First thing’s first: The laugh is real. Nick Offerman’s laugh showed up now and then on beloved NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” high and goofy and completely unlike anything else about his manly-man persona. When I talked to him about his one man show, which is coming to the Paramount Theatre on Wednesday as part of the Moontower Comedy Festival, he busted out the laugh now and then. Reader, it was glorious.
Here's our Q&A with Offerman.
American-Statesman: Why did you develop this show in the first place?
Nick Offerman: I guess because I don’t do stand-up. I come from the world of theater. Even though I craft my show like a comedy show, it’s more like a one-man show.
You have a pretty vibrant acting career. Did you just feel compelled to explore this format?
Honestly, I never dreamed I would dip my toes into this particular creek, but during "Parks and Rec," colleges began to mistakenly invite me to do my stand-up. I said, "Oh, no, thank you, I don’t do that, I’m a thespian." (laughs)
Then one day, Ohio State called me about doing a show, and I said, "Hang on, how many kids would be there?" It was something like 2,500. And I thought, "Boy, I would love to talk to 2,500 young people." So I said, "You know what? Yes, thank you, I will come do my stand up." (laughs)
So then I had to come up with something to do. I look at it the same way I look at my woodworking. I am constantly a student of the craft.
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At this point, you do lots of different things: You act, you write books, you write bits for your one-man show, you write songs. Are those separate processes for you?
In my notes on my phone, I keep a file. For the last couple of years, the file has been called "Book Five," and it’s just where I put everything. I just put in six months acting on an FX TV show called "Devs." After that, I knew I had to put together a new touring show, so I went through that list of notes. Some become comedy moments, some become ideas I know I need to research more for the book, some become songs.
For example, I have never liked the idea of "Thank God it’s Friday." I think one of the best ways to be happy besides having a healthy life is do work that you somehow enjoy, and it really bums me out that five out of seven days of someone’s life are not enjoyable. So I have a note to work on a song called "Thank God it’s Monday."
Then again, there’s an element of clumsiness to my work that people mistake for charm: "I like the way you talk slow and make mistakes."
I saw you in a recent documentary, "J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius," about the sub-culture of the same name. When did you run into that stuff?
My best friends in theater school, we all started this thing called the Defiant Theater Company, which produced in Chicago in the 1990s. When I got to theater school, they handed me the sort of welcome package: the Church of the Sub Genius book, the first two They Might Be Giants albums, William Burroughs' books, David Lynch movies, Laurie Anderson’s stuff, Neil Gaiman’s "Sandman" comics. That was the theater kid kit.
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Did you go to school with the intention of becoming, as you said, a thespian?
(laughs) I grew up in a very small town in Illinois, and when I went to theater school at the University of Illinois, I was incredibly ignorant to culture of all sorts. The thought of going to Chicago or New York was just unfathomable.
Luckily, I met some theater students, and I found out you could get paid to be in plays and I thought, "Holy cow, that’s what I want to do." But I also had a successful scenery shop and built scenery with my carpentry skills. I got some film and TV work when I moved to L.A., but it wasn’t until my late 30s that "Parks and Rec" happened. Megan (Mullally, Offerman's wife) was the same way in her career. She was 38 when she got cast on "Will and Grace."
Are there other things in these various forms you still want to try out?
Not really, no. I would like to make a few more ukuleles and a couple of more boats in my woodworking shop. I will always love working on good material with good people in whatever form, a film or TV show or a play. I love communicating good writing to an audience.
As for touring, I’m just tickled. I still can’t believe I get paid to do it. Not to do myself a disservice. I feel really lucky that I’m able to pursue these different avenues, but I’m very aware of my imperfections. It keeps me minding my manners. The longer I live, the more I value the work ethic my parents instilled in me. When I want to something, I work my tail off, and I’ve got a pretty decent batting average so far.