Nick Offerman: Brimming with Humor and Humanity

Comedian set to bring his Full Bush tour to Pittsburgh.

Many people best know Nick Offerman for his role on NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation.” The show ran on the network from 2009-15 with Offerman playing the unenthusiastic bureaucrat Ron Swanson. Swanson was a libertarian, who loved meat, hated vegan bacon and salads, and wanted to stymie the government, including the Parks and Recreation department that he headed, from functioning well at every turn.

An especially funny scene was when he had to work in the department’s front lobby area in an enclosed circular desk with a chair inside the middle. The only way that he could avoid interaction with the public was by constantly spinning in his chair. He did so as a woman, upset that sprinkler water labeled “Do Not Drink” gave her an infection after she made sun tea with it and then drank it, tried to keep up with him.

Early Acting Start in Chicago

Offerman, who grew up in Minooka, Illinois and earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has had many other roles. Early parts were in plays for Chicago theater companies such as Goodman, Wisdom Bridge, and Steppenwolf, where he also worked as a fight choreographer and master carpenter. He even co-founded Defiant Theatre, a respected experimental theater company.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Central, Offerman said, “Chicago is an amazing theater city that wasn’t all about the business of theater and that the hard-working theatrical people there especially care about making finely crafted plays.”

It was there in Chicago where Offerman met Amy Poehler, who was active in the city’s standout improv scene, including Second City. Poehler, who was a producer of “Parks and Recreation,” was reunited with Offerman, who played her deadpan boss, Ron Swanson. The two had an interesting dynamic with Offerman, as the crusty supervisor wanting government to get nothing done, acting as a foil against his underling, Poehler’s sunny-dispositioned, liberal character, Leslie Knope, and her plans to utilize government to make their town of Pawnee, Indiana better. Poehler and Offerman have a new project coming up for NBC titled “Making It,” a six-episode crafting completion with both of them as hosts.

Offerman is married to actress Megan Mullally. They met in a New York City theater production they were both acting in. Mullally is currently starring in the hit TV revival of the NBC comedy “Will & Grace.” She also played Ron Swanson’s second wife, Tammy 2 (both of the character’s wives were named Tammy) on “Parks and Recreation.”

I asked him what it’s like to be surrounded by so many talented and funny women like his wife, Amy Poehler, and Rashida Jones. He enthusiastically replied, “Those are three great examples of winning, champion ladies with each of them having their own superpowers. Smart women always make for a better work environment than any type of boys club.”

Offerman also got to write and direct several episodes of “Parks and Recreation,” which he called, “A fantastic gift. Like my friends created the most amazing yacht and let me captain it for a few episodes. I got to play with some great toys like Amy Poehler, Aubrey Plaza, Jim O’Heir, and the rest of the talented cast.”

There have been many other acting roles besides “Parks and Recreation” for Offerman. Films have ranged from Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, 21 Jump Street, The Founder with Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton, and his own self-produced movie, Nick Offerman: American Ham. Television roles have included “Will & Grace,” “The Simpsons,” “George Lopez,” and “Fargo,” for which he was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries. He was also nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for “Parks and Recreation” in the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category.

Nick Offerman’s Full Bush Tour

Offerman, who spoke with me from Los Angeles, is in the midst of a multi-city stand-up comedy tour across the U.S. His Full Bush tour makes a stop in Pittsburgh Sunday, November 5 at the Benedum Center in the Cultural District.

In speaking about the tour, he said, “We’re currently living in an incredibly polarized nation, and my show is of an empathetic and loving nature and that people need the medicine of comedy. We don’t make fun of people. Full Bush is life-affirming, with funny slogans like ‘A Hug before a Punch,’ ‘Have Good Manners and Be Hard Working.’”

He added, “I sing seven songs in the show. They are stupid and funny in a Spinal Tap kind of way. I even play some of them on a ukulele I made. Audiences around the country are having a blast.” The self-made ukulele should be no surprise to fans: Offerman is a skilled woodworker, who even has his own woodworking shop in Los Angeles that gives woodworking jobs to people living in poverty.

He said he may even bust out a few dance moves if the spirit hits him just right. As a humorist, he will also offer his thoughts on a variety of topics including surviving in the wild, living with enthusiasm, and letting body hair grow to a full and beautiful state. Offerman is known for delivering some deep and funny observations and thoughts as evidenced by videos online.

He said he has toured through Pittsburgh a handful of times previously and commented, “I was in Pittsburgh while working on one of my favorite movies, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I fell in love with the city, its topography, charisma, hills, and neighborhoods. Pittsburgh has one of the country’s best reveals—driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnels into the city.”

As my interview time was waning, I had time for one last question. Knowing that Offerman can think some deep thoughts, I asked, “What would you like the world to know?” Without skipping a beat, he quickly replied, “We’re all in this together, no matter how red or blue we are, we all share the same patch of land and water. We all need to shake hands because when we’re shaking hands, it’s harder to hold a gun. I came from a farming family, and we got along with everyone, even if we didn’t like their haircuts.”

He mentioned that he’s looking forward to coming back to Pittsburgh. We can probably all use a good dose of Offerman right now.

Nick Offerman: Full Bush. Sunday, November 5. 7:30 p.m. Benedum Center, Pittsburgh.



Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.