“I was born ready. I’m Ron [expletive] Swanson.”
With that season 2 quote, Nick Offerman’s character on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” was cemented as a no-nonsense, mustachioed bastion of masculinity.
“I think people really respond to this old-fashioned sensibility of somebody who says, ‘No, I don’t need a computer. No, I don’t need all this crap. I like meat. I like wood. I like brunettes. And if you’re not one of those things, get the hell out of my office,’ ” Offerman says.
The Illinois native shares many characteristics with Ron (including a love of meat, wood and brunettes), but they are not the same person. Whereas Ron would balk at the notion of public speaking, Offerman, 42, is more than willing to offer his distinct, unvarnished wisdom to an audience. In his live stage show, “American Ham,” which comes to Washington on Friday, he offers his 10 tips for prosperity, plays songs on guitar and tells some jokes (even though he is not a stand-up).
Who is this mysterious manly man? Offerman opened up about his heart, his hobbies and his honey — with whom he shares his only email account.
He advises people as part of his live show to eat red meat, avoid the mirror and engage in romantic love. “The main facet of prosperity to me is to share my time with my loved ones, whether they be my family or friends or my woodworking crew or the cast of my show. We’re all in this together, and I think if we can all band together and try to make sure everybody has as good of a time as possible, that makes for very prosperous days — much more prosperous than if I isolate myself and become the richest man in the country. I think I would find that to be a poor situation.”
He has wisdom to share with the youths of America. The “American Ham” show “came about because some colleges asked me to come talk to them, and I said, ‘Well, you know, I have some things that I would like to say to the young people of our nation.’ And I guess the thing that qualifies me to deliver this advice is it’s not my advice to deliver. I’m passing along the lessons that I’ve been lucky enough to glean from much wiser teachers than myself.”
He owns Offerman Woodshop in Los Angeles and will make you a canoe. “It rewards me with a feeling of prosperity when I engage in some kind of discipline. The discipline of woodworking happens to bring some income and it has a tangible result: I’m making someone a table to hold their roast beef, or I’m making someone a canoe with which they will derive hours of recreational pleasure.”
He is wary of modern technology. “If you simply want to go shopping using your electronic devices, you can shop for anything you can dream of. You can probably find your way into the white slave market on your iPhone. I personally have not seen that app, but it’s the world we’re living in.”
He was broke for years as a theater actor in Chicago. “I lived most of my life somewhere within the spectrum of poverty, which is of the norm for a theater actor. But I felt like a king most of the time because I was swimming in the riches of delivering an artistic message and delivering laughter and tears to an audience, which is very holy and medicinal to me.”
He had a sensei and a Kabuki teacher in the 1990s. “Among the many great lessons [sensei Shozo Sato] taught me — and they’re all these great Zen koans as they apply to the arts — one of his sayings was, ‘The way of the arts is the way of the Buddha.’ What that means is, if you have a calling to engage in an art or some sort of creative activity, that’s actually holy and you have to respect it as if it’s your church. And I learned when I was bewitched by the spell of woodworking — I just learned it made my life much more wholesome.”
He indulges in vices, but in moderation. “I absolutely have a penchant, like most human animals, to, when left with time on my hands, think, ‘Oh, well, I guess I should smoke a joint and see that “Star Wars” triple feature.’ And that’s fun sometimes. But a vacation is much more delicious when you’ve earned it with a spell of good work, and my [woodworking] shop provides that for me.”Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW; Fri., 8 & 10:30 p.m., $29.50; 202-783-4000. (Metro Center)