Nardwuar the Human Serviette
April 24, 2006
How does one describe the Nardwuar experience? Well, first of all for those not in the know, Nardwuar, the self described human serviette, is a roving reporter of sorts from Vancouver, British Columbia who interviews musicians, politicians and celebrities from all walks of life for MuchMusic and a show for CITR on University of British Columbia’s campus radio station. What is his appeal? Well, apart from his colourful attire (that includes an old fashioned golf caddy hat and plaid punk pants) it is his unorthodox style of interviewing that makes him so entertaining. Two things are constant for every interview he does – he first asks an interviewee who they are no matter how famous and he ends every one by asking his subjects, “Doot doola doot doo…” to which they must reply, “Doot doo,” in some fashion. Some are down with it and some aren’t and this acts a litmus test of how cool they are (or tolerant).
If this doesn’t set him apart from most interviewers then it is also his habit of asking all sorts of odd questions about obscure things (often tenuously related to Canadian history and/or culture) that either tests his subject’s patience or makes them laugh. For example, he once asked Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell if he ever had cocaine blown up his ass. He also interviewed a bemused Gene Simmons from Kiss and proceeded to reacquaint him with Thor, the Metal God who went on to bend a piece of steel with his teeth in front of Nardwuar and Simmons.
Nardwuar has interviewed many people over the years and this 2-DVD set provides the highlights in the form of two specials that aired on MuchMusic. Of note, he got to ask then Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien a question that resulted in a quotable quote that made all the national newspapers. Nardwuar took a page out of his subject’s book when he managed to get a quick interview with Michael Moore guerilla-style, following him to another interview before being muscled out by publicists. Nardwuar’s also been accosted by the likes of Blur and Sonic Youth who were not thrilled with his unusual questions.
Another highlight and Nardwuar’s all-time favourite interview was with Snoop Dogg who, in one session, took his Red Foxx doll and then, in another, took a rare Richard Pryor LP. In fact, Nardwuar was so taken by Snoop that he spent a whole hour-long special documenting how he prepared for a third encounter, thinking up some good questions, getting some vintage records to spring on the rapper and so on. We watch as poor Nardwuar waits several hours before getting an interview with Snoop which ends up being very funny and entertaining.
A large part of Nardwuar’s appeal is that he brings a refreshing level of energy and enthusiasm to his interviews and this makes him something of an endearing figure. Far from being an act, it seems as though he is genuinely thrilled to be meeting these celebrities and this translates through his interviews. Let’s hope he keeps on rockin’ in the free world for many years to come!
There is a rather chaotic audio commentary for Nardwuar’s first special by Nardwuar, Thor and friends/co-workers Grant Lawrence, Chris Nelson, Leora Kornfield, Scott Livingstone and David Carswell. When they aren’t trying to talk over each other, the participants dish anecdotes about the various interviews that we are watching. It is hard to follow at times but Nardwuar tends to dominate the proceedings.
When he’s not interviewing celebrities, Nardwuar performs in two Canadian rock ‘n’ roll bands, The Evaporators and Thee Goblins. Included are numerous music videos, live concert footage and interviews for both bands.
The second DVD features a whole whackload of bonus footage that includes longer interviews with people who only had a few clips shown in the specials, like Jello Biafra, who talks about his love of obscure records, Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye, who talks about obscure punk rock bands from Canada and dancing to Fear on Saturday Night Live (?!), and Henry Rollins who does not look thrilled to being interviewed by Nardwuar.
There is also an interview with Nardwuar who talks about how he got his start as a media gadfly.