Nick Offerman Won’t Let Ron Swanson Die
Just because he can finally shave doesn’t mean he will.
When Parks and Recreation permanently shuts down the government after its final season, Pawnee’s favorite public servant (sorry Leslie) will put a cork in his Lagavulin and head west. Nick Offerman, who has spent the last eight years becoming increasingly interchangeable with his character, will return to his California wood shop, where he makes table and chairs from beetle-eaten walnut, and to the road.
With a few years of touring under his tool belt, Offerman looks comfortable on a stage. While not a comedian by training, the actor and writer can craft a joke. What he doesn’t do is punchlines. That’s not his style. On his new tour, “Full Bush,” he offers advice and stories and sort of hangs out with his audience. Hanging out with Nick Offerman is exactly as great as you think it would be.
The actor spoke with Maxim about why he’s content to be conflated with Ron Swanson forever and the importance of a good dick joke.
What’s in the cards for Ron Swanson when Parks and Rec picks up?
Gosh, let me think. I remember a bus full of school children and driving off some sort of cliff, it’s been a while. Just last weekend, I played Purdue and Illinois Wesleyan, and I don’t know if you aware, but the best peyote buttons are to be found in the state of Indiana. These last episodes are a little foggy.
Are you worried you’ll never work again because people will only see you as Ron?
If that is the deal I have to make, I would make that deal again in a second. Getting to be on the receiving end of the writing of our show is easily the greatest piece of fortune I’ve ever run across in my career. Every week, getting to see what Ron’s going to say for 125 episodes was just above and beyond good luck and so if I had to trade the rest of my career for that delicious dialogue, I’ll just go to my shop and make things out of wood.
When did you realize you could have a career as an actor?
I always had a penchant to entertain people, which is a fancy way of saying I was a jackass or a class clown. When I discovered I could go into theater, I had the epiphany that’s what I wanted to do: entertain people for a living. Once I learned that was something I could do, then, yes, it was my main focus. Making people laugh or cry or gasp in astonishment at my dazzling swordplay was my goal.
And you’re also quite the carpenter.
This damn day job is killing my shop time, but fortunately the Parks and Rec schedule has been friendly and I usually get a couple days off. We’ve got six woodworkers and we work as a co-op. I oversee the stuff we’re making and take part in a lot of the design work. This summer, I got to make my first ukulele out of mahogany and it was a big milestone. I wrote a song that I play on it too, cleverly titled, “The Ukulele Song.”
Any other skills hidden up your sleeve?
My wife often tells me I have a ballet dancer’s grace inside this outside linebacker’s build. As long as I’ve stretched, I can usually surprise people on the dance floor. You know, I’m also pretty handy with a sewing needle. My whipstitch will knock you on your fanny.
Speaking of your wife, only great things seem to happen when you two work together.
Megan directed a couple of plays at our theater company in LA and she’s incredibly talented. If I have 7 talents, she probably has 27. We’re lucky; we get along so she’ll go fishing with me and I’ll go to a fancy store with her, even though going shopping would not be my first choice of recreation. That’s what marriage is about though. Sometimes you have to look at some fancy garments.
What drew you in the direction of stand-up comedy?
I really admire great stand-ups like Louis C.K. and Zach Galifianakis. And Aziz Ansariis just on an amazing trajectory, suddenly he’s playing arenas in Italy and he’s drawing crowds like a game of European footie. Growing up, a friend of mine got a couple of Eddie Murphy albums and that was incredible contraband. It was as though he had a three-pound bag of cocaine in his bedroom. To sit and listen to Eddie Murphy talk about performing oral sex upon a lady was probably the highlight of the 80s for me.
I wrote my first show, “American Ham,” and found that I derive great pleasure from performing as myself. I’m more of a storyteller, with a lot of laughs and perhaps a few lessons. I’ll talk about using a chisel in my woodshop, and just when I feel people beginning to nod off, I’ll mention my balls. Seems to be a good formula.
How much preparation goes into your set for “Full Bush”?
It’s a good deal of fulmination. I spend a good deal describing that there are three iterations that the show’s title is saddled with. Some of it concerns being prepared to live in the wilderness when the shit goes down and I encourage the audience to prepare themselves in a commensurate fashion. You have to imagine if we get stuck in a subway car, you need to look around and analyze who has the snacks, who might have the makings of fire, who will we eat first, and with whom might I have to procreate with if we’re in there long enough.
If all goes well, do you think stand-up is something you’ll continue on with?
You mean a career as a humorist? [laughs] I don’t think I’ll ever achieve the rank of a stand-up as much as I admire them. If people will continue to tolerate me flapping my gums on stage, I’ll gladly keep flapping them. I just have a great time. I never dreamed I would work in this particular medium but as long as they’ll have me, I’ll keep telling stories about my genitals.
Photos by Harmony Gerber / Getty Images