Nick Offerman on Ron Swanson, American Ham and whipping it out for punk - Reverb

Why So Serious, Nick Offerman?

Ron Swanson: the man, the myth, the Nick Offerman character.

Ron Swanson: the man, the myth, the Nick Offerman character.

It doesn’t just take brass balls to whip out your junk in a punk rock video, it takes a fake penis and several 40-ounce bottles of Mickeys.

Fortunately, Nick Offerman has all of these things, and he doesn’t mess around when it comes to showing them to the world. His wry, half-serious “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson has become a father-figure cult icon to millions, but Offerman is capable of both jettisoning that character in serious stage productions and poking holes in it via skate-punk videos (see the very NSFW clip below from Fidlar).

We caught up with Offerman earlier this week via phone in advance of his Saturday, Sept. 7 show at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House — a rare live appearance for the actor, who’s usually busy shooting TV and film parts. The show is a flipped version of his usual comedy appearances, in which wife Megan Mullally (of “Will & Grace,” “Party Down,” “Children’s Hospital” and too many other awesome things to list) opens for him.

On Saturday Offerman will be supporting Mullally’s throwback musical duo Nancy and Beth, offering selections from his “American Ham” one-man show and, you know, throwing in some hip-hop and singing and surprises. Because he’s Nick Offerman, and he can do whatever the hell he pleases.

So you’re coming here because of your and Megan’s mutual friend Jose Mercado, who did the same play with you two where you first met. Did he reach out to you about coming to Denver or vice versa?

I believe he was the instigator of this. I have a show that I’m performing as a humorist called “American Ham” and it’s a show that’s comprised of my ten tips for prosperity, including some cautionary tales, some mediocre songs and minor nudity. I’ve been touring that around the country for the last year. Meanwhile Megan’s band Nancy and Beth has also been touring and doing dates around the country, and it’s been a lot of fun but the bummer has been being away from each other when we’re doing these tour weekends.

So touring together is your solution to that?

We’re trying to firmly ensconce my chocolate into her peanut butter by doing it this way. This week we’re touring around the Northeast doing “American Ham” with Nancy and Beth opening, and then doing some songs together, and then in Denver we’re sort of flipping it where Nancy and Beth are the entrées and they’ll insert me in a few key places. Eventually we’re working on a show where it includes me, the dancing bear.

Of all your talents, I never figured you for a dancer.

I’ve got some breakdancing talent, although talent would be a generous appraisal.

I know you and Megan have performed on stage and in some TV shows together, but is this your first regular gig with her? Or have you done this a lot in the past?

A great deal, actually, when you add it up. It’s strange to us that it’s such an anomaly that a couple in show business would love to work together, but I guess we’re the lucky anomaly or the exception to the rule. We met doing a play together, which is where we first met Jose, and we’ve done three plays together now.

What was the most recent one?

Earlier this summer we did a play in Los Angeles called “Annapurna,” just a two-hander with the two of us on stage for 90 minutes, and we shared a dressing room. There’s a lot of married couples that would not enjoy being together that much but we feel grateful that we do. We’ve been in films together and we’ve done a lot of TV together and so this sort of Donnie and Marie variety thing is a new thing for me. I never thought I’d perform as myself, as a classically trained theater actor, but we’re having a good time making people laugh.

But it’s not all comedy, right?

Her band is astonishing. The audience in Denver has no idea what it’s store for them. Nancy and Beth are like the Andrews Sisters on peyote.

Do you ever compare yourselves to other famous showbiz couples?

Megan likes to cite the example of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.

Which makes sense, since they were both accomplished stage actors.

Yeah, and even much more so than me at this point. Of course there’s Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. I guess Megan would have to be the Paul Newman in this situation. It’s hard to name such a good looking couple in reference to something that includes me. I also feel a certain kinship to Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee. I feel like we’ve done a lot of similar work. On boats. But it’s something that we are really enjoying and we kind of aspire to that old-fashioned sensibility. If we got to perform together as a comedy team, whether it’s in a sort of song-and-dance way or in a more established sitcom way, I think we’d be tickled pink.

Is this the beginning of a new stage of your career?

I do have the champagne problem of having too full of a schedule to just go on a full time tour with “American Ham,” but I have managed to play several dozen dates over the last 18 months or so, just fitting them into three-day weekends and hiatus weeks from my show.


More of our interview with Ron Swanson, ahem, Nick Offerman >>

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