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Man behind the mustache: Offerman visits campus

'Parks and Recreation' star brings love advice, stages impromptu ukelele performance

Riffing on facial hair, bread and his penis, Nick Offerman — known for his role as meat-eating, libertarian woodsman Ron Swanson on the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation” — didn’t stray too far from his well-known character in his Lecture Board talk Thursday night. Offerman spoke to a full Salomon 101 to frequent outbursts of applause and laughter.

“You people are all younger and smarter and generally better-looking (than me),” Offerman told the crowd when discussing the bleak outlook many people hold about the world. “Except you,” he added, pointing to a student in the middle of the auditorium. “You’ll need to work on your personality.”

Offerman made sure to refer to the audience watching the lecture “in 001” throughout the set. “Being in the same room as my package is a part of the magic,” he said, asking if the camera could zoom in for a closeup.

“I just assume everyone (at Brown) is a sculptor or woodworker,” Offerman said, referencing his relationship with alum RH Lee ’00, who works in his woodshop in Los Angeles.

Offerman, who studied at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, said it was there where he discovered his passion for theater and decided he would try to make a living off of it. “I had to pay for my weed,” he added.

He then delved into life’s “fundamentals,” ideas he described in his book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living,” published last fall.

His first tip was to “engage in romantic love” — a suggestion that he emphasized “wasn’t a joke” when the audience burst into laughter.

He talked at length about his wife of 14 years, actress Megan Mullaly. Offerman described their relationship as sexually charged and simple, noting that they were “homebodies.”

“There’s no greater point to trudging through all this bullshit than to love someone and make them happy,” Offerman said.

Offerman also serenaded the audience with a selection of comical songs, singing and playing guitar.

He kicked off his musical performances with the sweet and lascivious “Rainbow Song” he wrote for Mullaly’s 50th birthday.

Citing the rudeness typical in Los Angeles, Offerman told the audience to always “say please and thank you” — his second fundamental. Raised in a small town on a farm, he said he grew up in a family in which “everyone is taken care of.”

In between wood and the other kind of “wood” humor, Offerman encouraged students to take on hobbies that allow them to use their hands and explore their interests.

Offerman said without keeping busy in his woodshop, he “would have been a fat drunk eight years ago.”
He encouraged students to pursue “anything you can do with your hands and your mind and heart.”

“When you stop learning, you become bitter,” Offerman said. As an example, he talked about his recent attempt to carve a ukulele for the first time.

“Life is way too Instagramm-y and email-y,” he sang in his “Ukulele Song.”

“I want to get away from all the screens between me and the world,” he said, praising the virtues of spending time outdoors.

Other lessons he offered included “carry a hanky,” “avoid the mirror” and “eat red meat.”

After his lecture, which he ended with a rendition of “5,000 Candles in the Wind” from “Parks and Rec,” Offerman took questions from the audience.

Here the audience saw that Offerman could be just as strict as his character Ron Swanson and indeed follows his own emphasis on etiquette, promptly cutting off several students who tried to ask more than one question with humorous severity.

He also used the question-and-answer session to air his discontent with people who record performances like his lecture and ruin the “magic.”

Responding to Offerman’s ideas about the necessity of making mistakes in order to improve, Rebecca Carrol ’15 asked Offerman how he had “f***ed up” throughout his career as an actor in the past. “Even though I knew I was ignorant and wouldn’t do a good job, I kept trying,” he told the audience.

“When I learned to be decent at acting, it was when I realized the most valuable thing was myself,” Offerman said. He said it took him five years as an actor to stop acting like the “Nike-wearing” cool kid he wasn’t and to be himself.

Several audience members asked about Offerman’s experience on “Parks and Rec.”

He described castmate Adam Scott as an “older brother,” equipped with the perfect lame jokes to keep the cast entertained.

He praised the show’s creator, Mike Schur, and its other writers for “exploiting” the actors’ natural personalities to develop great characters.

“The key to the whole operation is from the get-go, there was a no assholes policy — I don’t know how I slipped by,” he said. “There’s this huge crew, and we just make this show with love … and it shows.”

Lecture Board selected Offerman as their fall speaker after none of their poll options could come to campus.


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