Here is the full transcript of Canadian celebrity interviewer and musician Nardwuar the Human Serviette’s TEDx talk presentation: Do It Yourself! at TEDxVancouver conference. For more details about the speaker, read the bio here.
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Nardwuar the Human Serviette – Canadian celebrity interviewer and musician
Welcome TEDxers! I am Nardwuar the Human Serviette from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I do a radio show on CiTR-FM 102, Cable 102, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I also do a radio show on WFMU, New Jersey and I play in two rock-and-roll bands: The Evaporators and Thee Goblins.
The last time I was here at Kay Meek, which basically is West Vancouver High School, was when I was kidnapped as part of a grad prank. And nobody cared. But hopefully, you’ll care today for dootalaladoodoo: Do It Yourself.
I mentioned CiTR radio. At CiTR, you’re not a DJ. A DJ is told what to do. At CiTR, you’re a writer; you’re an operator; you’re a producer; you’re in total control. You can do whatever you want within the CRTC guidelines.
So, I’m up at CiTR. I’m doing my radio show. I play in a rock and roll band. I have a vision to put on a giant rock and roll gig featuring from Seattle, Washington, Mudhoney. I went into follow records in Seattle and got Mudhoney’s phone number, because I asked. I phoned up Mudhoney and bribed Mark Arm and Steve Turner of Mudhoney with porn. And they said they would play a gig in Vancouver.
I had another great vision for a gig. So Mudhoney are all up in Vancouver, they’re just about to go on stage. I come out on stage and I announce what I’m about to do. What my idea was for the gig was — was that I would hand out pennies to the audience. The audience would then take the pennies and come back to the next Nardwuar gig, hand in the penny and they would get a nickel, yes. Then they’d come back to the next Nardwuar gig, hand in that nickel and get a coin. So they would get rich going to Narwuar Human Serviette gigs. That was my vision.
So, I came up on stage much like I’m here at TEDx, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at Kay Meek. And I said okay, here are the pennies and I started handing out the pennies. And then what did the crowd do with the pennies? They threw them right back at me. They weren’t saving them. I was frustrated. I didn’t know what to do, I could only think of one thing: Tell the crowd to spit on me.
Oh! There’s a picture of Snoop Doggy Dogg. I will say, I was sick for 3 months after that. So not always what you envision comes true. And as I mentioned Snoop Doggy Dogg — Me and Snoop. The first time I was offered an interview with Snoop Doggy Dogg in the year 2000, I didn’t want to do it, I was scared. I knew nothing about Snoop Doggy Dogg.
And then I realized, the less you know the better. If you’re nervous, that’s good. That makes you try to find out more information about the person you’re talking to. I thought really hard. Snoop Dogg. Oh! He loves comedy. Maybe he likes Redd Foxx, the comedian. Oh! and my friend Diane Holme has a Redd Foxx doll. Maybe I will bring, even though I’m totally nervous that Redd Foxx doll to the interview and see if that will break the ice.
Oh, and what do we have here but a picture of me and Kurt Cobain. How did I get an interview with Kurt Cobain? I asked for an interview for Kurt Cobain.
Nirvana were coming to Vancouver for two days in early 1994 at the PNE Forum. I showed up at the PNE Forum, super early. I climbed up on top of the toilets so my feet weren’t visible in the backstage area of Kurt Cobain’s locker room, noticed shaking legs. Unfortunately, I was noticed and they kicked me out, but not before I left a cassette tape in the backstage area right where Kurt Cobain would come in.
What’s on the cassette tape? The cassette tape contains an interview I did with Courtney Love, Kurt’s wife. So I was hoping that Kurt would find the cassette tape, take it home that night and listen to it in a hotel and the next day would know who I was. Yes, you’ve got to shoot for the top but I was discovered and I went home empty-handed, I got no phone calls from Kurt Cobain.
But the next morning I got a phone call from my buddy Hugh Baker who grew up in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, I think on a Altamont drive, [indiscernible] watching TEDx and Hugh said to me, “Nardwuar, at the Four Seasons Hotel, there’s been a Nirvana spotting.” So we went down to the Four Seasons Hotel. I really didn’t want it, but Hugh said, “Come on, what else he is going to do?” So we showed up, we got into hotel and sure enough getting in the elevator right there was Dave Grohl and I run up to Dave Grohl, I said, “Hey, are we put on the guest list”. He says yes and like yes, we’re on the guest list.
We run on down to the PNE forum, we show up at the media entrance of the PNE forum, I am like “Hi, it’s Nardwuar. Dave Grohl put me on the guest list”. The people at the door are like “Nardwuar, you’ve been in this town long enough to know you ain’t on the guest list.” I’m like no I really am on the guest list and right then and there by mistake Kurt and Courtney walked in the media door. And I waved up at Courtney, I said, “Courtney, it’s me, Nardwuar”. She recognized me, Kurt had actually taken the tape home, they listened to it at the hotel that night.
“Come with me.” The people at the front gate like you can’t take Nardwuar and Courtney turns and said, “That’s my cousin Nardwuar. He can come with me.”
The next thing you know I’m backstage with Courtney Love – “Courtney, can I interview Kurt?” And she said, “You know what why don’t you just ask him?” And it happened, but you know what there’s a fine line that all worked out. Every interview you do is different. You never know what will happen. Case in point — Henry Rollins.
Oh my Goodness! There’s a picture of Jay Z. How did I get an interview with Jay-Z? Let’s backtrack for a moment. Malcolm Gladwell — you say it takes 10 years – 10,000 hours to get good. My dad told me the first 50 years are the worst. So with that in mind, every interview I do I prepare because I know I’m going to keep doing them over and over and over again. I put the same amount of research, the same amount of seriousness into every single interview I do. That’s why I was so surprised when Pharrell Williams of the band The Neptunes and N*E*R*D acted in this way.
And what happened? Pharrell after that interview hooked me up with Jay-Z, because I and he enjoyed interview. Thank you Pharrell. Oh Jean Chrétien! In 1997, the Asia-Pacific Conference came to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I decided to go to one of the final press conferences. At the Asia-Pacific conference there’s a whole bunch of dictators from other lands, namely President Suharto from Indonesia. And I was thinking, hmm, the interviewer’s job is to make the interviewee exciting. You can never say, ‘Oh a prime minister, what a boring person or what a boring person you’re talking to’. Hello, it’s the interviewer’s job to make the interviewee exciting.