world everything is a negotiation.." or something like that. So if you could prove that you deserved a higher grade because you did something "entrepreneurial" in the real world, they'd give it to you. I would say things like, "I changed the tire on my bike instead of bringing it to a bike shop, which shows self initiative - a trait that's very important to running a business." And they'd bump me up one letter grade. Nuts.
The pin really did slip from my fingers and catch on my sweater. That was not something that was planned. But what we didn't show in the episode is that I had a second backup pin taped behind my ear with a band aid (skin color so you couldn't really see it). In practicing, the pin was really easy to drop, so I wanted a backup. If the pin hit the ground, I would have gone for my backup pin.
Very fun. I got paid to travel across Canada and stay in fancy hotels and all I had to do was come up with lines for the host like "The temperature may be ice cold here in Winnipeg, but things are really heating up in the judging room."
Oh man there were so many. I actually had butterflies in my stomach during a lot of those dates. Rachel, who doesn't like wearing socks, was tough to get a read on. But a fascinating person. LA, the lady who was trying to promote her album, was also a delight. Lais, who tried to kiss me.. that was a really intense one for me. It was very surreal how seriously competitive the women were getting. Actually, a fight broke out (verbal, not physical) between two of the women over how much time they were getting with me. We ended up cutting it from the episode because it felt a bit too much like a moment you'd actually see in The Bachelor, but it was a very crazy moment and a very surreal night.
I like that the show goes in different and unexpected places. It's sometimes fun to set thing up then take a step back if the business owner starts having their own ideas or pushing things forward. Later this season, I encounter a business owner that actually gets more into the idea than I am. But yeah, I like a variety of responses or reactions.
At first I thought he was kidding, and it took me asking a lot of questions before I realized he was for real. As crazy as it was though, I still felt the need to be respectful of this practice if it came from a culture or tradition I didn't understand. Weird, conflicting emotions inside of me.
In general, there seems to be an understanding that when participating in a reality show you're not going to get full information about what will happen so that authentic moments can be captured on camera. The people that appear comfortable with this are usually the ones we end up involving in the show - those that seem open to an experience or adventure that's different from their day-to-day life. Often in the casting process we'll encounter business owners that have lots of specific questions about the show and exactly what we're planning to do with them. Because going into a shoot we don't want participants knowing any of that or that it's a comedy show (as this would take away from them ...