Nick Offerman is quite the combo platter. Whether he’s acting in television or film, writing a New York Times best seller (he has four under his belt), or making a dining room table out of a nice slab of elm, he’s always on the go. These days, he’s wearing the hat of “comedian” for a 37-state tour of his latest one-man show, All Rise, which he describes as an evening of “deliberative talking and light dance with several songs and stories.” I had the chance to chat with Offerman ahead of the show’s stop at the Chicago Theatre on Sunday, September 15. The following is an edited version of our conversation.
What are some misconceptions about you, Nick Offerman, because of your Parks and Recreation character, Ron Swanson?
Well, I’m a human being and he’s a brilliantly written comedy character, so most of the differences are just rooted in reality. If I ate the amount of steak and bacon and drank the amount of scotch that Ron Swanson drank, I would have been dead at 39.
This is your third one-man show. Was your wife, Megan Mullally, involved with the writing?
Megan is actually directing this one. I write everything, and then I start doing it. The most important part of the process is just getting up and doing it in front of an audience. Regardless of what Megan and I like or not, it’s the audience that will tell us what they’re buying or not. But Megan has incredible taste, and she’s a really good editor and director. She’s like a walking Mel Brooks movie, so I would be remiss if I didn’t rely on her great resources.
How much of the show is improvisation and how much is by the book?
It’s pretty written out—the show is about 90 minutes, and there are seven new songs. I finish up with a couple of fan favorites for dessert. And the way I do it, it’s kind of like the way we shot Parks and Rec: I give you the script, I perform what works, and then if the audience responds to a certain bit warmly, then I’ll stop and pick at it and say, “Oh, you like that? OK, let’s talk about priests for a minute . . . ”
A lot of people don’t know about your days as a breakdancer in Minooka, Illinois. Would you care to explain?
My cousin and I were very popular down at the skating rink with our two-man breakdancing team, Tik Tok and Flip Flop, and you know, I think we may have won third place one time in some sort of competition.
Could some of that make it into your show?
There are some moves in the show that make it perfectly clear that I have had some deep and classical dance training.
What do you and Megan do to completely unwind?
Most people go to a spa, or go to some sort of getaway, but for us, with our very lucky and busy lives, the most exotic thing we can do is to stay home and sit at our dining room table, which is a nice slab of elm from Offerman Woodshop, and put together large jigsaw puzzles. That’s our Hawaiian getaway. We put on audio books. That’s our version of smoking a bong and going to a concert: putting on a nice novel and putting together jigsaw puzzles.
When you come back to Chicago, is there a favorite haunt you like to visit?
This weekend I’m going to spend some time at Wrigley Field, which is a lifelong favorite haunt. I’m very sad Javier Baez has a fracture in his hand—but it’s tough for me to visit Chicago proper because my large, very charismatic family is 45 minutes to the southwest. So whenever I have gigs in Chicago, one of the best things about it is that I get to go have dinner at my mom’s dinner table and admire my dad’s garden and then run away and hide when my sisters find out I’m there because they’d beat me up. v