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Nardwuar in 2005
Nardwuar in 2005
Background information
Birth nameJohn Ruskin
Born (1968-07-05) July 5, 1968 (age 52)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
GenresGarage rock, punk rock
Occupation(s)Media personality, interviewer, musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards
Years active1985–present
LabelsNardwuar, Alternative Tentacles, Mint Records
Associated actsThe Evaporators

John Ruskin (born July 5, 1968), better known as Nardwuar the Human Serviette, or simply Nardwuar, is a Canadian interviewer and musician from Vancouver, British Columbia. [1] He is the lead singer and keyboardist for The Evaporators.[2]

Nardwuar got his start in media at the University of British Columbia radio station CITR 101.9 FM in Vancouver.[3] His show has been running every Friday afternoon[4] since October 1987. The program features a mix of eclectic music, along with interviews and commentary. Nardwuar's interviews are frequently shown on MuchMusic's Going Coastal, or printed in Chart. Although Nardwuar's favourite targets are music artists, he has stated that he will interview any celebrity.[5] 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.[6]

A typical interview will begin with "Who are you?", followed by "From?" if the subject doesn't 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".[7][8]

Early life

Nardwuar was born John Ruskin in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1968. His father Vernon was an engineer[9] and his mother Olga Ruskin (née Bruchovsky)[10] was a local journalist, high school history teacher and historian. She published a history of Vancouver historical figure "Gassy Jack" John 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.[11][12]

Nardwuar attended Hillside Secondary School in West Vancouver, where he was a member of the student council. It was through the student council that 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 changed his name to Nardwuar. He began volunteering at the campus radio station, CITR.[12] While studying history at UBC, Nardwuar wrote papers on Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[13] He graduated in 1990[13] with a bachelor's degree in history.


Nardwuar does extensive research on the interviewee. In an interview with Skrillex, he presented the artist's first-ever CD featured as Sonny Moore. Skrillex then questioned his manager as well as his girlfriend Ellie Goulding, who revealed that they did not know that era of Skrillex's past.[14] During an interview with Pharrell Williams from N.E.R.D., Nardwuar pulled out a vinyl record featuring the very first recorded track by Pharrell, causing him to pause and say, "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."[15] 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".[16] In an interview with Ludacris, Nardwuar mentioned a high-school friend, Vanesha, to which Ludacris replied, "You're crazy, you know that?" followed by, "How the hell did you find that out? What the hell is going on?".[17]

Due to his absurd and eccentric style, he has been attacked verbally, physically threatened, and intimidated by people such as Sebastian Bach of Skid Row (who stole Nardwuar's favorite toque),[18] the band Quiet Riot (who chased Nardwuar and crew down the street), Sonic Youth and Dave Rowntree of Blur. 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.[19] Chris Fehn of Slipknot, Kid Cudi and Lil Uzi Vert (lightheartedly) have left midway through an interview. More often the experience confuses the celebrities. Members of GWAR tried not to laugh while in character.[citation needed] Jello Biafra was impressed with his guerrilla interview style, but became noticeably angered in a 2000 interview when Nardwuar began to discuss former Dead Kennedys bandmates' lawsuit against Biafra.[20] Dave Rowntree of Blur 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.[21][22]

Nardwuar's unorthodox approach often ends up in bizarre scenarios.[citation needed][original research?] Some of his subjects recognize Nardwuar's eccentric style and manage to reverse the scenario on him, especially Iggy Pop, David Cross, Steel Panther,[23] Mudhoney, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Lil B and Eric Andre. Some interpret his hijinks as intentionally disrespectful, including Nas and pornographer Al Goldstein. Henry Rollins found Nardwuar to be disingenuous, saying "I like the character that you're playing. I like that you can turn it on and off. That's cute."[24] Nardwuar made several attempts at contacting Courtney Love, first in 1991 over the telephone, talking about Danelectro guitars and asking her about her P.O. box before she ended the conversation.[25] He later was able to get full interviews out of her after sneaking backstage into a dressing room at a 1993 Hole show in Vancouver, B.C., and again in November 1994 backstage at the Commodore Ballroom. Love was also present during Nardwuar's interview with Nirvana in January 1994 at the backstage of the Vancouver Forum.

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 questions. He has asked Mikhail Gorbachev which world leader had the biggest pants,[26] and Crispin Glover whether he owns a coffin full of tar.[19] 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."[27]

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."[28][29]

Hip Flip

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.[30] 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[31] 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 after a press conference in Vancouver.[32]

Premier Christy Clark (Liberal) , Premier John Horgan (NDP) and Andrew Weaver (Green) all did the Hip Flip during the 2017 British Columbia general election.[33]

During the 2019 Canadian Federal Election, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh was the only head of a political party to attempt the Hip Flip.[34]


The music video for the 2005 Korn song "Twisted Transistor" is a mockumentary that includes a fictional documentary filmmaker named "Rob Piner", whose behavior and appearance are based on Nardwuar.[35]

On October 12, 2012 a video was posted on YouTube in which rapper Sean Price parodied Nardwuar's distinctive style in an interview with Duck Down labelmate Pharaohe Monch. In the video the rapper dressed and conducted the interview similarly to Nardwuar, entitled "Seanwuar."[36]

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.[37]

At the 2013 South by Southwest Festival film director Brent Hodge and producer Chris Kelly did a retrospective of Nardwuar's career for Time.

In his 2013 mixtape Innanetape, Vic Mensa referenced Nardwuar in the song "Tweakin' (feat. Chance the Rapper)" with the lyric "Thumbs up to the camera like Nardwuar."[38]

While Nardwuar was recovering from heart surgery, Kyle Mooney produced a mock Nardwuar interview with Matt Mondanile.[39]

On his 2016 album Top of the Line, in the song of the same name, Rittz references Nardwuar with the lyric "shit I can't recall the last 15 years wishing I could do an interview with Nardwuar".

The track "Night Song" from the 2017 EP Brothers of Destruction by The Lemon Twigs has the line "we saw the highway patrol taking selfies with Nardwuar."[40]

September 29th 2019 was declared "Nardwuar Day" in Vancouver by Kennedy Stewart, the Mayor of Vancouver.[41]

In 2019, Nardwuar was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and included in their starwalk on Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver.[42]

Lil Uzi Vert sampled his 2018 interview with Nardwuar for his song "Futsal Shuffle 2020"[43]

Personal life


On July 10, 1999, Nardwuar suffered seizures and temporary paralysis resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage (aborting his planned ambush interview of Courtney Love), but quickly recovered.[44][45] On December 6, 2015, he suffered a stroke[46] and was released from hospital six days later.[47] 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.[48][49]


  1. ^ Doug Ward, "Trudeau rolled by Human Serviette", Vancouver Sun, November 17, 1993. p. A1
  2. ^ "Another Nardwuar-ticle". The Peak, Vol. 129, Issue 2. May 12, 2008. By Joe Paling. Archived from the original at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Letter of Recommendation: Nardwuar the Human Serviette". New York Times, By DAVID REES MARCH 19, 2015
  4. ^ "CITR 101.9 FM Program Guide". Archived from the original on 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
  5. ^ "NardNest". Archived from the original on 2007-10-21. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
  6. ^ "Nardwuar The Human Serviette Show: Playlists and Archives". Retrieved 2017-06-03.
  7. ^ "Being Nardwuar". Ryerson Review of Journalism. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Hypebeast vs. Nardwuar Interview". Hypebeast. Retrieved 17 May 2013.
  9. ^ Gaillot, Ann-Derrick (21 September 2017). "Nardwuar Knows You". The Outline. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  10. ^ Hawthorn, Tom. "A tip of the tam-o'-shanter to Nardwuar the Human Serviette". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 28 January 2021.}}
  11. ^ Fontana, Kaitlin (March 2011). "The Man in the Plaid Tam: Nardwuar the Human Serviette could be the last great music journalist". The Walrus. Retrieved 2 May 2013.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ a b Barclay, Michael (December 2007). "Nardwuar the Human Serviette: Almost Famous". Exclaim!. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  13. ^ a b Booker, Courtney. "Nardwuar vs. Courtney Booker or Why Should I Consider Majoring in History?". Department of History. University of British Columbia. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  14. ^ Nardwuar (2012-08-09). "Nardwuar vs. Skrillex". YouTube. Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  15. ^ "Nardwuar vs. N.E.R.D - The Extended Version". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  16. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Drake". Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  17. ^ Nardwuar (2014-03-24). "Nardwuar vs. Ludacris". YouTube. Retrieved 2020-09-01.
  18. ^ Patch, Nick. "Canadian master interviewer Nardwuar revisits his most memorable celebrity chats". CTV News. CTV News. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  19. ^ a b Chris Dafoe, "It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a punk-rock attack" The Globe and Mail, April 23, 1998, p. C1
  20. ^ "Audio Interviews". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  21. ^ Hughes, Josiah (2011-04-01). "Blur's Dave Rowntree Apologizes for 2003 Attack Against Nardwuar". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  22. ^ "Nardwuar receives an apology from Blur drummer". Archived from the original on 2014-11-07. Retrieved 2014-11-15.
  23. ^ NardwuarServiette (18 August 2010). "Nardwuar vs. Steel Panther" – via YouTube.
  24. ^ "'Nardwuar vs. Henry Rollins (1998) '". Retrieved 2012-07-01.
  25. ^ "NARDWUAR vs. Courtney Love". Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  26. ^ "Nardwear vs. Mikhail Gorbachev". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  27. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Ernest Angley". Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  28. ^ Kerry Gold, "Who is Nardwuar: He's obnoxious, persistent, clever & curious", Vancouver Sun, Apr 23, 1998, p. C1
  29. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Prime Minister Jean Chretien". YouTube. 2006-12-04. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  30. ^ "Nardwuar vs Paul Martin". Archived from the original on 2005-08-26. Retrieved 2005-06-21.
  31. ^ "World Leaders!". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  32. ^ "Trudeau press conference hijacked by Nardwuar the Human Serviette". CBC News. 10 September 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  33. ^ Courier staff. "Christy Clark hip to Nardwuar's flip and punk rock queries". Vancouver Courier. Retrieved Dec 28, 2019.
  34. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Jagmeet Singh". Retrieved Dec 28, 2019 – via
  35. ^ "Nardwuar | Pop Culture's Historian | ION Magazine". 2013-08-30. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  36. ^ "Sean Price as "Seanwuar" Vs. Pharoahe Monch". Retrieved Dec 28, 2019 – via
  37. ^ "Brother Ali "Nardwuar" - XXL". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  38. ^ Vic Mensa (September 30, 2013). "Vic Mensa - Tweakin Lyrics". Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  39. ^ Watch SNL’s Kyle Mooney Parody Nardwuar Interviewing Ducktails, by James Rettig, at Stereogum; published January 15, 2016; retrieved May 14, 2016
  40. ^ The Lemon Twigs. "The Lemon Twigs - Night Song Lyrics". Retrieved 2018-06-25.
  41. ^ "Nardwuar Day Declared in Vancouver". Pitchfork. Retrieved Dec 28, 2019.
  42. ^ "Nardwuar Inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame". Retrieved Dec 28, 2019.
  43. ^ "Lil Uzi Vert Samples Tyler, The Creator & Nardwuar On His New Single "Futsal Shuffle 2020"". Genius. Retrieved Dec 28, 2019.
  44. ^ "Duncan M. McHugh, "To Nardwuar, Hang in there. Sincerely, David Lee Roth's manager," The Ubyssey, August 3, 1999. p. 8" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-03-02.
  45. ^ "Nardwuar The Human Serviette Hospitalized - 11 July, 1999". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  46. ^ Nardwuar the Human Serviette gets love, support on social media after stroke, by Tamara Baluja; at; published December 10, 2015; retrieved December 11, 2015
  47. ^ "Nardwuar tweets he's been discharged from Vancouver hospital after stroke - Arts & Entertainment - CBC News". 2015-12-13. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  48. ^ Nardwuar Undergoes Heart Surgery, by Gregory Adams; at; published January 25, 2016; retrieved January 27, 2016
  49. ^ Marchand, Francois (January 26, 2016). "Nardwuar undergoes heart procedure, now recovering at home". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on June 20, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 15 May 2021, at 20:18
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