Nathan for You (2013–…): Season 3, Episode 5 - Smokers Allowed - full transcript

Nathan helps a dive bar get around anti-smoking laws.

My name is Nathan Fielder,

and I graduated from one of
Canada's top business schools

with really good grades.

Now I'm using my knowledge to help
struggling small business owners make it

in this competitive world.

This is Nathan For You.

Life isn't easy for
smokers these days

as smoking bans throughout
America have made

the outdoors the only
option for lighting up.

But hit worst of all
has been the bars.

And proprietors like Ellen Sancer of
the 1881 Club in Pasadena, California,

claim that smoking restrictions
have caused her profits to plummet.

We lost a lot of our customers.
Our business went down by half.

As a smoker herself,
she's not happy.

So I paid Ellen a visit with a
way she might be able to return

to those profitable glory days.

In my opinion, smokers shouldn't
be treated like second-class citizens.


If anything, they should be
treated better than the rest of us

because they're
gonna die so young.

Or at least as well
as the rest of them.

Right, so you think people should
be allowed to smoke in here?

- Yeah.
- Well, I might have a way

to make that happen.


Right now, California state law
prohibits smoking in a business

unless it happens to be
part of a theatrical production

where smoking is
integral to the plot.

So if Ellen added a small
audience section to her bar

and then classified every patron
as an actor in a free-form play,

the 1881 Club would become
the only drinking hole in town

where people
could legally smoke.

That could be possible.

I never thought about
turning it around that way.

Well, most theater is terrible.

I have seen a few
bad ones, yeah.

Yeah, so who's to say
a bar filled with smokers

can't be a boundary-pushing
theatrical experience...

- Right.
- In the eyes of the law.

It's an idea. It's
definitely an idea.

Ellen was thrilled at the prospect
of bringing smokers back to her bar,

so the next day, I had my team
bring in a couple of theater seats

to create a small
audience section

and then threw up a curtain to
complete the theater experience.

I also chose a title for the
play, "Smokers Allowed"

that would conveniently
double to attract clientele,

then put up a sign on the door
informing patrons that by entering the bar,

they're legally agreeing to be
actors in a theatrical production.

So when nighttime came,

I headed to some other bars in
the area to get word spreading

about LA's hottest new
smoking destination.

- You got to smoke outside here, huh?
- Yeah.

Yeah, have you
been to 1881 Club?

They allow you to smoke there.

Yeah, a loophole.

- Theater law.
- Oh, really?

- Yeah.
- Oh, okay.

My promotional efforts
seemed to be working...

All right, smokers unite.

Because, within minutes,
customers began arriving

at the 1881 Club for a
night of legal indoor smoking.

As a final precaution,

I had two women recruited
from the theater district

who were interested in
seeing an exciting new play.

- So for two?
- For two.

Okay, you're in luck. We have
two, uh, front-row seats still available.

Very cool.

I knew an audience
would be the final piece

to legitimize my production
in the eyes of the law.

So with the women in their
seats, it was time to begin the show.

All right, welcome. Thank
you so much for coming.

So it took a lot of work to
get this play off the ground.

I don't want to say too much
'cause I don't want to spoil anything,

but all I'll say is, I hope you enjoy
this as much as we enjoyed making it.

So without further
ado, "Smokers Allowed."

My plan was working great.

People could now smoke
freely without the bar

having to worry about
any legal repercussions.

And with the audience
shoved away in the corner,

hardly any customers seemed
to notice they were there.

Best of all, I had never
seen Ellen look happier.

So after an hour and 20 minutes
when the bar crowd started to dwindle,

I decided to close the curtain
and say the play was over.

All right, so that's it. Thank
you so much for coming.

I hope you enjoyed
"Smokers Allowed."

It was a successful evening,

but then something
happened that I never expected.

The audience actually
seemed to enjoy the play.

Oh, man, they were awesome.

- Yeah, yeah, they were.
- They were awesome.

It's so funny 'cause it's, like,

so nothing in a way
but incredibly profound.

It reminded me of Sam Shepard.

I didn't really know
what to make of this.

After all, these ladies
could be total kooks.

But if what happened in there
somehow had genuine theatrical value,

it could be a whole new source
of revenue for the 1881 Club.

So later that week, I arranged
a meeting with the chair

of the theater department at
Glendale Community College

to find out if I was actually
onto something with my play,

"Smokers Allowed."

The guy by himself
stands out to me,

uh, because he looks lonely.

The couple stands out to me

because it tells a story that
maybe they're in a new relationship...

- Uh-huh.
- And I think that curiosity

is what makes me want
to continue to watch.

Do you think this
has theatrical merit?

Yeah, you know, this
is "slice of life" theater,

and, uh, for that aspect,
I think it's important.


I was amazed that Jeanette
saw value in my play...

It's reminiscent of playwrights
like John Patrick Shanley.

And even compared it to
the work of who I assumed

were famous playwrights.

It was clear something happened
that night that I couldn't ignore.

So the next day, I
returned to the 1881 Club

to see if Ellen was interested
in adjusting our approach.

I don't know what it was, but
people really responded to this thing.

I didn't get to pay much
attention. I was busy.

I mean, you can make good
money having people smoke in here.

- Right.
- But you could make millions

with a hit play.

That's possible, yeah.

I mean, at this point, it's hard to know
if the play would actually be a success,

but I think we'd be
idiots not to give it a shot.

Yeah, we should.

I was happy to have Ellen
on board with my new plan,

but as I spent the next day going
over the footage from that night,

I was no closer to figuring out
what made this play so interesting.

That was until I noticed
a few exciting moments

that may have
gripped the audience.

At one table, there was a
couple that shared a kiss,

so I knew there was
a romantic story line.

There was also a moment where a
man showed off his skateboard deck

while, at the same time, a three-person
selfie was happening at the bar,

the perfect climactic
action scene.

I didn't see it before,

but this night had all the
ingredients of a hit play.

So I figured the surest
way to guarantee success

would be to re-create every
moment exactly as it happened.

So I spent the afternoon
compiling all the audio

and video footage
we had from that night

and then hired a team of
professional transcribers

to write down every
word that was spoken.

It was a lengthy,
multi-day process,

so I tried to make sure
their working environment

was as comfortable as possible.

You want some apple juice?


Do you want some apple juice?

- I'm fine, thank you.
- Okay, sure.

When the transcription
was finally done,

I had the dialogue compiled
and converted into a script

and then blew up
images from our footage,

so I could cast professional
actors to play each role.

But since it was crucial that they
were able to embody the exact essence

of the original person,

I set up auditions with my
top picks for later that week.

But for Ellen's role,

I thought it would be simplest
if she could just play herself,

so I paid her a visit to see
if she was right for the part.

So you're reading for the
role of female bar owner.

- Okay.
- All right.

Do you want to just
slate with your name first?

My name's Ellen.

Okay, whenever you're ready.

You did not just say that.

Yes, he did.

All right, here you go.

Thank you.

Excuse me, sweetheart.

All right, great. Well,
we'll be in touch.

- Okay, great.
- Okay.

- Thank you.
- Thanks.

I thought Ellen did
a pretty good job,

but it was only fair to
hold off on my decision

until the rest of the auditions
I had scheduled were done.

So you're reading for the
part of bar patron number six.


All right, so whenever
you're ready.

Bud Light, please.

- All right.
- Cool.

- That's great. You got the part.
- Awesome.

As more and more actors came
in, the roles were filling up nicely,

and I was especially blown away by
an actress who nailed the part of Ellen.

You did not just say that.

Yes, he did.

All right, here you go.

Thank you.

Excuse me, sweetheart.

Wow, you're... That
was really good.

With every role now cast,
I gave all my actors a week

to familiarize
themselves with the script

and then brought them to a church I rented
for three days of intense group rehearsal

over a holiday weekend.

So ready and action.

It seemed like most of my actors
had a pretty good handle on their lines,

and with a little
bit of practice,

they were getting closer
to nailing the blocking

of key action sequences that
happened on the original night.

But as the rehearsal went
on, I became concerned

about the performances
of my romantic leads.

Their chemistry was the
glue holding this play together,

but so far, I wasn't buying it.

So after the rest of
the group left that day,

I kept the pair behind to
work with them one on one.

I'd wanna, like, personally
give your daughter a sibling.

Yeah, I know
she'd be like, "Dad."

I would love to do that for her.

- I love you.
- I love you too.

All right, stop.

Um, I really want this to
feel like a real connection,

a real love story
between you guys,

but I'm not getting
that sense right now.

- Um, how about we try an exercise, okay?
- Okay.

- Is that okay?
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

So, Gabriel, you stand up here.

So let's try this.

Um, look into my eyes
and say, "I love you."


I love you.

Okay, now I'm not
believing that at this point,

- so say it again.
- Okay.

I love you.


I love you.


I love you.


I love you.


I love you.


I love you.

- Again.
- I love you.


I love you.


I love you.


I love you.


You have tears
in your eyes, so...

- Oh, really?
- Yeah.

Oh, my God, I'm sorry.

Um, okay.

- See, that, that felt real to me.
- Good.

Did it feel more real when you did it
with me than when you did it with him?

Um, well, I did it
more times with you.

Right, but it did?

- Well, so yes.
- Okay.

- Yes.
- So it did, more than with him.

Okay, so...

You understand?


And what did you
learn by watching that?

That she loves you.

Well, I mean,
she's, she's acting.


- So that's good.
- Yeah.

So that's what we
want from the scene.

- We want that type of connection.
- Okay.

- I mean, does that make sense?
- Yeah.

Great. So let's,
uh, let's try that.

With my expert guidance and
a few more hours of rehearsal,

the chemistry between
them was now all too real.

I love you.

I love you too.

With the actors in good shape,

my crew and I returned to the 1881
Club to prepare for the big premiere.

Along with expanding the
audience section to seven seats,

I added a selection of branded
merchandise to maximize our revenue

and increased the cost of
drinks to reflect theater prices.

And after a bit of promotion...

It's a new play called
"Smokers Allowed."

It's kind of a slice of life.

- Okay.
- Okay, hope to see you there.

- Maybe, I don't know.
- Okay.

It was finally time
for opening night.

I had no idea if we'd
get an audience,

but as show time
neared, it looked like

we might have a
sellout on our hands,

as a line comprised mostly of
family and friends of the actors

began filling up the seats.

Meanwhile, backstage was
abuzz with my cast running lines

and getting some
final touch-ups.

But before we could begin,
I still had the tough task

that I'd been putting off of
breaking the news to Ellen

that she didn't get the part.

- So opening night.
- Yeah.

- Are you excited?
- Yeah, I am. I'm looking forward to it.

Before we begin, I just want
to say your audition was great.

- Thank you.
- Um,

unfortunately, it wasn't
quite what I was looking for,

for the role of
female bar owner.

Right, no problem. I understand.

Okay, so that being said, I'd
like to introduce you to Amy.

Um, she's the actress
that will be playing you.

- All right.
- And I think you'll find

she really honors the character.

Amy, do you want to
show her a bit of your Ellen?

Nice to see you.
Can I get you a drink?

Yeah, that sounds good.

- All right, so you guys wanna switch out?
- Okay.

Even though Ellen
wouldn't be in the play,

I still wanted her to enjoy the show,
which is why I had a front-row seat

in the audience reserved
especially for her.

With just a few
minutes until show time,

I had a final look-over
to ensure that every prop

and every actor was in
the exact right position,

and once the scene was
set, we were ready to begin.

- Hello, everyone.
- Hello.

Thank you, uh, thank you so
much for coming. We're very excited.

I'm always hesitant to say too much
'cause I don't want to spoil anything,

but I'll just say, I hope
you enjoy this play

as much as we enjoyed making it.


So, without further
ado, "Smokers Allowed."

It was such an amazing feeling

to see my play finally
launch, and 20 minutes in,

it was clear our
rehearsals had paid off,

as my actors were able to
stay faithful to the original night,

matching the dialogue and
actions as closely as possible.

But instead I stay at home, and I watch
The Real Housewives of New York City.

Have you ever seen that?

And I could sense
that the audience

was really connecting
with their performance.

My romantic leads had
finally found a chemistry

that felt as genuine as the love

that real-life couple
they were playing shared.

But all this would mean nothing
if the play's climax didn't land,

the guy showing off
his skateboard deck

while a three-person selfie
happened at the same time.

The audience was on
the edge of their seats,

craving something
to put this over the top,

and I'm happy to
say... We delivered.

It was a strong first
showing for the entire cast,

and I was hopeful this
would be a real money-maker

for the 1881 Club.

So once the play was done
and the cast took their bows,

I felt compelled to express my
gratitude for everyone's support.


Thank you so much for coming
out, on behalf of the cast and myself.

Uh, we're so amazed
at this turnout.

Um, now even though
a lot of the characters

you saw in the play
tonight were smoking,

it's important to remember that smoking
does kill over 400,000 Americans per year.

Another 8.6 million
live with a serious illness

that was caused by smoking
or secondhand smoke.

So think before you light up.

Thank you so much for
coming out, and good night.

My play was a bona fide success,

and I was so proud of my cast for
giving such a memorable performance

the audience would never forget.

I would probably not
recommend it to anybody

as far as saying it's
a really good show.

The response was overwhelming,

but the only opinion that
really mattered was Ellen's.

So once the bar cleared out,

I nervously checked in
with her to get her thoughts.

So, um...

What did you think of the play?

It was okay. It was a little boring
as far as I was concerned, but...

So you didn't like it?

Not particularly.

It wasn't... It just wasn't...

They were just sitting there.

Nobody was really
doing anything.

So does that mean you're
not going to keep doing it here?

I doubt it. Seriously doubt it.

Our customers come in here
to watch sports, watch TV,

not just to sit and watch
somebody sit there smoking.

All right, well...

I appreciate your honesty.

I appreciate you trying.

Ellen saying she didn't
want to do my play anymore

was the ultimate blow.

After all my hard work,
I felt sad and rejected.

But I realized that maybe
there was still a way

to get the feeling
I was hoping for.

So, what'd you
think of the play?

I thought it was brilliant.

- Really?
- Yeah, I really did.

- And you're gonna keep doing it here?
- Without a doubt.

So you really liked it?

I loved it.

Say that again.

I loved it.


I loved it.

Say it again.

I knew this wasn't real,

- but her looking at me in the eyes...
- I loved it.

And saying these words
was strangely satisfying.

Like, I know it's fake, but it
feels really good... To hear.

It's not fake.

I loved it.

They say reality is
what you make of it,

so in a world that's cruel and hurtful,
who's to say mine can't be nice?

Okay, thanks.

Well, congratulations
and good luck.

Hit me. Hit me in
the back with it, dude.

Seriously, come on. I
just want to be home.

Neither were we.

We actually saw some
guy with a PBR grip tape.


He was just talking
about that too.

Hanging out with
a mail-order bride?

Oh, look, this one's
doing them too.

At least you know
you have a place.