In another era, Nick Offerman would have been a Renaissance man. He's an actor, writer, musician, carpenter and now a comedian, who brings his stand-up tour “Full Bush” to Shea’s Performing Arts Center Nov. 10.
As native of Illinois, Offerman has a healthy appreciation for Rust Belt cities and cold weather. He’s come to Buffalo before while touring and working as a “roadie” for his wife Megan Mullally’s band Nancy and Beth. Offerman also travels through town when he enters Canada to learn more about building canoes.
“We’re big fans of the area,” he said. “My favorite visit was in January. Growing up in Illinois, I felt really nostalgic for the bitter, freezing, icy sleet. It was the first time Megan and I saw Niagara Falls, in 7-degree weather. Many people would consider that a disadvantage, but I found it very charismatic. It makes the fireplace that much more valuable.”
Trained in dramatic acting, Offerman spent years performing in theater companies and small parts on television. His breakout role came in 2009 when he was cast in the NBC’s comedy “Parks and Recreation,” where for seven seasons he played Ron Swanson, the government supervisor who hated the government. Swanson’s unique personality, love of red meat and breakfast foods, and secret life as a jazz musician made him not only one of the best-loved characters from the show, but in television history.
Offerman’s sudden fame as the Swanson character led to new opportunities, including stand-up comedy, which he had no prior experience in. Offerman faced two challenges: Developing an hour’s worth of stage comedy as a newcomer, and finding a voice unique from Swanson.
“I’m a trained theater actor, so I never expected that I would be performing as myself,” Offerman said. “Only when I was beginning to be invited to colleges after ‘Parks and Recreation,’ that I realized that there were things I’d really like to say to the young people. My fear was that I would be handed this opportunity, and I would be a classic, lazy human who said, ‘I’m so cute, that all I have to do is show up and they can look at me because I’m adorable.’
“I’m very grateful that anybody would show up to hear me talk. I just worked very hard (and) I keep working at it. It’s a great privilege that I’ve been afforded.”
To free himself of some fans’ expectation that they’re seeing Ron Swanson, Offerman opened his initial comedy tour and special, “American Ham,” talking about interests that the actor shares with the character, “and then gently ease them off that notion.” On his current tour, Offerman sings a song, “I’m Not Ron Swanson.”
A love of woodworking is one of the traits shared by Offerman and Swanson. Offerman has built a team for his Offerman Woodshop business, which sells hand-made tables, woodcrafts and do-it-yourself products. On the day before the interview, Offerman was at his shop working on a batch of ukuleles.
“I hilariously came up with a song called ‘The Ukulele Song,’ and then I had to build a ukulele to fulfill the song,” he said. “I did it in reverse. (Woodworking) is part of my constant sermon. I often refer to the shop as my garden: To have a place you can make with your own two hands that no corporation weighs in on and nobody has to fly a FedEx to you to achieve satisfaction. I’ve come to know through my upbringing that the simple hard work is one of the most substantial forms of daily bread.”
While Ron Swanson can be a hard guy to love and be loved by his co-workers, Offerman is thoughtful and friendly on the phone. He hopes to bring those qualities to Shea’s, along with a healthy amount of laughs.
“Given the incredibly volatile conditions in our country and the amount of anger flying around, I’m just really glad to be given the chance to make people laugh,” he said. “One of the things that might be unexpected is that the show is full of is love. (I) try to bring a little medicine with the laughter.”
8 p.m. Nov. 10 at Shea's Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $36-$47. Visit sheas.org.