The Untold Truth Of Nick Offerman

A native of Minooka, Illinois, Nick Offerman got his start in the vibrant Chicago theater scene before making his way to Hollywood. It didn't take long for the talented actor to land guest spots in TV shows, with his IMDb profile noting his roles in such series as "ER," The West Wing," "24," "NYPD Blue," "Deadwood," "Gilmore Girls," and many more. In 2009, he was cast in the role that would make him a star: Ron Swanson, the gruff, meat-obsessed director of the Pawnee, Indiana Department of Parks and Recreation.

After "Parks and Recreation" ended its seven-season run in 2015, Offerman found himself navigating a far different career than he had when he was originally cast. In addition to authoring books, performing standup comedy, and sharing his passion for woodworking, Offerman reunited with "Parks and Rec" co-star Amy Poehler for the NBC crafting competition "Making It." Meanwhile, his acting career exploded. On top of landing performances in beloved TV shows like "Fargo," "Will & Grace," "Devs," and "Pam & Tommy," he's also transitioned to the big screen with roles in films including, "The Founder," "Bad Times at the El Royale," and "Lucy in the Sky." In 2022, he then appeared in "A League of Their Own," as former Chicago Cubs pitcher Casey "Dove" Porter, enlisted to coach the ragtag all-female baseball team the Rockford Peaches.

As the untold truth of Nick Offerman shows, there's far more to learn about this multi-talented and intriguing actor than meets the eye.

He founded an award-winning Chicago theater company

After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1993 with a degree in theater, Nick Offerman settled in Chicago. Per Illinois News Bureau, he and some of his fellow graduates founded an experimental theater company, which they dubbed Defiant Theatre. During those early years, Offerman made ends meet by building props and scenery for larger, more established theaters. On the theater company's website, Defiant outlined its mission.  "We strived to subvert the social, moral, and aesthetic expectations of mainstream artistic expression," the site noted. "We dared to impassion our audiences and ourselves using any means necessary, limited only by our boundless imagination."

Sadly, the theater shut its doors in 2004, after 13 years of bold, audacious productions. Time Out Chicago recalled that Defiant was renowned for its inventive ambition, including outside-the-box productions as "Action Movie: the Play," and unique interpretations of Shakespeare. While the theater may be gone, the experience provided Offerman with the formative training that laid the groundwork for his ultimate Hollywood success. "The biggest lesson I've learned is that there is absolutely no better training ground than the theater," he told Backstage

In addition to his work with Defiant, Offerman has also trodden the boards for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, and Wisdom Bridge Theatre, in addition to starring as Ignatius J. Reilly in a generally well-received 2015 production of "A Confederacy of Dunces" for Boston's Huntington Theatre Company.

He's a dancer who studied ballet

Arguably one of the most surprising facts about Nick Offerman, particularly given his ultra-macho "Parks and Recreation" role, is that he studied ballet for two semesters at college. A profile in Chicago magazine declared that his motivation for taking ballet classes was to "meet women." Interviewed by Wired, Offerman was asked to confirm that he was, indeed, a ballet dancer. "Surprisingly, yes," he responded. "I had two semesters of ballet and I still got it." Appearing on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Offerman explained, "I had to get some credits while I was in theater school — and this was credits you could earn where there were cute girls to talk to." He then proceeded to showcase his skills by demonstrating the five basic ballet positions and then segueing into a changement.

Ballet is not the only style of dance that Offerman has mastered, something he proved by demonstrating his breakdancing skills during a 2018 appearance on "The Late Late Show with James Corden." Those skills, he explained, were developed while he was still a teenager, with the help of his cousin. "He was much more acrobatic. His was name was Flip Flop. I was Tick Tock," Offerman quipped. "I was in charge of popping and locking." He had previously discussed his breakdancing while appearing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in 2013, where he also provided a demonstration of his skills. "Breakdance has been a very important part of my life," Offerman deadpanned.

Producers were uncertain about his Parks and Rec casting

While it's difficult to picture anyone other than Nick Offerman portraying "Parks and Recreation" bureaucrat Ron Swanson, producers were initially hesitant about casting him for the role. Speaking with The New Yorker, casting director Allison Jones revealed she'd brought him in to read for the role during the early stages of casting. A few weeks after Offerman's audition, she contacted the producers and employed a somewhat sneaky strategy to overcome their hesitancy, telling them, "Your instincts about Nick Offerman were good. Let's bring him back." The producers agreed to see Offerman again, and this time he was able to secure the role. "They forget that s**t, they see so many people," Jones said. "I do that all the time."

As Offerman told The Guardian, he believed it was his audition for an entirely different show that landed him the "Parks and Rec" role: The U.S. remake of "The Office," for which he auditioned in front of producer, Mike Schur. "Unbeknownst to me, [he] wrote my name on a Post-it and stuck it to his computer," Offerman recalled. "A few years later, he remembered the Post-it and said, 'I want this guy on my new show.' NBC looked at me for one role and said, 'This guy is going to have to kiss Rashida Jones at some point, and we don't think Nick is visually in that category.' Mike said, 'OK, let's cast him as Leslie Knope's boss.'"

Nick Offerman is married to a fellow sitcom star

Nick Offerman met his wife, Megan Mullally in 2000 when the two worked together on a play. Interviewed by BuzzFeed, the two recalled their immediate attraction. They soon began dating, but their relationship nearly went off the rails when the "Will & Grace" star made an awkward discovery about her new boyfriend. "When we met, I was 41, and I'd always had younger guys pursue me, and I was really sick of it," Mullally told GQ. "And so I met Nick and I thought, 'Oh, great, 'cause this guy's like 38!' Turns out he was 29. And I was p*ssed."

Per Vulture, in 2003, Offerman and Mullally hosted a soiree, inviting about 20 of their closest friends — who discovered when they arrived that the party they were attending was the couple's wedding. "We fell in love, and before long, we could just tell that we wanted to stay together and make a life together," Offerman told the AV Club of their decision to wed. "We wanted to declare to each other and our friends and family that we were in it to win it."

Meanwhile, their age difference allowed the comedy star an inside look at his wife's Hollywood success, preparing him for his own when it eventually came. "One great benefit of our relationship is that Megan has gone through everything a couple of chapters ahead of me, so there's an easy student-master quality to it," Offerman told New York magazine

He's a skilled carpenter who runs his own woodshop

As a sideline to his acting career, Nick Offerman owns and operates Offerman Woodshop. Based in East Los Angeles, the enterprise is comprised of a collective of woodworkers who create hand-crafted items of woodwork. 

While the shop takes on custom orders for clients, there's one custom job he still regrets turning down: "The wooden canoe that David Letterman asked me to make him while I sat on his television program," Offerman lamented to Vanity Fair. "It was not that long ago in my life that I would have run a mile over broken glass to achieve such a commission." Instead, he was forced to turn Letterman down because his dance card was too full of acting roles. "... If I were full of B.S., I could have agreed to the task and then signed my name to a product made by someone else in my shop, but that is not the way I do business," he added.

As Offerman told Backstage, he takes a similar approach to an acting role as he does to handcrafting a coffee table. "Anything I build — whether it's a back porch or a set for 'Macbeth' or an heirloom dining table or the role of Bottom — I approach with the same reverence," he said. "And I try to keep my tools well-honed so the manifestation of the creation is as pleasing to myself and the recipient as possible."

He starred in a one-man show he wrote himself

Concealed amidst Nick Offerman's many onscreen acting credits is "American Ham." The one-man show was performed in 2014 at New York City's Town Hall theater, where it was filmed for a 2014 Netflix special. On his website, Offerman joked, "I gained about 30 pounds for this show, so as to appear more relatable."

In an interview with Nerdist, the comedy star explained that the show originated from the invitations he was receiving to speak at colleges. "At first I demurred because I said, 'I don't know if they think I'm a standup [comic] or what, 'cause I'm not — I'm a theater actor.' But then I thought I'd really love to speak to the young people of our nation — there are some things I'd like to tell them," he said. 

At the crux of "American Ham" is Offerman's list of 10 tips for delicious living, which advises why one should always carry a handkerchief and promotes a healthy embrace of intoxicants. The one-man show also featured Offerman singing some original songs. "They've been described as 'perfectly mediocre' and also 'terribly adequate,'  he joked about his musical compositions in an interview with My City Paper. "I depend much more on laughter than talent."

Did he play himself in The Good Place?

Nick Offerman made a special cameo in the series finale of "The Good Place," which, like "Parks and Recreation," was executive produced by Michael Schurr. As Screen Rant recounted, the guest appearance involves the actor seemingly visiting the afterlife to offer his assessment of Tahani's (Jameela Jamil) woodworking skills –  she builds a chair he deems to be perfect

While there was apparently some confusion as to whether Offerman was playing a deceased version of himself or of Ron Swanson, the episode's credits indicated he was portraying himself on "The Good Place." 

However, that may not necessarily be the case. Schur himself weighed in on the subject during an "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, when he was queried about whether the actor was meant to be appearing as Ron or himself. "Nick was credited in the finale, I think, as 'Woodworker,' because we wanted it to be ambiguous whether it was Nick or Ron," he wrote in his response. "I'll leave the answer to you to decide."

He's written five books

The fame that Nick Offerman gained from "Parks and Recreation" not only led to further acting roles, it also allowed him the opportunity to carve out a sideline as an author. In fact, the actor has written five books, starting with the 2013 tome, "Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living," a quasi-autobiography that serves up an assortment of humorous guidance on navigating life's choppy waters. 

He followed that up with 2015's "Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers," sharing his thoughts on famous folks who've inspired him, ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Willie Nelson. Then, in 2016 came the publication of "Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop," featuring Offerman's observations and anecdotes about carpentry. 

In 2018, he teamed up with his wife, Megan Mullally, for the jointly written "The Greatest Love Story Ever Told," featuring intimate insights into the couple's relationship pulled from conversations between the two. This was followed in 2021 by Offerman ruminating on his love of experiencing nature in "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside." 

In addition to those five, Offerman is also the author and voice of the 2020 audiobook "All Rise." As described by Penguin Random House, "[The audiobook is] an evening of deliberative talking, mirth, and song that compels listeners to chuckle while also causing them to contemplate a better side of humanity."

He finds solace in the great outdoors

When Nick Offerman finds himself becoming stressed out, he tends to look outward. "I feel a hell of a lot better after I walk in the woods," he told NPR's "Weekend Edition." As he explained, he was surrounded by nature growing up, and as an adult has continued to seek it out. "I need to get out and look at the creek or look at some trees to keep myself from being affected by Los Angeles traffic or too much looking at my iPhone," he said.

Instead, he finds himself consoled by the beauty and tranquility of nature whenever he takes a walk outdoors. That philosophy is at the core of his 2021 book "Where the Deer and the Antelope Play." Along with sharing his insights on the great outdoors, the book finds Offerman chronicling some of his more memorable outdoor experiences. They range from working on a British sheep farm to hiking Montana's Glacier National Park with Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and author George Saunders.

Offerman told Outside that he has a particular affection for nature trails, stating how a ramble through the woods can help to purge him of all the unnecessary noise of existence. "Whether on foot or on a bicycle. It's an incredible escape from the hamster wheel of life," he said. "It's a way that I can ... empty the trash from the desktop of my brain."

Why Nick Offerman stopped smoking weed

In 2013, Nick Offerman went on record as a marijuana aficionado when he gave a stoned interview to High Times magazine, conducted while he munched on a maple bacon chocolate chip cookie edible that he deemed to be "delicious." He did, however, concede that while weed may have enhanced some of his creative endeavors, acting was not one of them. He pointed to his disastrous decision to get high before performing in a production of "Man of La Mancha."  "It was quite unnerving," he noted about the experience. It also proved to be injurious when his stoned state caused him to botch a stunt and accidentally smash his head open.

He doubled down in his 2014 book "Paddle Your Own Canoe," in which he crowned marijuana as nature's greatest feel-good drug. "When I smoke pot, I want to look at nature and laugh about everything and eat some delicious things and then sleep," he wrote. 

However, in a 2021 interview with the Independent, Offerman revealed that he'd pretty much stopped using marijuana. "My life is happy enough that I don't actually want it," he explained. He also pointed to the unfortunate irony that back when he was a frequent marijuana user he wasn't able to afford quality weed. "When I depended on marijuana for escapism, I couldn't get the good stuff and now that I can afford the most incredible pot, I don't want it!" he jokingly complained.

He wrote a song declaring he's not Ron Swanson

While his "Parks and Recreation" character Ron Swanson was the epitome of manliness, Nick Offerman has often pointed out that he and his former sitcom character are not one and the same. "It never occurred to me that I would be accused of such masculinity," he told the Independent. "I never said, 'Oh, I'm going to be a manly figure.'"

To underline that point, Offerman wrote and recorded an original song titled "I'm Not Ron Swanson." Pointing out that Swanson's fictional organs could handle a steady diet of scotch and steak, whereas his real one cannot, it includes such lyrical gems as, "Your expectations are a little high I fear, 'cause if I had to live like him I'd be dead within a year."

Speaking with WBUR's "Here and Now," Offerman admitted he understands why he's acquired a reputation as a man's man, but insisted that he doesn't encourage it. "I'm not chasing masculinity," he stated. "... It's always seemed a little strange to me as a mincing theater artist to be accused of being manly. I am pretty handy at splitting firewood or changing a tire, but so are the women in my family." As a result, he added that he hoped to inspire others to change their ideas surrounding dusty gender stereotypes.

He doesn't see himself as a comedian

Nick Offerman is no stranger to performing standup comedy, which he proved when he took to the stage of Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival to perform a musical homage to Canadian men. In fact, three of his shows — 2014's "American Ham," the raunchy 2017 show co-starring wife Megan Mullally titled "Summer of 69: No Apostrophe," and the 2017 romp "Full Bush" — have been filmed and released as television comedy specials

However, he doesn't really consider himself to be a comedian, something he ironically discussed while promoting his standup comedy tour of Australia in an interview with The Guardian. "[I'm] an artist who tries to get people to love one another," Offerman insisted about his standup act. He explained that his excursion into live comedy came about from his desire to communicate his wisdom to the younger generation. "I said, 'I really would like to talk to the young people, I have some things I'd like to tell them. I'll write up a show and I'll call myself a humourist.'" He added that people are happy to call him a comedian so long as he throws in a cursory reference to his genitals every few minutes. "People are like, 'He's a comedian,' but that couldn't be further from the truth."

Nick Offerman's musical heroes inspire his work

Given that a good chunk of Nick Offerman's onstage comedy performances consists of humorous songs, it shouldn't be surprising to discover that he's long had a passion for music. Yet in Offerman's pantheon of musical greatness, one artist stands head and shoulders above the rest: singer-songwriter Tom Waits. "He's the troubadour for the romantic with a twinkle in his or her eye," Offerman said of Waits in an interview with Radio Milwaukee. One Waits composition that resonates with the actor is, "Get Behind the Mule." Offerman explained, "It's basically saying, you know, every day you got to get behind the mule and plow. If you want to live, right, you got to get up and get to work."

Speaking to Forbes, the actor recalled that Waits' music spurred him on artistically when he was a young theater actor, starting out. "I figuratively hooked myself up to an IV of Tom Waits and said let me get some color back in my cheeks with this," he said.

Offerman is also a fan of avant-garde performer Laurie Anderson, probably best known for her 1981 experimental hit, "O Superman." He explained the significance of her music in his life during an interview with the New York Times. "Her works are as perfect as those of Rembrandt, but the blood of anarchy flows through her veins," he gushed. "She, more than anyone in my lifetime, has been giving me permission to misbehave in my pursuit of a life creating things."

He has made some serious money

There was a time when Nick Offerman could be described by that oft-used cliche of a starving artist, but those days have long since faded into the rearview mirror. As of 2022, Celebrity Net Worth pegged his fortune at a not-too-shabby $25 million, the result of his purported $30,000-per-episode "Parks and Recreation" salary, the books he's written, lucrative paydays for high-profile acting roles, and other cash-generating ventures.

However, as Offerman explained to Big Think, he doesn't believe that wealth is the key to happiness. "There is so much [people] can achieve that is satisfying, that may never pay you a dollar, but it makes your life incredibly happy," he said.

For Offerman, that something is found working in his woodshop. In fact, he told Men's Journal, his DIY woodworking book "Good Clean Fun" came about as a way to keep the coffers full while allowing him to indulge in his beloved hobby. "[The Book] was basically tricking my business people into letting me do what I love. When I turn down money jobs because I want to do something at the shop, they say, 'Grumble grumble, the shop.' So I noticed the grumbling, and I said, 'Well let's do a fancy book that's going to require me to spend four months in the shop' — and they were like, 'Great, we love the shop!'"