This is an interview with Nick Offerman for a show that stars Nick Offerman. This is not an interview with Ron Swanson for a show staring Ron Swanson. Cool. Now that we have that out of the way, the insanely funny, brilliantly talented, super-thoughtful Nick Offerman will be at the City National Grove on Sunday. If you’re a fan of Nick and everything he does (okay, yes, that includes Ron Swanson), the only thing you’ll need to do is “All Rise” to get on his level.
OC WEEKLY: I’m not super-interested in a so-called “normal” interview, but I feel like you’d be all right with that.
NICK OFFERMAN: I appreciate that. I would say that is refreshing.
You say that now . . . Okay, who’s the most famous person in your phone?
Off the top of my head—and I haven’t seen the charts recently—but I guess Will Ferrell, Conan [O’Brien] and Chris Pratt. Those three seem the mostly likely to have worldwide numbers. They’ve all participated in global box offices, so . . .
I asked you for one, and you gave me three—brag much?
Oh, no, if I were bragging, I would expand my list beyond three white dudes. I mean, Barack Obama is in my phone. I don’t have his number, though, so I’m not going to count him or Michelle. Although, I can get a hold of Michelle. She and I shot a workout video together.
[Laughs.] No, it’s true. And Megan [Mullally, his wife] makes an appearance in it as well. It was for Funny or Die for her health-for-young-people initiative. I have to say, it’s some of the most gorgeous work I’ve ever done.
I’ll have to watch it. Might get off the couch, might not. . . .
Well, it’ll probably make you giggle more than it inspires you to do push-ups.
Just my style. Say you needed someone to bail you out of jail, and you had to call one of the famous people in your phone—who would you pick?
My life is lived with no terrific polishing or facsimile of refinement. I’d have no problem calling anyone, even a mild acquaintance, to say, “Hey, I’ve vomited, extremely soiled myself and am in trouble in jail. Remember me?” If we’ve shaken hands, I’ll call you to bail me out. The greatest thing about show biz is that if you can make clumsiness part of your recipe, then you can always feel free to make mistakes and people will always think you did that on purpose. I mean, it’s an honest way to live. We as human beings can’t help but be ignorant and flawed. If you own that and you wear that on your sleeve, when you exhibit your weaknesses, you can say, “Oh, that’s my brand.” And then people will say, “Well, here’s some money and can I get you a sandwich?”
Sure. Can I pick another show? [Laughs.] It would compel me to watch it—not because I particularly enjoy watching myself, but because I do find the technology fascinating. If it were someone else’s face, I’d watch it and just be like, “That’s so creepy and spooky.” It’s funny that they’re using a gruff, mustachioed face on tiny girls. The fact that this technology is being used with my face, I would watch it with fascination and giggle a bit, like, “Look what this funny genius has done with my silly constipated rictus.”
It also makes you look like you are a great hair brusher.
Yeah, it does! You can really see my versatility as an actor. I can play every part of the show.
So true. What’s it like to be a meme?
It’s a little weird simply because I’ve created a lot of content in my life onscreen, in books and building things out of wood. That all makes sense because that’s what I set out to do: use my creative powers to make things for people in one way or another. Then you get to the world of gifs and memes and deep fake videos, and it’s such a strange cultural collateral, where someone entirely outside of my power is choosing to use my image to put across some entirely other idea. I’m tickled that Parks and Recreation came along at the right time and that it became popular fodder for memes, and I always just whisper a sort of silent thanks that it’s all represented pretty positively. People could just as easily make me look like a total jackass.
Did you ever think you’d become a cultural icon for masculinity?
No. In fact, in this comedy show, I talk about how my sisters actually exhibit more of the qualities that people would consider “manly” than I do. I grew up with a family in Illinois where all of the skills we have, we crafted. Then you move to a place like LA, and people are like, “Holy cow!” It’s, like, a super-power to know the difference between a Phillips-head screwdriver [and a standard one]. “Where did you ever acquire this knowledge?” It kind of took me by surprise. I’ve always been, in my circle, the dependable one. I suppose I’m the one people call to lift heavy objects or replace your front door, but it never occurred to me that it was particularly “manly.” I don’t really attach a gender to that; I just think I’m a competent and self-sufficient citizen. Everyone can swing a hammer. It just takes gumption and a little elbow grease.
I can’t even replace a doorknob. Woodworking, comedy, acting, guitar playing, light dancing, impeccable beard care . . . Is there anything you’re not good at?
Well, thank you for giving me a compliment, but you only named, like, six things I am good at, and I think there are many more than six things in this world. I can deal with tools and physical materials, but when you get into the world of technology and software updates, I feel like a 90-year-old. I have to ask my assistant what my phone number is. I’m not dumb, but it takes a lot of brain space to keep up with how our information systems work. I started using social media to promote my comedy tour and my books, and just those programs alone, they’re always shifting. It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel like a cantankerous old man. Just when I get it down and think, “Oh, great, I can now put a video on my Instagram with a song I picked,” they update the [app]. I can only put up with so many of those before I throw my phone in the pool.
Well, it’s now waterproof, so throw away.
I can’t win! [Laughs.]
After doing some reading, I now know that “All Rise” isn’t a dick joke. So the people of Anaheim are on the same page, how would you describe your show without spoiling it?
It’s a gas. I’m really proud of this writing. My first two comedy tours were a little more benign in that I purposely avoided any Ron Swanson or Parks and Rec. At the same time, I would lean into that sort of vernacular to make the audience comfortable. So even though I’m not doing a Ron Swanson scene, I would talk about bacon, haircuts and manners. I’d sort of transition the audience with what they’re probably familiar with in my work into the thoughts in my own brain. With this third show, I’ve gone full Nick-brain. The show is seven sections, and each section talks about what we human beings are really bad at. It makes fun of all of us. Each section ends with a song encapsulating that notion. The songs are really stupid and funny. People do a lot of screaming and clapping, so I’m under the impression that they seem to be working pretty well.
Nick Offerman brings his “All Rise” tour to City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712 – 2700. Oct. 13, 8 p.m. For tickets, go to Axs.com. Follow him on Twitter @Nick_Offerman, and check out his website OffermanWoodshop.com.
Ali Lerman knows much about comedy, basketball, and celebrating Wu-Tang Wednesday. She’s been writing for sixteen years and still calls her mom with grammatical questions.