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You’ve By no means Seen Something Fairly Like The Rehearsal

A sure video by the comic Nathan Fielder has by no means did not make me snort. In it, he’s dressed as a pharmacist and prepares a prescription—besides as an alternative of drugs, he’s utilizing raisins. The joke is nonsensical and instantly apparent, but it surely retains going: Fielder rigorously measures out the dosage, packs the bottle of raisins right into a paper bag, says, “Right here you’re, ma’am,” whereas dropping the bag to nobody specifically, after which solemnly returns the unique field of raisins to a shelf. It’s the form of bit that runs simply lengthy sufficient to make you query why he’s doing this—and by extension, why you’re nonetheless watching.

It additionally serves as an excellent litmus take a look at for the way a lot Fielder you may deal with; he’s a comic whose shtick you both get immediately or by no means will. Finest recognized for the docu-comedy sequence Nathan for You, during which he got here up with preposterous concepts to avoid wasting struggling small companies, Fielder has perfected an onscreen persona as a extremely dedicated, painfully deadpan, near-sociopathic-but-maybe-just-dumb genius. Pushing any scenario into its most awkward territory is his superpower. Take the raisins, as an example: The truth that raisins can resemble drugs isn’t that humorous, however he’s so dedicated to filling out the prescription, the absurdity takes over. He seems to be like he believes that that is his job.

The Rehearsal, Fielder’s first starring venture in 5 years, pushes his signature dedication to the acute. The HBO sequence options Fielder because the director of “rehearsals,” elaborately staged situations re-creating elements of abnormal folks’s lives that are supposed to assist them put together for one thing: possibly a confession they have to make to a detailed buddy, or what a tough life selection would possibly seem like as soon as they embark on it. Every episode exhibits the trippy work that goes into enjoying such intense fake. (You’d be forgiven for pondering you’re watching a scene from Synecdoche, New York.) However these costly endeavors alone don’t make The Rehearsal the strangest “comedy” airing on TV. The present is at odds with its mastermind. In Nathan for You, Fielder was in whole management, a troll who acquired folks to comply with alongside along with his outlandish concepts by enjoying the a part of a profitable enterprise guide. In The Rehearsal, Fielder solely thinks he’s. He’s perplexed by his personal efforts, extra of an observer than a real adviser. And because the present goes on, it interrogates what Fielder desires out of all these nonsensical apply classes. Are they in regards to the ease of deceiving others, or about deceiving himself?

That query drives the present’s rigidity. All through The Rehearsal, probably the most exceptional scenes contain Fielder turning into the sufferer of his personal schemes, pushing again towards the principles he’d established. Contemplate the closing moments of the primary episode, which aired Friday: Fielder has simply accomplished a rehearsal along with his topic, a person named Core, however he’d lied to Core to tug it off and now desires to confess to the lie. Fielder goes by his personal rehearsal of the confession with an actor stand-in. The scene cuts to Fielder speaking to the actual Core, besides this time, Fielder doesn’t reveal a factor.

The second is fascinatingly meta: It’s unclear whether or not he chickened out, or ever meant to inform Core the reality. Fielder has a hand in every thing in regards to the present; he supplies the voice-over narration, directs the episodes, and constructs the situations. By together with a scene that acknowledges the deception that he finally doesn’t disclose to Core, Fielder appears to be providing commentary about himself with out saying a single phrase. Maybe he desires viewers to query his goals. Maybe he’s displaying that he understands the artifice of his setup. Or maybe he feels responsible about his devious technique of comedy.

Time and again, a refined, silent battle between the Fielder onscreen and the Fielder behind the digicam appears to come up. These moments mark a shift in Fielder’s work, which had beforehand handled TV Fielder as a fictional character, exaggerating his want to attach with the folks he meets and ignoring how weird he could possibly be. Fielder would often blur the strains on Nathan for You, however he tended to keep up a strict boundary between his actual self and his act. Now, by together with scenes like those with Core, he’s instantly contending with how TV Fielder is perceived.

If all of this sounds extra headache-inducing than humorous, don’t fear: Loads of pleasure could be derived from merely watching The Rehearsal as one huge social experiment performed by a perfectionist with an impossibly massive funds, courtesy of HBO. The modifying is fastidious, a lot as in Nathan for You and Tips on how to With John Wilson (which Fielder produces), usually underscoring a joke by zooming in on an amusing element or chopping to the comic’s response at simply the best second. Fielder nonetheless likes discomfiting his topics—who for probably the most half clearly take into account these rehearsals ridiculous. And his crew’s creations are exceptional: For the rehearsals, they assemble a duplicate of a Brooklyn bar, produce a pretend winter round a rural Oregon dwelling, and even solid a sequence of kid actors so {that a} lady can simulate elevating a son from infancy to teenagehood. By way of all of it, you’re not solely certain of what you’re seeing, however what you’re seeing is so oddly addictive, you may’t assist however proceed trying.

Simply as Nathan for You as soon as did, The Rehearsal has already drawn criticism for the way in which Fielder appears to hunt out and exploit solely oddball characters for his comedy, belittling the folks he’s saying he’s attempting to assist. However that’s a willful misinterpret of the present. Fielder, in any case, is the true butt of the joke, the one particular person onscreen who appears incapable of accepting that no rehearsal of life can match the actual factor. The present explores, at its creator’s expense, the futility of apply. It exposes how no quantity of painstaking management can drive actuality to bend to anybody’s will—maybe Fielder’s least of all.



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