Nick Offerman is best-known for playing Ron Swanson on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Swanson is a libertarian government employee with a deep love of bacon, scotch and the simple things in life.
An actor, humorist and woodworker, Offerman crafts canoes and furniture when he isn’t playing Swanson.
Offerman will be at Western on Thursday, Feb. 7 for his sold-out stand-up show, “American Ham.”
The Western Front chatted with Offerman about his college days, what he has in common with his character and, of course, his legendary facial hair.
Your show is completely sold out. Are you ready for your first trip to Bellingham?
I love Washington. The Pacific Northwest blows my mind. There’s a rumor now that when you get off the plane they hand you a big bag of weed, which I think is quite thrilling.
I’m excited to see your beautiful campus. That’s not a euphemism – I’m a married man.
Is this your first stand-up tour?
Yes, it is. I like to quibble and insist I’m not a stand-up. I have a lot of friends who are amazing stand-ups and they are incredibly funny joke writers, and I am not. That’s why I call myself a humorist, because my work is more anecdotal. It’s funny, we’ll laugh. We will have fun as if comedy is happening, but I’m no Aziz [Ansari].
How does a live stand-up tour compare to working on a television?
The fun part is that it’s so lightweight technically. I just show up with my guitar, and there’s a microphone and lights and a bunch of people in seats, and we have a really good time for a couple of hours. A TV show takes 150 people to make everything happen and it’s much more intricate, which has it’s advantages as well, but I really love the sort of rambling ability to be able to do a new town and new college every night and spread my show across the nation. It’s been really fun.
You went to college, correct? Where did you go and what was your major?
I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the big time school. My major was theater acting.
What were you like in college?
I was kind of fresh off the farm. I grew up in the country without a lot of culture. I was kind of a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed newbie as a freshman. I had yet to be turned on to things like The Beatles and David Lynch movies. I had a lot of catching up to do, but I had a powerful quotient of jackass running through my veins, and so that foolhardiness and willingness to learn sort of carried me forward quickly.
How did you stumble into theater from that?
I was very lucky. I went to this small farm town high school and no one in my entire universe had ever gone into the arts. When I was a junior in high school, I was beginning to think about what I was going to study and what I wanted my career to be. Nobody suggested anything of the arts. When I would bring up, “Well, I like acting in plays,” they would say, “no, that’s foolish. You can’t do that. Have you thought about law?”
Fortunately, I was at the University of Illinois with my girlfriend at the time, who was auditioning for the dance department, and I met a couple theater students who described to me the program, and that they aspired to then move to Chicago and get paid to act in plays, and I said, “Oh my God, I didn’t know you could do that. That’s what I’m going to do.” And so I auditioned for their program, and fortunately they were short on big, dumb meatheads that year, so I snuck in under the wire.
What is your craziest college story?
Oh, boy. There are many of them, of course fueled by intoxicants. The one that comes to mind – I met this great friend, and he has been one of my closest friends my entire life.
We were working in the costume shop of the theater one night. We were bored and decided to go out and have some fun, so we borrowed a couple wigs from the costume shop, went to the local arcade and pretended we were British punks. We would find a kid that was just about to get a high score on his game and we would body check him and throw a shoulder into him, and then run into the street screaming. We thought that was just hilarious and great fun.
So you were a bully.
If any of those players is reading this interview in your newspaper, I would like to proffer my sincerest apologies. If I could, I would repay their quarters to them tenfold.
What advice would you give to college students now?
My show is actually chock-full of advice, so you’re in luck. Advice I always give to young people is figure out what it is you love to do, and then figure out how to get paid to do it.
I figured out that I love performing for people and I also loved making things out of wood, and I figured out a few ways to get paid to do those things. I framed houses. I built scenery and props for theater, and now I build furniture and boats.
Of course, I work as an actor and humorist. I’m in the process of writing my first book, which will hopefully be funny. That’s the best advice I can give. You should figure out how to have a beautiful, happy life where you can enjoy your time with your family and friends. That should be your number one goal. Career, ambitions and making a lot of money, turns out, is not as satisfying as seeing your family happy and healthy.
Speaking of woodworking, you are a woodworker, and so is your character on Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson. What else do the two of you have in common?
We both are unable to resist the sexual advances of Meghan Mullally or her alter ego Tammy II. We both have an undeniable passion for bacon, red meat and scotch. We both are very handy with a shovel, a felling axe and a fishing pole.
What can we expect from Ron in the coming season?
We’ll see Ron continue to explore the first real relationship in his life. We’ll get to see him have a proud moment, where he stands up for a friend, we will see him eat a great many more calories than any human should realistically consume and a few surprises.
How long does it take for you to grow your mustache?
We’ve discovered it takes me about two to three weeks to grow a passable mustache, where you say, “Okay that’s a good mustache.” But to grow Ron’s mustache, that involves the whiskers right beneath my nostril to grow all the way down to past my upper lip, and in order to achieve that fullness, that takes about five weeks.