I don’t know what happened. I declined his invitation. He started laughing. And the next thing I knew, we were at lunch.
Did he drug me?
20Qs with Nick Offerman from Playboy
PLAYBOY: Ron Swanson, your character on Parks and Recreation, is known for his love of all things meat. How does he deal with a surname commonly associated with TV dinners?
OFFERMAN: I think it’s a delicious coincidence. Ron has no problems with TV dinners, as long as they have meat. I mean, Ron shops at Food and Stuff, so he’s not super picky about how clean his meals are. The fact that the TV dinner has placed the name Swanson in the echelon of food lore doesn’t hurt.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said you enjoy making yourself as ugly as possible in roles. What do you mean?
OFFERMAN: The first thing I do is figure out what my transformation will be. I’ve done every possible facial hair configuration. And head hair—shaved, flattop, Mr. T’s look a couple of times. I want and like to stand out, because when I got into the business, I quickly saw that the majority of people striving to get ahead were trying to be as good-looking or as cute as possible. I was like, Man, what a drag, especially in L.A., where so many people get paid just to be good-looking. It seemed smarter to go in the opposite direction. There’s always room for the freak. Fortunately, my wife is very tolerant of this habit. Usually I hear, “Oh, honey, what have you done to yourself now?”—though in one instance she’d had enough. I slept on the couch for a couple of nights until it occurred to me to put on a stocking cap. Then I was back in bed and in business.
PLAYBOY: We’re talking today in your woodworking shop, where you build everything from furniture to ukuleles. How did you get started with that?
OFFERMAN: My dad, my uncles and my grandfathers all taught me to use tools. By the time I started a theater career, I was a practical carpenter and had also spent a couple of summers framing houses. Scenery came quickly and easily, and it became a nice source of income. The woodwork I do now became a passion only later in life.
…If I had a soapbox—which I’d build myself—I’d use it to encourage people to make things with their hands or to get outside and walk in a park, to experience the world in ways that don’t involve screens.
PLAYBOY: One joy of Parks and Recreation is the cussing, even though it’s bleeped. How great is it not to have to watch your mouth?
OFFERMAN: It’s just one aspect of how liberating it is on our show. On day one Greg Daniels, the co-creator, said, “Anytime you want to say or do anything, go ahead.” That was incredible, especially since a lot of our cast comes from improv and sketch comedy. I come from the theater, where the script is scriptural. It’s like the Bible. But now, if I have the impulse, I can say “Fuck that!” All along the writers have taken our natural impulses and written them into the characters. We really leapfrog and piggyback on one another.
PLAYBOY: Megan Mullally, your real-life spouse, plays the second of Ron Swanson’s ex-wives, both named Tammy. Was it weird or wonderful to have a racy sex scene with your wife?
OFFERMAN: Casting my wife, who is a comedy juggernaut, allowed us to go to disgusting places of intimacy I wouldn’t dare approach with any other actor, out of sheer politeness. When we got the script for that episode, Megan took me to a soft, grassy area in our yard, and we rehearsed disgusting kissing and groping techniques to see how far we could comfortably go, to find our safe zone. I have lots of good friends I love making comedy with, but if one of them had been cast, I couldn’t have licked all over her face or rammed my tongue down her throat the way I could with my wife because she’s my legal property.
PLAYBOY: Obviously. Last season, in the episode “Ron and Tammy, Part 2,” there’s a scene in which you and Amy Poehler walk into Megan’s office and find her bent over, showing her backside and a thong. After everyone gets a good look, she stands up and tells you she was just checking for scoliosis. Then it gets hotter as Megan is intimate with a large, stiff piece of beef jerky. Is she acting or bringing it from home?
OFFERMAN: It’s a fine line. She’s certainly using the wiles she’s developed over her 53 years. Fortunately, we have a deep and abiding love, so she never has to resort to checking herself for scoliosis to take me there. The beef jerky? Well, ever since watching her on Will & Grace I’ve been astonished at how Megan can get away with the most filthy gestures and insinuations on network television. Even Mother Teresa would know it was a penis slapping her in the face. I just have to shake my head in wonder.
PLAYBOY: …Tell us about Ron Swanson’s sex tape.
OFFERMAN: I think it would be in a sort of shadow-puppet genre, captured inadvertently by a neighbor maybe trying to make a video for America’s Funniest Home Videos and filming some shadows in flagrante delicto coming from Ron’s shop, through a tarp.
PLAYBOY: We usually ask if you wear boxers or briefs, but this time let’s add thong and loincloth.
OFFERMAN: I have a dream that I’ll become a kilt guy at some point. I’ve tested the waters with Megan. Somebody sent us an advertisement for a badass dude kilt, the kind you could wear to frame houses. That put me over the edge. I was like, “Honey, I could wear this kilt.” My wife has incredible taste…These days, realistically, I do boxers or boxer briefs, if they’re cotton boxers with the button fly. I kind of swing between those two, literally. Ron Swanson probably has three pairs of Army surplus boxer shorts. They’re on a rotation. He launders them only in salt.
…I remember at one point, to sort of break away from my conservative family upbringing, I was nude in a play. That’s right. I had to show my genitals to an audience, get tattoos and prove to myself that I was a cutting-edge artist—he said with a laugh. But it played its part. Acting should be approached fearlessly…