The comedian who specializes in pity goes to great lengths in his series to show why life can’t be predicted

“Is it do you have something that you have been avoiding doing?” read in an online advertisement seeking participants for HBO’s new docu-comedy series The Rehearsaliin. Three episodes of the six-part series have been shown.

The purpose of the program is to prepare to face the difficult moments of life. Preparation includes careful practice of the situations in advance, so that the participant knows how to prepare for the variables that appear in the real moment.

Sounds benevolent. This would be a nice reality format for Finnish television too!

From nothing so simple a Canadian comedian by Nathan Fielder however, that’s not what the series created.

Fielder known for the Comedy Central channel Nathan for You (2013–2017) program, which gained attention with its absurd antics. Fielder, sporting a robotic poker face, took over Nathan for Youssa the role of a consultant helping struggling companies.

Most famous Nathan for Youssa the stunt performed was the establishment of a parody coffee shop called Dumb Starbucks. For example, Fielder also staged a petting zoo to help a viral video where a pig from the zoo saves a goat from drowning.

Fielder’s comedy is based on skits that require an extravagant amount of work and often also sympathy. I haven’t been able to watch Nathan for Yousta like fragments because of its grating embarrassment in places. The series seems fun, but prolonged exposure is too much for me.

Read more: Pity comedies have made us prisoners of our own embarrassment

The Rehearsalissa Fielder’s character still keeps a face with basic readings, and the purpose is still nominally to help people. However, thanks to the HBO budget, the scale of the series is in a completely different sphere than Nathan for Youssa.

In the first episode, Fielder meets Kor- of a man who has been lying about his master’s degree for years. Kor feels that the academic lie has grown too big, and wants to confess it to the friends he meets at pub games.

After Kori tells about his situation, Fielder, who invited him to his home, reveals his own cards. He has prepared for the first meeting by building a complete stage version of Kori’s apartment in the industrial hall, down to every book on the bookshelf, where he and the actor have gone through dozens of alternative scenarios for meeting Kori.

Fielder has obsessively prepared for every possible twist that a conversation with a stranger might take.

Since Fielder has an almost magical ability to find real-life characters that couldn’t be made up, Kor takes this supervillain revelation with strange ease. The project can begin.

Fielder, Kor and his friends Tricia the acting actors are rehearsing the recognition timed for the upcoming pub quiz in a stage version of Kori’s standard bar Alligator Lounge, which is an authentic copy of the place, down to the working pizza oven.

In The Rehearsal, the rehearsals take place on sets reproduced to the last minute.

Next reference point The Rehearsalille on Charlie Kaufmanin movie Synecdoche, New York (2008), where Philip Seymour Hoffmanin performed by a theater director who builds a perfect imitation of New York for an endless play. Also The Rehearsalissa the levels of sets and rehearsals pile up, and more and more contributions are made to the project. In the second episode, a 44-year-old seeks Fielder’s help Angelawho dreams of a child and farm life.

The exact simulations of Fielder, who is a puppet master with his laptop, fall apart due to human factors. Emotions cannot be predicted, as he has to state at one point.

Fielder’s own character receives even the most confused opinions and actions of his participants with expressionless wonder. See you especially in the second episode Robin’s at , Fielder has hit a goldmine of irresponsible bullshit.

The lonely comedian’s own willingness to understand people’s behavior is one of the themes of the series. A man who looks pained when he smiles spends time sitting on his empty sets.

Fielder’s the series treads an ethical discomfort zone that exposes it to justified criticism. How does a comedian look at people who are in pain with their problems? Are they being taken advantage of? For example, the film critic of The New Yorker magazine Richard Brodyn by Fielder’s use of power against the participants in the series is intolerable.

I like The Rehearsalin built-in difficulty as its strength. The ambitious series does not empty itself into unequivocal moral judgments, but lives from the conflicting emotions it evokes.

The Rehearsal not necessarily laugh out loud, but it’s fascinating television. A work marketed as a rare comedy makes one think about the structured nature of social life, the ethical issues of the documentary format and, for example, a philosopher Jean Baudrillardin simulation theory, where copies of copies displace the original reality.

It will be interesting to see where Fielder’s disturbing existential tightrope leads over the last three episodes.

The Rehearsal, HBO Max.

By Editor