Nick Offerman's new standup shows he's far more than Ron Swanson

"I've discovered that people think I'm not attractive… that's a joke," Offerman chuckles. Sitting in his hotel room, in London, where he's just finished shooting a new TV series, we're chatting on the phone about his new show, All Rise.

But first, he wants to dispel a few misconceptions with which the wider public has slowly bridled him.

"People really tend to conflate me with the character I'm best known for, Ron Swanson, [of Parks and Recreation] with whom I share a lot of characteristics. He's a very brilliantly written comedy character, but we really only have seen probably 15 hours of this man's life."

Ronald Ulysses Swanson, of whom Offerman refers, is the head of the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department, a fictional cohort of the local council office in the mockumentary-style TV show, Parks and Recreation, which also stars Amy Poehler as lead, Leslie Knope. Swanson is known to utter such gems as, "Fishing relaxes me. It's like yoga, except I still get to kill something" or, "Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing."

"I'm a human being, so I'm much more complicated," said Offerman. "I love working and I love to perform manly feats, but I also am trained in ballet and I'm very sensitive, so the one that I tend to address the most are our sort of misconceptions of manliness or some sort of machismo."

More than one man

Since his Parks and Recreation days, and even before this time, Offerman has achieved so much more than his TV role as Swanson. He's featured in film and TV - both mainstream and independent - performed his own live shows, written a number of books, and is also a professional boat builder and woodworker; and yet, the allusion of being a man's man follows Offerman like a shadow.

"For some reason people want to attach an old-fashioned sort of John Wayne sense of machismo to me," said Offerman. "But, they want to attach it to Ron Swanson as well, and both of those are incorrect.

"We both are actually staunch feminists, and as a true libertarian, Ron is down with everybody; he's a wonderful supporter of all human rights, as any true Libertarian should be. But people look to that sort of authority figure, who says, 'I live my life by three rules' and 'here are the only six foods you ever need to eat.'"

Despite the parallels to any hallmarks of masculinity, Offerman is philosophical when it comes to making sense of his audience-imposed persona.


"Really as soon as you are able to leave the house, you have a myriad of choices and that can really lead to mediocrity, where you become lazy," said Offerman.

"You may begin to make the easy choices and I think that Ron, and perhaps me to an extent; I think people really relish that sensibility because we all want some sort of daddy to 'please tell me what to do', because the choices are unlimited."

Disconnected in a connected way

As he muses on this topic, the conversation turns inevitably to the nature of being connected to the entire world from your smartphone and the inevitable loss of reason, and occasionally, accountability, that comes with it.

"We've become this clickbait sort of lynching culture where we're all desperate for blood every day," said Offerman.

"We've lost a sense of nuance in our political conversations, so something I've learned in talking about these things with my friends, is to just maintain an appreciation of nuance of human fallibility, in that we all invariably necessarily always make mistakes, and if it happens to be a public mistake, that turns into a scandal.

"I keep seeing this play out again and again, where politicians or public figures, celebrities; will be called out for some mistake they've made or some crime they've committed. Instead of copping to it, they become defensive and dig their hole ten times deeper. Like, 'C'mon, man, just say you're sorry.'

"This is a problem; it's an historical issue, whether it's sexual harassment in Hollywood or wearing black face at your fraternity party. [Just] say 'Yes, I'm sorry, that's terrible and let's try and do better.' But instead, people are defensive and say, 'I'm not a racist'. Well, no, that toothpaste as well out of the tube, sir. What you should do is apologise and say how can we all be better than we have been."

Realistic about his reality

It may seem Offerman is a little cynical about the perpetually offended nature of the modern world, but he actually tempers these notions with a large dose of pragmatism.

"What's magic about our species is that we can evolve consciously," said Offerman. "Not only can we adapt, as do our bodies evolve to the climate, but we can adapt our civilization and our culture, and that absolutely must not be stifled.

"I think there's an undercurrent of intelligent, patient people - while all of these fireworks are happening on the news every day - there's a steady foundation, in which I place my hope of people saying, 'Okay, everybody settle down.'

"I just think that human nature is going to take a long time to turn that ship around, but we do have good people tying knots on the ship, so I have hope."

All the world's a stage

These issues, and a whole lot more, underpin Offerman's new live show, with the man describing it as "a pretty natural fit to my way of thinking."

"My first two shows, American Ham and Full Bush, were more like a grab bag of notions, but still had the same foundation of, 'Here's my strangely old-fashioned and folksy point of view that I grew up with in the Midwest as just a hard working guy who got lucky in show business and let me make you laugh with my observations about that.'

But like many comedians, our constantly shifting political landscapes can leave their material wanting for change, with the operative word in Offerman's new agenda being 'change'.

"I wrote both those shows before Trump got elected, and then once he got elected I felt sort of gutted and said, 'Oh, suddenly I feel like my material has an element of futility to it, in that I was just trying to light-heartedly make you laugh and maybe sneak some broccoli into the pizza'. But now I want to pay more attention and see if I can actually help nudge people in the right direction."

A creative coupling

For Offerman, being on stage is more than just an opportunity to share his world view, but also work alongside is wife and creative partner, Megan Mullaly; an accomplished comedian, actress, singer and writer most-commonly known for her role as Karen Walker, in Will & Grace. The genesis of their relationship is Offerman's advice for anyone seeking love: do what you love.

"The day we met I had just finished working all day, building this stage," said Offerman. "I was all sweaty and had my tool belt on when Megan came in and saw me. I was like five echelons beneath her, socially, but when you're doing what you love, you have a glow; and when people see that, that's when you're at your most attractive."

Nearly two decades on and the couple have now released a book about their love, life and careers, titled The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, and also tour together, with Offerman making cameos in Mullaly's shows with her band, Nancy and Beth, also touring Australia this June.

Offerman attributes their near-twenty years together to a simple truth: "You have to become two human beings, exposing yourself in a vulnerable way to one another, which creates a sense of trust and openness and honesty. Ultimately, your gut will tell you, 'I don't want to live without you'."

Rise to the occasion

If you caught Offerman on his last visit to Australia, three years ago, don't be surprised to find a slightly provocative undertone to his new material. Indeed, All Rise promises to be as culturally cathartic as it is memorable.

"If I could pick a legacy, I hope it would be that I promoted good manners," said Offermen. "To me, that's probably the most valuable thing I do and then I also hope I'll make you laugh here and there.

"I just want to try and be on the side of the good people, helping to erode any kind of prejudice in this world. I'm also gonna sing a bunch of songs about farting, so you may find an overall package that might actually do some good while we all laugh about all the ways I can rhyme the word 'expectoration'."

Simple dating advice from Nick Offerman

• First and foremost, you have to make each other laugh – "That's a huge, huge thing that can't be overlooked."

• Don't worry about dating apps

• The harder you look for love, the less likely you are to find it

• Find things to do that you love – "That's when you're full of life, when people are going to say, 'I love the way she splits firewood, that's amazing. I want to take her out to dinner'."

Catch Nick Offerman on stage in All Rise, in Australia from 2 June. Tickets available via Live Nation -