Rather than luxuriating in the success of his recent HBO meta-reality show ‘The Rehearsal’, comedian Nathan Fielder has instead spoken of a deep regret of unleashing the “obnoxious gender critical male” character of Matt Walsh onto the world stage.
Originally conceived during the preliminary writing sessions of Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2018 satirical mockumentary series ‘Who Is America?’, the intense production schedule led to methods of working that would in turn cause the writers to lose control of their own character.
“Sacha had never played so many different characters in such a short space of time before,” explained Nathan. “Plus he was laying the groundwork for the second Borat movie, including all the logistics of keeping that secret. Which is what led us to use other actors as temporary stand-ins until we switched them out with Sacha for our main subjects.”
Nathan explained how this particular actor, who went by their real name of Matt Walsh in order to doubly fool any interviewees inclined towards preparatory online research, was under strict instructions “not to try to be funny, just to do a handful of mildly gender critical segments about the definition of the word woman, that we could stick on YouTube and give this guy some kind of convincing history in reporting.”
“Plus, of course, we deliberately went with a guy that had the kind of generic look of a guy with a beard and glasses who probably has a podcast. And so would be interchangeable when Sacha turns up in his fake beard to do the real interviews. Or the real, fake interviews, I should say.”
So far, so good, but problems arose when the character of Matt Walsh was ultimately dropped from the show, something the actor Matt Walsh did not take kindly to.
“Sacha didn’t really feel like the character was working,” explained Nathan, “even before we tried to put our twist on it. It sounds hard to believe now, but even as recently as 2018, the whole obnoxious gender critical guy with a beard and a podcast stereotype wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, and we were worried the bits wouldn’t land.
“Of course,” added Nathan with a rueful laugh, “this is where using the guy’s real name came back to bite us in the ass. He basically told us that he was going to keep doing the interviews independently. I don’t even think he understood that it was supposed to be a spoof. But what could we do? We can’t ban him from releasing stuff under his own name or talking about gender issues… And now, of course, he’s got a whole movie out.”
The movie in question, the 2022 documentary ‘What Is a Woman?’ was mostly met with a mixture of apathy and confusion upon its release, while being predictably championed by the usual mainstream transphobic outlets desperate for increased legitimacy. Meanwhile, the online consensus seemed primarily to be “Is this guy for real?” A question that even Nathan Fielder and his colleagues still struggle to answer.
“Honestly, there’s so many layers of reality and unreality going on here, even by my standards… Who even knows anymore?” said Nathan.
“We’ve got this guy who we hired under his real name, doing real interviews as a cover for a fake documentary series, so that we can swap him with Sacha in a fake beard to do the real fake interviews… It’s like that scene in Curb where they were making the Seinfeld reunion episode, and Larry wanted to play George, a character who was originally based on the real Larry David… It breaks your brain trying to parse it all.”
“But when all is said and done, seeing this guy out there, being successful and people apparently taking him seriously. It feels terrible. It feels like I’ve created a monster.”