Nathan Fielder’s new HBO docucomedy The Rehearsal sees the socially awkward comedian help random people get ready for difficult moments in their lives by rehearsing them over and over again using paid actors and carefully constructed sets. (“It was a very expensive pilot,” Fielder recently told Vulture of his quest to re-create Williamsburg dive bar the Alligator Lounge for the show’s first episode, in which a teacher prepares to confess to a trivia teammate that he’s been lying about having a master’s degree. “One of the crew members told me the cost to replicate that bar was probably more than it cost to build the real bar.”)
During rehearsals for the big master’s-degree confession, Fielder creates a digital flowchart that accounts for various outcomes, from interrupting bar staff to an unpleasant argument about the ethics of embellishing one’s educational history. While pacing around the set, he wears a snug laptop harness that tenderly cradles his MacBook in the style of a baby carrier.
We set out to find Fielder’s harness. The first one that we located, which is waterproof and transforms into an ordinary carry bag when not in use, seemed close but a little too bulky. Another one looked quite similar but is designed for iPads and tablets rather than laptops. I thought I’d found the exact match with this harness from VitaliZEN, which has the same detachable padded shoulder straps and slender but solid base. Yet the VitaliZEN features an extra padded barrier to prevent laptop slippage from the back, whereas Fielder’s harness is more slimline.
A little more research led to the Texas-based portable-desk company Connect-a-Desk, which makes a harness that’s visually identical to Fielder’s and even a little Summit Ice–esque in its branding. Although they are now being undercut by overseas Amazon competitors like those above, Connect-a-Desks are made in the USA from 100 percent recycled plastic and are a popular back-saving product among ER nurses, census workers, and Wi-Fi network surveyors. Connect-a-Desk owner Teresa Wilcox was unable to make her sales records public, but when I showed her screenshots from The Rehearsal, she said the product was a likely match and that she’s sold harnesses to Hollywood production companies in the past. “It does appear just based on the hardware that it is one of ours,” she told me. “The clips, they go from the back, around the shoulder, and come in at the waist to clip to the platform. Those are the same ones we use. And then the tri-glides, which adjust the length of the straps, are the same.”
Best of all, Wilcox told a very Nathan for You story about Connect-a-Desk’s ambitious origins: “My husband came to me in 2007 when we were very poor, and he wanted to spend $8,000 on the patent. I said, ‘No, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen,’ and he did it anyway.”
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