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Nathan Fielder on How He Pulled Off That Wire-Walking Stunt and Why ‘Nathan for You’ Isn’t Good for Binge-Watching

The comedian joined Bill on the latest episode of ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’

Nathan Fielder Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central

Nathan for You will return for its fourth season on September 28, and is first airing an hour-long special Thursday called Nathan for You: A Celebration, where Nathan Fielder checks in with past guests on the show. Ahead of the premiere, Bill Simmons checked in with Fielder on the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast and revisited another part of the show’s past: the wire-walk scene from Season 3.

Fielder spent seven months training for the wire walk, an idea the crew had been contemplating since the previous season. Though the original plan wasn’t to have Fielder do the walk, they couldn’t think of a funnier solution.

“That was an idea we had in the second season of the show, and we didn't really have the resources or time to execute it properly,” Fielder said. “So we put it on hold, and when we started to do the third season we knew we wanted to do that. So we had kind of thought about it, and I started training very early. We talked for a while about, ‘There’s got to be a way to do this where I don’t have to be the one wire-walking.’ Because it’s such a waste of time for such a small [payoff]. It’s one part of one episode, and everyone we talked to was saying it takes two or three years to kind of really do it at that scale. And so we couldn’t figure out a funnier way or another way to do it, so I just started working at it and started doing it while we were shooting and writing. I would train on the weekends.”

The walk was a particular challenge for Fielder.

“I’m in my head a lot. I feel like I’m distracted. When you’re wire-walking you can’t think of anything else. If your mind starts to wander, you’ll fall. So it was actually really good. I started to enjoy it as a therapeutic thing, just to be in the moment. It was almost like meditation, in a weird way. And it became this kind of thing where it’s so frustrating at first, because it seems so simple, like you just want to get across a small wire that’s a couple feet off the ground at first, and I couldn’t do it. It just becomes this thing that’s a very clear challenge, and you just want to get better at it. And you see yourself kind of getting better, so it feels very satisfying.”

In an era when so many shows are on the streaming model, Nathan for You continues its once-a-week routine on Comedy Central. He talked with Simmons about why his show isn’t suited for binge-watching.

“The show is really dense. There’s a lot that happens in every episode. So I do wonder if you watched a lot back to back if it would be kind of overwhelming. Like, maybe it’s nice to have a week in between.”

Besides, keeping the show to a half hour a week makes each episode a treat.

“That’s a marketing tactic: You keep something rare and exclusive. Like, you [Bill] put out an episode [of your podcast] three times a week. So because of that, no one sees it as that special. It’s just like, ‘Oh, it’s just Bill talking.’ We have a different approach.”

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.