Extended interview with Nick Offerman
Feb 15, 2013 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Mothers and fathers of America, take note: You want your son to grow up to be like Nick Offerman.
The actor, now synonymous wtih his gruff, manly, anti-government Ron Swanson character on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," is everything a woman would want in a man. While he's too humble to admit that, he doesn't mind teaching others how to approach life like him.
In a phone interview with St. Joe Live, Offerman talked about his "American Ham" tour, which will be performed at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City on Sunday at 8 p.m., and everything from making it as an actor to technology to seeing his face everywhere.
St. Joe Live: Where are you at right now
Nick Offerman: I'm driving to my shop.
St. Joe Live: Are you guys having some off-time with "Parks and Rec"
Nick Offerman: No, I just have an off-day with the show. I'm doing some woodshop business. I'm just coming from meeting with a client about a dining table.
St. Joe Live: Have things been busier with the woodshop as "Parks and Rec" has gone on and more attention has been given to that
Nick Offerman: We definitely are prospering from the attention that my character is getting on "Parks and Rec." Our website, offermanwoodshop.com, does a pretty tidy business.
St. Joe Live: How long have you been doing (the tour)
Nick Offerman: I've did it a lot of 2012 and sort of took a break during the fall and I'm doing another 20 dates in the spring.
St. Joe Live: How did this idea hatched
Nick Offerman: I got invited to speak at some colleges and I thought 'By God, I have some things to say to the young people of our nation' and so, I sat down and wrote a show. I came up with 10 tips for a prosperous life and then fleshed them out with cautionary tales, some mediocre songs and minor nudity.
St. Joe Live: I did notice the 'minor nudity' part is ... put out there.
Nick Offerman: It packs them in.
St. Joe Live: What the thrust behind this, to do a show like this to give some younger people some knowledge
Nick Offerman: Well, I have had the great benefit of some exceptional teachers in my life. And so, when I was invited to speak at schools, I thought that it would prudent to simply try and pass along the lessons I've been privy to. And so, since I can't really write funny jokes on my own, I thought that I would just become the vessel for some wisdom that has been passed down to me across the ages.
St. Joe Live: When you're on-stage and you're out there, since you're playing such an iconic character on "Parks and Rec," is there that feeling that some people expecting to just see Ron Swanson
Nick Offerman: Not really. The audiences have been really incredibly friendly and you know, I think there's enough of Ron's flavor in my show that people that are hoping to see that aren't going away feeling completely disappointed. I'm quick to point out that a character like Ron Swanson is hilarious in two or three-minute increments on a comedy show. I feel like, if you really think about it, if you want to see Ron for 90 minutes, it would be like the episode where he was caning a chair on a telethon. He would find it fascinating and passionate and we would be bored silly.
St. Joe Live: For you, is it weird adjusting to Ron Swanson being such an icon His face is everywhere in the art community and he's sort of like a nerd hero, as well.
Nick Offerman: It is weird. I never imagined that I would play a role that had a such an iconic presence in the popular culture. I think it's just a testament to how the writers are on our show and so far, it's been largely quite enjoyable to see Ron's face pop up as graffiti on the streets of San Francisco. I just found out, I'm not sure if it's the University of Illinois or Indiana, but, one of the two, when the opposing team is shooting free throws, they hold up huge cut-outs of Ron's face to properly cow the free-throw shooter. I think it's got to be successfully unnerving -- the steely gaze.
St. Joe Live: Something like that, you came up through the ranks. I know you did theater and a lot of guest appearances (on TV shows) and things like that. Does it make you appreciate something like this more, just doing this for years and finally getting something like this
Nick Offerman: Absolutely. I'm so grateful that I didn't have this happen to me in my 20's because I would have promptly bought a motorcycle and driven into the side of a cliff. Having paid my dues, as they say, makes this moment of success so much sweeter and I have the wherewithal to stay off of a motorcycle by now.
St. Joe Live: I know that you have to keep the moustache and hair when you guys are doing "Parks and Rec," do you like getting rid of that or growing the beard when you guys go on break
Nick Offerman: I do. As a theater actor, I've always enjoyed looking remarkably different for every role and so, being made to maintain one coif and one set of whiskers for six months at a time, seven months, is a bit constrictive and so it is quite freeing to unleash my face upon the public, once shooting wraps.
St. Joe Live: It's a tremendous beard.
Nick Offerman: Thank you.
St. Joe Live: I know that you're originally from Illinois and for you, traveling the Midwest ... Is it nice for you to return to this area, the flyover states
Nick Offerman: It is. It's the best. It feels like an audience comprised of the town I grew up in in Illinois -- Minooka. I can't help but feel like I'm coming home a little bit. At the Midwestern shows, there's been a much more impressive contingent of tailgate, meat-grilling and just Ron Swanson representation in the audience.
St. Joe Live: Do you feel like that's where "Parks and Rec" really hits is in those areas -- Illinois, Indiana, Missouri
Nick Offerman: Interestingly, it seems to hit wherever there's smart people. I think that in the Midwest, the audience can really identify with the show in a more regional way -- the bucolic, more outdoorsy stories are more relatable to people in that region. At the same time, because our writers are so good, I think we're received universally by urban and rural areas alike.
St. Joe Live: How is it filming "Parks and Rec" now with the show continually evolving and the characters too
Nick Offerman: It's the most ridiculous piece of good fortune I've ever come across. We have so much fun unfolding the lives of these characters and this town over the 90-some episodes that we'll have done by the end of this season. We feel like we're getting away with something that it's such a good time and such a gratifying, engaging, creative process that we feel like somebody's going to make us go back to work at some point.
St. Joe Live: Do you feel fortunate that since you have a smarter audience that you don't have to be a joke-a-minute show That you can kind of take your time with everything.
Nick Offerman: We're not an HBO show. We might not have a joke a minute, but we have a joke every 90 seconds. I can't say enough about how smart our writers are because I think the show is appealing to a general audience and its comedy, but it also touches on some really smart subject matter and so the intelligencia can sort of identify it as their own show, while, at the same time, middle America can identify as a blue-collar, working show.
St. Joe Live: Your approach to Ron -- is it different now because he's fallen in love and there's more depth to him than, say, season two when he just kind of back in his office
Nick Offerman: Well my approach hasn't changed. I still step up to the plate the same way to swing the bat. I'm just being thrown some different pitches now. So I'm still doing my best to hit the ball squarely and that has been a delightful challenge this year. It's been incredibly fun and new to portray Ron in the first honest healthy relationship he's ever tasted.
St. Joe Live: Do you get to do theater when you're doing "Parks and Rec" or afterwards
Nick Offerman: Well the last couple years I've been spending any time that I would be working in the theater doing more comedy-centric performances, mainly this tour of "American Ham" and I like taking part in shows like Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, both in Los Angeles and New York. But Megan and I are getting ready to do a play this spring in Los Angeles once our show has wrapped. That has me really excited. It's been a few years since I was in a legit play and I'm drooling at the thought of getting back on the boards.
St. Joe Live: Is that the same for Megan Has she been doing theater since she's been doing all these different parts, as well
Nick Offerman: She has. She did a play a couple years ago called "The Receptionist" that was the greatest thing I've ever seen her do, which is saying quite something, because she tends to hit it out of the park with every pursuit she takes. We both love to sort of return to our roots in the theater as much as possible and we're incredibly excited about this play called "Annapurna" by a guy named Sharr White. It's just the two of us and I think it's going to be really exciting.
St. Joe Live: Have you been preparing for that with all of this other stuff going on
Nick Offerman: No, we have read through the play a few times in order to confirm that we wanted to choose to do it. I don't have the breadth of scope to think about it until "Park and Rec" is over and I've put "American Ham" to bed.
St. Joe Live: With "American Ham," stepping on that stage and getting ready once you hear that applause, is it similar to theater
Nick Offerman: There are some similarities, but I'd say there's more differences. I never imagined that I would perform a show for a live audience as myself speaking as a humorist, rather than portraying a role as an actor. There's a nakedness that comes with that that makes it very different from theater. In a theater experience, the audience is kind of agreeing to go on some sort of figurative journey with the production and so, the lights do down, there's music and everyone knows that they're being transported to a place other than where we all are right now. And in occasion of "American Ham," a man is coming on stage to speak to us (he cackles.) There's no artifice. It's just me and a guitar and a microphone.
St. Joe Live: Where there any humorists you looked to for how to present this
Nick Offerman: I never got to see him perform, but I've always been inspired by Mark Twain. In my own lifetime, I greatly admire Garrison Keillor. I would like to consider my show (like Keillor's), when people ask me to describe it, because I'm quick to point out that I'm not a comedian and I'm not a stand-up. I have friends that are the best stand-ups in the country and they're geniuses at writing jokes that have people peeing themselves with laughter. I don't have that talent, but I am able to recount a story or anecdote in a way that entertains the audience and we end up having fun. I often describe myself as a foul-mouthed, less-educated Garrison Keillor.
St. Joe Live: That's an interesting description.
Nick Offerman: I'll never be as good as that guy. His work has an eloquence that is not a color that I have on my palette. I take the coarser shades that I do have and paint an entertaining picture, I like to hope.
St. Joe Live: When you say that you take a different approach to everything and you're not really a comedian, in a similar sense I know that you're not a huge fan, even though you have an account, of Twitter. So something like "Tweets From Young Female Celebrities" that you do on "Conan," does that further your point of the frivolousness of something like that
Nick Offerman: I think that's a funny recurring bit that is the brainchild of a guy named Brian Stack, who writes for "Conan." I have fun performing them and I do think there is a public service being performed to keep us all aware of just how inane that that particular social service can be sometimes. You know, all of this technology, Twitter and the Internet and Facebook and all the rest, have fantastic things about them. They're great inventions, so is the telephone. But I don't spend a bunch of my day staring at the telephone hoping it will say something funny.
That's my gripe about what our devices are doing to our society. I just feel like people waste, divert so much of their time uselessly looking at their device, where if they use them more practically ... I use my Twitter account to disseminate information to my followers, you know, like 'You can see 'American Ham' in Kansas City.' I don't think it's doing anybody any good to say 'My new shoes are too tight, #gotohellnike.' I don't see the point in that, I think our time is better spent reading a book or doing something productive.
St. Joe Live: I think for you, at least in the media, that's pretty well-documented about your woodshop and your dedication to your wife -- those are where your interests lie.
Nick Offerman: Well it's part of the show. I feel like, long before I had the great luck of winning the role of Ron Swanson, I felt that I had a very prosperous life and I felt like that's because it was full of practical, tangible success. I could build a table and watch people eat dinner off of it and that felt better than winning a trophy. And I have a healthy relationship that I nurture and respect and make a priority and that makes me feel like I winning. It makes me feel like I'm doing the right thing. I feel like the Angry Birds equivalent in a marriage is if I went to a strip club twice a week. I feel like that that would be a waste of time diverting myself from something that's not doing anybody any good. Are naked ladies nice to look at Sure. (He laughs) But it doesn't do me any good to make that choice. Is it good to sit in a pub and drink beer and scotch Absolutely. But if I reserve that to be used a treat, rather than a regular occurrence. It tastes a whole lot better.
St. Joe Live: Is that the type of knowledge that you want to impart with your "American Ham" tour
Nick Offerman: Those are the bits of broccoli that I've hopefully, subtly laced into the meal that's mostly made up of delicious pizza and ice cream.
St. Joe Live: That sounds pretty good.
Nick Offerman: Well, that's what I'm after. That's my ham. I want the audience to go away feeling as though they ate a huge sundae and kind of forget that there was a bunch of buckwheat (He laughs) layering the bottom. Like "Wow, that was actually great sustenance."
Andrew Gaug can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.
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