Nardwuar the Human Serviette
|Birth name||John Ruskin|
|Also known as||Nardwuar|
|Born||July 5, 1968|
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
|Genres||Garage rock, punk rock|
|Member of||The Evaporators|
John Ruskin (born July 5, 1968), better known as Nardwuar the Human Serviette or simply Nardwuar, is a Canadian celebrity journalist and musician. He is the lead singer and keyboardist for the Evaporators.
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 since October 1987. The program features a mix of eclectic music, along with interviews and commentary. Nardwuar's interviews have frequently been shown on MuchMusic's Going Coastal, or printed in Chart. Although Nardwuar's favorite targets are music artists, he has stated that he will interview any celebrity. He also sometimes appears as a guest host and interviewer on CBC Radio 3 and started his own weekly program on freeform radio station WFMU which ran from 2009 to 2013.
Noted for his excitable persona, a typical Nardwuar interview will begin with "Who are you?", followed by "From?" if the subject does not volunteer their affiliations. Each interview ends with "Keep on rockin' in the free world", and the "doot doola doot doo ..." of "Shave and a Haircut", to which the interviewee is expected to reply with the final "doot doo!" before Nardwuar freezes with a wide smile until the camera cuts off. Interviews also often end with Nardwuar asking the interviewee "Why should people care about [interviewee's name]?". When asked to explain his name, Nardwuar has said it is "a dumb, stupid name like Sting or Sinbad"; that "Human" came from the song "Human Fly" by the Cramps; and that "Serviette" came from the fact that "in the U.S.A. they don't have serviettes, they have napkins".
Nardwuar was born John Ruskin in Vancouver in 1968. His father, Vernon, was an engineer and his mother Olga Ruskin (née Bruchovsky) was a local journalist, high school history teacher and historian. She published a history of Vancouver historical figure John "Gassy Jack" Deighton. His mother exposed him to local history by bringing him to historical society meetups. In elementary school, Nardwuar won a public speaking competition and was a long-distance runner.
Nardwuar attended Hillside Secondary School in West Vancouver, where he was a member of the student council. Through the student council, he began booking bands for school events and conducted his first interview with Art Bergmann of Poisoned. He was accepted into the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1986, the same year he began using the alias Nardwuar. He began volunteering at the campus radio station, CITR. While studying history at UBC, Nardwuar wrote papers on Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He graduated in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in history.
Interviews with musicians
Nardwuar does extensive research on the guests he interviews. During an interview with Pharrell Williams from N.E.R.D., Nardwuar pulled out a vinyl record featuring the very first recorded track Pharrell contributed to, Rump Shaker, causing him to pause and say, "This is... this is... This is one of the most impressive interviews I've ever experienced in my life. Seriously." Later in the same interview, Pharrell said, "Your research is second-to-none. Second-to-none." During a 2010 interview with rapper Drake and his producer 40, Drake described Nardwuar's interview as the "best that I've ever done in my entire life".
Due to his absurd and eccentric style, he has been attacked verbally, physically threatened, and intimidated by people such as Dave Rowntree of Blur, who harassed and eventually assaulted Nardwuar. Sonic Youth, Alice Cooper, Henry Rollins, Travis Barker, Lydia Lunch, Harlan Ellison, Beck, Nas, and others have hung up on him or been verbally combative in interviews. Dave Rowntree apologized to Nardwuar in 2011 for his behavior during a 2003 interview, calling it "one of the things I'm ashamed of" and classified his actions as "bullying". Nardwuar accepted the apology via Twitter.
Interviews with non-musicians
Nardwuar has also been known to be a "guerrilla journalist," often sneaking into press conferences under the guise of an orthodox reporter to confront political leaders or other non-musical celebrities with surreal or confusing questions. His non-Canadian political targets have included former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former U.S. President Gerald Ford and former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle. Nardwuar has also targeted actor Crispin Glover and faith healer Ernest Angley, asking the latter 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."
Interviews with Canadian politicians
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, apparently unaware of the incident and not knowing what the English terms "mace" and "pepper spray" referred to, 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 candidates had performed the act. On a campaign trip to Vancouver in December 2005, Nardwuar concluded an interview with the late 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. The 22nd Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the only major candidate from the 2004 election who has never performed a successful "Hip Flip" with Nardwuar. Nardwuar was escorted out by Harper's security while trying to initiate the game. In the 2015 Canadian federal election, the first federal leader to complete the Hip Flip game was Justin Trudeau, who did so on September 10, 2015 after a press conference in Vancouver.
In January 2013, Brother Ali released a song called "Nardwuar", to commemorate his interview with Nardwuar; the song features a beat taken from one of the records that Nardwuar gave Ali as a gift.
At the 2013 South by Southwest Festival, film director Brent Hodge and producer Chris Kelly did a retrospective of Nardwuar's career for Time. Pharrell Williams playfully turned the tables and interviewed Nardwuar immediately after his own interview, imitating Nardwuar's signature style.
On December 6, 2015, Nardwuar suffered a stroke and was released from hospital six days later. On January 25, 2016, Nardwuar underwent surgical repair of a patent foramen ovale, a hole between two chambers of the heart, which was the likely cause of his stroke.
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- CHELOSKY, DANIELLE (August 19, 2022). "Macklemore And Windser Unveil The Gentle, Pop-Tinged Song 'Maniac' With A Nardwuar-Featuring Video". UPROXX. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
- "Why the hell you follow me to Walmart? / Gotta know everything, you ain't Nardwuar". Genius.
- "Duncan M. McHugh, "To Nardwuar, Hang in there. Sincerely, David Lee Roth's manager," The Ubyssey, August 3, 1999. p. 8" (PDF). Retrieved March 2, 2011.
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- Nardwuar the Human Serviette gets love, support on social media after stroke, by Tamara Baluja; at CBC.ca; published December 10, 2015; retrieved December 11, 2015
- "Nardwuar tweets he's been discharged from Vancouver hospital after stroke - Arts & Entertainment - CBC News". Cbc.ca. December 13, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Nardwuar Undergoes Heart Surgery, by Gregory Adams; at Exclaim.ca; published January 25, 2016; retrieved January 27, 2016
- Marchand, Francois (January 26, 2016). "Nardwuar undergoes heart procedure, now recovering at home". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on December 28, 2018.