As fans of the TV show Parks and Recreation know, Ron Swanson is a bad-ass.
He's a meat-loving, woodworking, mustache-clad guy who ladies fantasize about, and guys want to hang out with. In real life, Nick Offerman -- the man behind the mustache -- is similar to his onscreen character in a lot of ways. But he's also a Garrison Keillor fan, an incredible romantic, and a recovering Twitter addict. This week, Offerman brings his one-man show, American Ham, to Mill City Nights for two very special (and very sold out) performances.
Before he shares his life lessons, songs, and nudity (yup), Offerman talked with City Pages about fishing, Valentine's Day, and titillating audiences.
Is this going to be your first time in Minnesota?
Oh God no. I grew up in Illinois, and my family has gone fishing in the month of July every year since I was five years old. We go up to the Park Rapids and Bemidji area, and it's just so beautiful. Every time I'm there I look around and think, "Ah yes. This is why it's called 'God's Country.'" It's almost heartbreakingly beautiful there.
There's nothing Minnesotans love more than famous people saying nice things about our state, so that's going to go over big.
It's easy say nice things when you're in a state that's as beautiful as Minnesota.
Tell me about the show, American Ham. It's not your traditional standup show, right?
It's me providing my 10 tips for a prosperous life. I'll give some life lessons on how I got to where I am, plus I play some mediocre songs, and there's some mild nudity. I am a big admirer of Garrison Keillor, and I aspire to be a less-educated, foul-mouthed version of him.
There will definitely be some Garrison Keillor fans there this Monday.
In that case, I would tell people to set their expectations fairly low compared to him.
Also, what exactly does "mild nudity" mean?
You'll need to come find out for yourself, but I promise you it's the most titillating part of my show.
Do you think your fans know what to expect from your show? Especially those who really just know you as Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation?
That's an interesting question. There really isn't a precedent for what I can do as a humorist or a comedian. I think a lot of people don't know what to expect when they come in, and I just try and provide an entertaining 90 minutes. There's definitely some Ron Swanson sprinkled over the entree, but there's a lot more to the meal than that.
Switching gears, last year you joined Twitter, but then in an interview a few months later you said you were quitting it. Then this winter, you decide to get back on Twitter. What changed for you?
The reason I don't like Twitter and have avoided Facebook is that I don't need more diversions taking up my time. I became easily addicted to Twitter, and found myself diverting my time looking at it. Then one day I was like, "Man, I've wasted a lot of time on Twitter," and decided I needed to get off of it.
Then this past winter when I was preparing to relaunch this tour, I realized that I would be a fool not to use this tool to provide the necessary information. I think that Twitter and Facebook are amazing tools for information and education and entertainment, but I urge people to spend less time staring at their phones. When I say that, I'm not looking down my nose at anyone. I was addicted to Twitter, so I can speak to it first-hand.
How are you keeping yourself from becoming addicted again?
I had to change my technique. Now I'll get on Twitter to let people know the necessary information, and of course I'll include some humor so that it doesn't get dry, but I don't engage socially. I also only follow a few people, and don't look at my replies. I treat Twitter more like a snack instead of a whole meal. It's like beer: Beer is great, but too much beer is no good. Trust me, I've run the numbers.
Getting back to the show, is the live performance aspect something you enjoy?
I do. I come from the Chicago theater scene; not comedy, straight theater. There's no beating the medicine of an audience regaling you with laughter. It's incredible.
Do you think you'll ever record your live performance for a special?
Actually, I'm doing this tour to prepare for two shows at Town Hall in New York City that I'll be doing in March. We're going to record those two shows and combine them into a one-hour special that I plan to shop around. Probably to someone like HGTV or National Geographic. I can tell you that I don't believe the Hallmark Channel or Lifetime will be calling me back.
Any plans to do another tour after this one, or any other sort of live performances?
My wife and I are doing a play this spring out in L.A., so that will be great. After that, I plan to do a second tour, likely titled American Beef. I enjoy writing songs and making people laugh, and I have very strong opinions that I like to share. If you'll still have me, I would love to come back and perform for your city once again.
Speaking of your wife, Valentine's Day is this week. Do you two celebrate the holiday at all?
We're actually very romantic, and we like to treat everyday like it's Valentine's Day. This year, our schedules are both so crazy and busy that our gift to each other is that we didn't make any plans for that day. We'll probably go to the movies and go to dinner, and just spend the day together.
For those of us out there who still haven't figured out what to do for V-Day, what advice can you give for the best way to celebrate with our significant other?
I actually speak to this in my show. One of my tips is to engage in romantic love. It takes guts and stupidity to do this, because you run the risk of heartache, but there is no greater feeling than having someone to care for and love.
As far as a specific gift, my advice would be to make something. Whether it's a simple card or something more complex, taking the time and effort to make something demonstrates your affections far more than anything you can purchase from Target. Even if you go out, find a leaf, and then glue it to a card, it shows that you think enough of that person to put in effort and time to create something that they will enjoy.
IF YOU GO:
Mill City Nights
111 N. 5th St., Minneapolis
7:30 & 10 p.m. Monday, February 18
$35 (both shows sold out)