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Nardwuar the Human Serviette
Nardwuar at Rolling Loud in 2019
Nardwuar at Rolling Loud in 2019
Background information
Birth nameJohn Ruskin
Also known asNardwuar[1]
Born (1968-07-05) July 5, 1968 (age 55)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
GenresGarage rock, punk rock
  • Journalist
  • singer
  • keyboardist
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards
Years active1986–present
Member ofThe Evaporators

Nardwuar the Human Serviette[2][1] (born John Ruskin, July 5, 1968), or simply Nardwuar, is a Canadian celebrity journalist and musician.[3] He formed the Vancouver-based garage rock band the Evaporators in 1986, for which he serves as lead singer and keyboardist.[4]

Nardwuar got his start in media at the University of British Columbia radio station, CITR 101.9 FM.[5] His show has ran from each Friday afternoon[6] 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, and printed in Chart. Although Nardwuar's most frequently interviews musicians, he has stated that he may interview any celebrity.[7] He often appears as a guest interviewer on CBC Radio 3, and began his own weekly program WFMU in 2009, which ran until 2013.[8]

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 doota loot doo ..." of "Shave and a Haircut", to which the interviewee is expected to reply with the final "doot doo!". Interviews may often close 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".[9][10]

Early life[edit]

Nardwuar was born John Ruskin in Vancouver in 1968. He is Jewish.[11] His father, Vernon, was an engineer[12] and his mother Olga Ruskin (née Bruchovsky)[13] 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.[14][15]

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.[15] While studying history at UBC, Nardwuar wrote papers on Vancouver's Lions Gate Bridge and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[16] He graduated in 1990[16] with a bachelor's degree in history.


Interviews with musicians[edit]

Nardwuar in 2005

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 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."[17] Later in the same interview, Pharrell said, "Your research is second-to-none. Second-to-none."[18] 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".[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21][22]

Interviews with non-musicians[edit]

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.[23] Nardwuar has also targeted actor Crispin Glover[20] 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."[24]

Interviews with Canadian politicians[edit]

Nardwuar at TEDxVancouver in 2010

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."[25]

In June 2004, Nardwuar convinced an amused Paul Martin, the then-Prime Minister of Canada, to play a quick game of the Hasbro game "Hip Flip" while he was on the campaign trail.[26] 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 then 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[27] 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.[28]

Premier Christy Clark (Liberal), Premier John Horgan (NDP) and Andrew Weaver (Green) all did the Hip Flip during the 2017 British Columbia general election.[29]

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.[30]

In the 2021 Canadian federal election campaign, both New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh[30] and Green Party of Canada leader Annamie Paul completed the Hip Flip.[31]


Nardwuar promoting a calendar product in 2006

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.[32]

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.

September 29, 2019 was declared "Nardwuar Day" in Vancouver by Kennedy Stewart, the Mayor of Vancouver.[33]

In 2019, Nardwuar was inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and included in their star walk on Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver.[34]

Lil Uzi Vert sampled their 2018 interview with Nardwuar for their song "Futsal Shuffle 2020".[35]

Macklemore's 2022 song "Maniac" features a cameo appearance from Nardwuar.[36] He is also referred to in the lyrics.[37]

Health issues[edit]

On July 10, 1999, Nardwuar suffered seizures and temporary paralysis resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage (aborting his planned ambush interview of Courtney Love), but he quickly recovered.[38][39]

On December 6, 2015, Nardwuar suffered a stroke[40] and was released from hospital six days later.[41] 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.[42][43]


  1. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Nardwuar the Human Serviette Songs, Albums, Reviews, Bio & More". AllMusic. Retrieved November 5, 2023.
  2. ^ Wray, Daniel Dylan (July 21, 2015). "30 Years Of Eclectic, Eccentric Interviews: Nardwuar On Nirvana, Snoop Dogg, Blur And More". NME. Retrieved January 22, 2024. Since 1986, John Ruskin has legally been known as Nardwuar the Human Serviette.
  3. ^ Doug Ward, "Trudeau rolled by Human Serviette", Vancouver Sun, November 17, 1993. p. A1
  4. ^ "Another Nardwuar-ticle". The Peak, Vol. 129, Issue 2. May 12, 2008. By Joe Paling. Archived from the original at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Letter of Recommendation: Nardwuar the Human Serviette". New York Times, By DAVID REES March 19, 2015
  6. ^ "CITR 101.9 FM Program Guide". Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
  7. ^ "NardNest". Archived from the original on October 21, 2007. Retrieved July 7, 2006.
  8. ^ "Nardwuar The Human Serviette Show: Playlists and Archives". Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  9. ^ "Being Nardwuar". Ryerson Review of Journalism. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  10. ^ "Hypebeast vs. Nardwuar Interview". Hypebeast. March 26, 2012. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Esensten, Andrew (August 11, 2023). "From Rick Rubin to Doja Cat, Jews have helped shape the first 50 years of hip-hop". Times of Israel.
  12. ^ Gaillot, Ann-Derrick (September 21, 2017). "Nardwuar Knows You". The Outline. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  13. ^ Hawthorn, Tom (February 29, 2012). "A tip of the tam-o'-shanter to Nardwuar the Human Serviette". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  14. ^ Fontana, Kaitlin (March 2011). "The Man in the Plaid Tam: Nardwuar the Human Serviette could be the last great music journalist". The Walrus. Retrieved May 2, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ a b Barclay, Michael (December 2007). "Nardwuar the Human Serviette: Almost Famous". Exclaim!. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  16. ^ a b Booker, Courtney. "Nardwuar vs. Courtney Booker or Why Should I Consider Majoring in History?". Department of History. University of British Columbia. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  17. ^ "Nardwuar's 10 Most Entertaining Interviews, Ranked". June 4, 2023.
  18. ^ a b link to
  19. ^ Patch, Nick (May 11, 2015). "Canadian master interviewer Nardwuar revisits his most memorable celebrity chats". CTV News. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ Hughes, Josiah (April 1, 2011). "Blur's Dave Rowntree Apologizes for 2003 Attack Against Nardwuar". Retrieved July 11, 2023.
  22. ^ "Nardwuar receives an apology from Blur drummer". Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  23. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Thomas Mulcair, Jean Chretien, Mikhail Gorbachev, Dan Quayle and Gerald Ford". September 26, 2015. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  24. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Ernest Angley". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  25. ^ Kerry Gold, "Who is Nardwuar: He's obnoxious, persistent, clever & curious", Vancouver Sun, April 23, 1998, p. C1
  26. ^ "Nardwuar vs Paul Martin". Archived from the original on August 26, 2005. Retrieved June 21, 2005.
  27. ^ "World Leaders!". Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  28. ^ "Trudeau press conference hijacked by Nardwuar the Human Serviette". CBC News. September 10, 2015. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
  29. ^ Courier staff (April 8, 2017). "Christy Clark hip to Nardwuar's flip and punk rock queries". Vancouver Courier. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  30. ^ a b "Nardwuar Links Up With Jagmeet Singh For an Interview and a Hip Flip". Complex.
  31. ^ "Nardwuar Connects With Green Party Leader Annamie Paul for a Double Hip Flip". September 20, 2021.
  32. ^ "Brother Ali "Nardwuar" - XXL". January 19, 2013. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  33. ^ "Nardwuar Day Declared in Vancouver". Pitchfork. September 30, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  34. ^ "Nardwuar Inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame". Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  35. ^ "Lil Uzi Vert Samples Tyler, The Creator & Nardwuar On His New Single "Futsal Shuffle 2020"". Genius. Retrieved December 28, 2019.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Why the hell you follow me to Walmart? / Gotta know everything, you ain't Nardwuar". Genius.
  38. ^ "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.
  39. ^ "Nardwuar The Human Serviette Hospitalized - 11 July, 1999". Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  40. ^ Nardwuar the Human Serviette gets love, support on social media after stroke, by Tamara Baluja; at; published December 10, 2015; retrieved December 11, 2015
  41. ^ "Nardwuar tweets he's been discharged from Vancouver hospital after stroke - Arts & Entertainment - CBC News". December 13, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
  42. ^ Nardwuar Undergoes Heart Surgery, by Gregory Adams; at; published January 25, 2016; retrieved January 27, 2016
  43. ^ Marchand, Francois (January 26, 2016). "Nardwuar undergoes heart procedure, now recovering at home". Vancouver Sun. Archived from the original on December 28, 2018.

External links[edit]