You have got to love a person who bills themselves as “Actor, Author, Humorist, Woodworker” before giving you their list of credits, especially if their list of credits is as long as Nick Offerman’s is.Along with having made waves within the last several weeks, acting stirringly as part of an older gay couple in HBO Max’s zombie drama The Last of Us, Offerman has been part of Fargo, Parks and Recreation, The Founder, the NBC reality competition series Making It with Amy
Poehler and Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics. Offerman is also famously married to fellow actor and occasion live tour mate Megan Mullally going on 20 years.
“If there is a limit as to how much we can stand being around each other, we haven’t found it yet,” Offerman once told this writer in regard to his wife. “Our work apart from each other means that we’re on-again, off-again. When we’re together, we usually know that it’s finite — say, touring this for two months, then going out and doing something apart from each other. It’s a constant dance. We have a good time together, and we thought we could translate that onto a stage. But in reality, I think that people would find us disappointingly normal. We’re just two people whose relationship requires all the nurture that any close relationship requires. But, the media has mythologized our time as one, so that when we were looking for an excuse to work together, we built a show around that and it was a natural fit. Plus, we both love dirty humor and we love to sing songs, so we wrote dirty, funny songs.”
Offerman’s rugged individuality carries onto his solo stand-up routine, as a rough-hewn and folksy storyteller, jokester, prognosticator and opinion maker – with songs dirty and political and often both at the same time.
This weekend, wise Offerman is doing his intentional humorist, stand-up comedy bit – with song, if his new shows are as I have witnessed his live work in the past – at Bensalem, PA’s Parx Casino Xcite Center on March 24 and at Mashantucket, CT’s Foxwoods Resort Casino Premier Theater on March 25.
A.D. Amorosi spoke to Nick Offerman about his stand-up comic life beyond film and television right before the pandemic. Much of what he said then holds altogether too true in the present light of 2023. Offerman spoke with PW about his upcoming performance.
A.D. Amorosi: For the most part, when you are doing your stand-up comedy routine, you’re speaking to the already-converted. Ever get hassled by those not prepared for what you have to say, considering what your ‘Parks & Recs’ character’s libertarian MO was?
Nick Offerman: I do get people who disagree. I get a certain percentage, 8 percent to 10 percent, who are a brand of American thinker not great at watching television. They have a certain solipsism or don’t understand that ‘Parks & Rec’ was a., fictional and b., humorous. Certain conservatives have taken my Ron Swanson character to be a paragon of right wing thought, of Second Amendment rights, of being some sort of NRA idiot. They sometimes will express dissatisfaction and anger. I deal with them gently, tell them my heart is in the right place and remind them that Ron was a TRUE Libertarian — not a gun-wielding jerk who does so out of insecurity, which that and fear is what I believe is at the root of the gun nuts’ psyche. Frankly, I think it is mainly white people afraid that black people and Native-Americans are going to take back what we stole from them. I do try to do all this nicely though. If I disagree with your politics or your lifestyle, I still want to shake your hand, because we all have to share this piece of land together. America is an experiment where we literally need to be cool to all people. Except Nazis.
A.D. Amorosi: Yeah, fuck Nazis. You told me previously that you grew up in Minooka, Illinois, speaking the words of the gospel to your church’s congregation. How much of that you — the religious you — is part of what you’ll do on stage?
Nick Offerman: That’s a wonderful question. Religion never took with me. I was raised Catholic and I was the head altar boy and did the gospel readings in the churches, but it just never caught me. There’s wisdom in the stories of the Bible, and I get that. A lot of that translated to my love of theater — OK, we can take narratives that communicate these things to an audience that help us remember our values, help heal us as a society because human beings will always be flawed so we need to be vigilant toward any tendency of behaving selfishly. I’ve always been fascinated with religion and the way that people will conflate their faith with the real world, particularly in this country with roots that are in Christianity, and how society wants to hang onto old-fashioned notions of white supremacy — which is rooted in that Christianity. Then again, religion of all stripes can be used in a fundamental way which shows human weakness.
A.D. Amorosi: Having witnessed several permutations of your staged, satirical storytelling, by yourself or with your wife (Megan Mullally), how did you develop this live comic, stand-up niche? What made you want to do this in the first place?
Nick Offerman: I was around friends during my college years who would, on occasion, pull out guitars and make up funny songs about the group on the spot; whatever situation we were in. That struck me deeply as just one of the most enjoyable forms of entertainment. If I ever had the chance to pluck out a song on a guitar and sing a song about my family — where each member got their own verse — I took it I was just besotted by that humor delivery form. I spent many years slowly matriculating toward that goal. Once Parks & Recreation started, colleges invited me to perform, thinking I was a stand-up, wrongly assuming, but I thought I’d take a swing at this, see if I could entertain an audience with my writing, without any artifice or having it be fictional theater. There’s something about delivering my point of view without fictional narrative that feels really good.
A.D. Amorosi: Having witnessed your last stand-up show, I can state that your stories don’t always land on a comic point. When you first started, did you push to have a comedic resolution, perhaps, to meet expectations?
Nick Offerman: In my comedy writing, be it on stage or in books, I am pleased to be able to air my grievances, to pass along important things. But whenever I pontificate or get too deep into the weeds of seriousness, an alarm goes off. ‘Hey buddy, you’re not a scholar. You’re an actor with a point of view and a sense of humor. Stay in your lane.’ I sneak my broccoli into the pizza, and make sure that the pizza is delicious. With stand-up shows such as All Rise, I have even gone the furthest in maintaining that humor, getting my points across, but keeping up the laughs. My wife is directing this, and the most exciting part is when we trim away any opportunity for me to pontificate. I mean, I don’t need to tell an audience that white supremacy is bad during my bit where I play a white supremacist with a litany of complaints. It points out what a stupid frame of mind that is.