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The Canadian Icon You've Never Heard Of

By Park | PaEHba Day | February 18, 2010 |

By Park | PaEHba Day | February 18, 2010 |

Every country has icons. In America they’re so thick on the ground that people are forever squabbling about what they mean. See the Charlton Heston: crazed gun nut vs. Charlton Heston: passionate civil rights campaigner debate for example. Actually, don’t do that, it’ll just ruin The Omega Man for you, and no obscure nerd debate is worth that.

In Canada our icons are rarely internationally known. We don’t have John Wayne riding into the sunset, we don’t have Brigitte Bardot lolling around in her bra and panties. But don’t cry for us because Canada has something much better than that. Canada has the world’s only remaining bad ass interviewer. Canada has Nardwuar, the Human Serviette.

See? I was right, you haven’t heard of him. Don’t feel bad though, I don’t think most of Canada has heard of him either, nor have many of the bands he interviews. That’s part of why he’s such an icon. What’s more Canadian than someone who fades into the background?

He seems like nothing but an annoying man-child with a grating voice and a stupid hat. But that is Nardwuar’s genius, he’s obtrusively unobtrusive. He seems like the dorky fan that pushed his way backstage, and that is usually the way they people who he interviews treat him. Well, that is until he breaks into his encyclopedia-level knowledge of his interview subject. It isn’t a Nardwuar interview unless the phrase “how do you know that?” is uttered.

But it’s not just his level of research that makes me a Nardwuar devotee. After all, the dead-eyed kiss-ass from “Inside the Actor’s Studio” is pretty well-researched too. What sets Nardwuar apart is he seems to not care at all what other people think of him.

Remember that weird nerdy kid in your high school that was so strange that he somehow became the mascot of the school? Nardwuar is the older, smarter version of that kid. He knows just how to use his goofball act to put people off balance, forcing them to show a side of themselves that they usually don’t. The truth is, it’s almost impossible to seem “cool” when talking to someone as 100 percent earnest and passionate about music as Nardwuar is.

The bands that are willing to have a good time and goof around with their image seem even cooler. For the sake of my above analogy those bands are the jocks who can secretly quote not only Star Wars, but the Star Wars Christmas special. The bands that are too worried that they’ll look goofy just look boring. They are the humourless overly eye-makeuped goth kids. They look all right from a distance (everyone looks good in black) but just try to talk to them for five minutes. This makes for amazing interviews or ones that are so awkward they are practically performance art.

Don’t believe me? Here are a few of my favorite interviews:

This Nirvana interview from 1994 shows the band goofing around backstage. It makes me like Kurt Cobain again:

I used to be really annoyed by Jello Biafra. After these interviews he seems more like someone’s cranky older brother:

Here’s a more recent interview with “The Gossip” to show you how great an interview is with a band that plays along:

So that’s Nardwuar, a secretly brilliant goofball with a relentless passion for art. A man who loves music so much that he started a record label in his teens that he funded with newspaper route money. A man completely unafraid to act exactly how he wants.

So America, you can have John McClane and Superman. I couldn’t think of a representative that makes me prouder to be Canadian if I tried.

Here’s to Nardwuar, Doot Doota Doot Doo…



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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.