Nardwuar the Human Serviette

Nardwuar the Human Serviette (b. 1968), is a Canadian celebrity interviewer and musician from Vancouver. He is the lead singer and keyboardist for ‘The Evaporators’ and plays in ‘Thee Goblins.’ He legally changed his name from John Ruski in 1986.

Nardwuar got his start in media at the University of British Columbia radio station CITR 101.9 FM in Vancouver. His show has been running every Friday afternoon (3:30-5:00 p.m. Pacific) since October 1987. The program features a mix of eclectic music, along with interviews and commentary.

His interview style can be quite grating and confusing to those who have had no prior experience with him. A typical interview will begin with ‘Who are you?’ followed by ‘From?’ if the subject doesn’t volunteer his or her affiliations. The interview will always end with ‘”Keep on rockin’ in the free world,’ and the ‘doot doota loot doo…’ of ‘Shave and a Haircut,’ to which the interviewee must respond with the final ‘doot doo!’ before Nardwuar will let them go.

A somewhat common reply has been ‘Fuck you!.’ Other notable replies have been ‘Help Me’ (Tom Morello), ‘You’re nuts’ (Glenn Danzig),’ You’re bizarre’ (Jeff Hanneman of Slayer), ‘Mmm-hmm’ (Jack White), ‘Massive Death’ (King Coffey of the Butthole Surfers), and ‘Bang-Bang’ (Ice-T).

Due to his upfront and esoteric style, he has been attacked verbally, physically threatened, and intimidated by people such as Sebastian Bach of Skid Row; the band Quiet Riot (who chased Nardwuar and crew down the street); and Dave Rowntree of Blur. Alice Cooper, Travis Barker, Beck and others have hung up on him or been verbally combative in interviews. Chris Fehn of Slipknot refused to talk during an interview and left midway through.

Nardwuar’s unorthodox approach often ends up in bizarre scenarios. Some of his subjects recognize Nardwuar’s eccentric style and successfully manage to reverse the scenario on him, especially Iggy Pop, David Cross and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. Some misinterpret his hijinks as intentionally disrespectful, particularly Henry Rollins. More often the experience confuses the celebrities. Members of GWAR tried not to laugh while in character.

Nardwuar does extensive research on the interviewee to confuse, scare or impress them; often bringing up minutia about band members’ pasts that they have a hard time recalling, until he coaches them along. Frequently, he will also attempt to make connections, no matter how obscure, between the person or subject at question and Canada. A tribute to his research skills, while interviewing Josh Homme, he produced a grade school class photo of Homme mid-interview, who remained blasé yet clearly impressed. During an interview with Pharrell Williams from N.E.R.D., Nardwuar pulled out a vinyl 1992 record featuring the very first recorded track by Pharrell, causing him to pause and state ‘This is one of the most impressive interviews I’ve ever experienced in my life. Seriously.’

Nardwuar has also been known to be a ‘guerrilla journalist,’ often sneaking in to press conferences under the guise of a more normal reporter, to confront political leaders or other non-musical celebrities with surreal questions. He has asked Mikhail Gorbachev which world leader had the biggest pants, and Crispin Glover whether he owns a coffin full of tar. On another occasion, Nardwuar persistently asked faith healer Ernest Angley if there was a cure for ‘the Summertime Blues,’ to which Angley angrily replied, ‘Oh I wish you would shut up, man. You know you’re not even funny. You’re lucky God don’t strike you dead.’

In November 1997, he cut off all his hair and was able to sneak into an APEC conference to ask Jean Chrétien if he supported the pepper spraying of protesters outside. Chrétien responded with a line that has become well known in Canada: ‘For me, pepper, I put it on my plate.’

In June 2004, Nardwuar convinced an amused Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada, to play a quick game of the Hasbro game ‘Hip Flip’ while he was on the campaign trail. After Martin won the election, Nardwuar commented on the great predictive power of the ‘Hip Flip,’ because neither of the other two other candidates had performed the act. On a campaign trip to Vancouver in December 2005, Nardwuar concluded an interview with New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton – who, in their first encounter, had taken the instructions to the game and said he would practice for their next encounter – with a successful, coordinated, swinging of their hips. Current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper  is the only major candidate from the 2004 election who has never performed a successful ‘Hip Flip’ with Nardwuar.

One Comment to “Nardwuar the Human Serviette”

  1. Crispin Glover not a “musical” guest? No, I guess you couldn’t call it music.

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