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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Nathan For You: “Taxi Service/Hot Dog Stand”

Illustration for article titled Nathan For You: “Taxi Service/Hot Dog Stand”
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Typically, Nathan’s outlandish plan for a business creates tension because you’re waiting to see how long the proprietor will go along with Nathan. The taxi-service experiment in this episode marks the first time that a business owner is more enthusiastic about an idea than Nathan himself. As it turns out, the only thing crazier than going along with a Nathan Fielder scheme is wholeheartedly believing that it will work.

You can see why Andy Farshidian, president of Andy O.C. Taxi Cab Co., would be so eager to embrace Nathan’s “free rides for pregnant women” promotion. While the dire straits of many businesses on Nathan For You are clearly trumped up for the cameras, Andy’s troubles are not. He’s forthright about the impact that ride-sharing apps like Uber have had on his cash flow: “I’m very broke, know what I mean? Very broke.” So, sure, he’s willing to roll the dice on the possibility that one of those freeloading pregnant women will suddenly go into labor in the cab. Never mind that it’s dubious how the resulting publicity will boost business for Andy O.C.—Farshidian takes the awesome power of the media as a given.


Nathan’s experiments are funny in part because while they’re ludicrous, they always possess a certain logic. They’re off-kilter, but they’re not insane. Most of the time, Nathan’s clients follow his reasoning but remain unconvinced, taking (at best) a wait-and-see approach. Not Farshidian. He buys in all the way and appears to think this is the idea that will save his struggling company. So in a great reversal, he ends up as the one trying to convince Nathan that the idea is sound. Farshidian unknowingly channels Fielder’s comic sensibility when he insists that, rather than having dollar signs in his eyes, he sees dollar signs in one eye but a safe, healthy baby in the other. “Safety first, baby second,” he half-reassuringly explains. Nathan pauses for a second, wondering whether to pick apart the formulation, but he decides not to push it.

Before the wonderful spectacle of Farshidian unabashedly begging a woman to give birth in the back of his taxicab—to the extent that Nathan has to intervene—there are other delights. The sequence with the midwife and obstetrician plays a clever game with status. In the range of people who society has deemed acceptable for delivering a child, “student midwife” dwells at the low end of the spectrum. But Nathan doesn’t want her to feel that way—he wants confidence from everyone involved in this setup.

So when Dr. Manzar S. Kuraishi, licensed obstetrician, arrives to assess the midwife, Nathan puts the doctor in an impossible bind: He wants the doctor’s med-school expertise without his med-school status. Hence the auto mechanic overalls. Nathan further sandbags Karaishi by asking him to affect a Brooklyn accent, a backstory that Kuraishi initially rejects and then, facing the heat from a former Brooklynite, clings to for dear life. This is perhaps the only sequence of events that could produce the bizarre utterance, “Man, I’m from Brooklyn. I’d rather have a pizza. I don’t know about that, but, uh, what happens if she does need one of those epidural things?”


The initial plan for the Pink’s hot dog stand resembles last season’s burger refund scheme, which guaranteed patrons $100 if they didn’t agree that a roadside burger place served the best burgers in town. Like that experiment, the Pink’s idea—“line-cutting allowed if you’re in a hurry”—places a foolhardy faith in the honesty of your average fast-food patron. But there’s a fundamental difference in practice. The comedy of the burger idea emerged as Nathan asked diners to confirm their impossible-to-verify claims that they didn’t like their meal. (One woman memorably contorted her face and spit out her burger after Nathan mused that a person’s facial expression provides the key to understanding whether they like something or not.) This time, Nathan gets more specific, and it’s possible to confirm whether someone’s “in a hurry.”


In other words, it’s now possible for Nathan to definitively call someone out as a liar, and as the stunt plays out, it becomes clear that this was his intent all along. It’s a trap designed to ensnare the casually dishonest, and a slightly weird fellow named Jonathan steps right into it. Jonathan is the ideal specimen: He’s cynical enough to lie his way to the front of a hot-dog line, but he’s not cynical enough to ask questions when he’s offered a “lobster lunch for one at sea.”


The greatest flourish of the thoroughly funny boat hijacking sequence is the climactic curtain drop that reveals four people who were in line when Jonathan cut to the front. I don’t know if Nathan and his team worked these people into a froth beforehand, but one woman has revenge (and no small amount of makeup) in her eyes. “We thought it was a doctor’s appointment! We thought we were being kind. To a stranger,” she says while her 9-year-old daughter rather sensibly waits for all the madness to end. That girl may be the most level-headed person on the entire boat.

I have to wonder, is the angry mother really that upset that she was made to wait an extra minute for a hot dog? Or does she just find it irresistible, as many of us would, to confront someone who has perpetrated an indisputable wrong against her, no matter how slight? This is, after all, a pretty rare moment. Think of all the inconsequential but irritating slights people suffer each day—on the highway, in the boss’ office, on the phone with the cable company. It feels like AngrLine Lady is yelling not just at Jonathan but at all those people who have mildly annoyed her with a lack of consideration. She’s fighting for more than herself; she’s fighting for society. Or maybe she’s just nuts.


Stray observations:

  • “So, do you have any secrets?” is the best non sequitur of the episode. (The semi-obscene “screwing” gesture Nathan makes in his initial interview with Farshidian is a close second.)
  • After all the elaborate buildup in the Pink’s stunt, it’s a great turn when Nathan unleashes a punishment to fit the mild crime: a brief shock from a joy buzzer disguised as a “normal pack of gum.”
  • A scribbled message on Nathan’s plan for Pink’s reads, “Try Martha Stewart dog.” According to the Pink’s menu, that’s a 9-inch hot dog with relish, onions, bacon, chopped tomatoes, sauerkraut, and sour cream. That does sound pretty great.
  • A pilot in the Pink’s line tries to weasel his way into air-traffic-controller privileges. Nathan doesn’t allow it, a victory for put-upon air traffic controllers everywhere.

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