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Hello everyone.
Welcome to another Authors at Google talk.
Today we have Nick Offerman to talk about his book
"Paddle Your Own Canoe."
He's going to start off with a few songs,
and then we're going to discuss the book
and open it up to questions.
NICK OFFERMAN: Thank you.
Good afternoon, Google.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
NICK OFFERMAN: I'll go ahead and just whip out a couple songs
to get us in a mirthful mood, and then we'll
get into the religious material.
[LAUGHTER]
NICK OFFERMAN: My wife turned 50 a few years ago,
and she asked me for a rainbow for her birthday.
And I said, thank you honey.
That should be easy.
And I made a few calls.
NBC was no help whatsoever.
And then I realized I could make a rainbow out of art.
So this is the first song I wrote.
And my friend CornMo.com helped me set it to chords.
And he's much more entertaining than I am.
Please avail yourself of his talents.
"The Rainbow Song."
[MUSIC - NICK OFFERMAN, "THE RAINBOW SONG"]
NICK OFFERMAN: I posed for that font in 1996.
And I've been in the ocean since.
I have two big-screen TVs, both with shots
of all of you in case I need some perspective, apparently.
Looking at you this way is too daunting, so-- what else
do I do?
My friend Corn Mo, actually, suggested to me
that I write an album of songs, all with woodworking themes.
And we laughed, quaffed our seventh beer at McSorley's Pub.
And then I said, wait a second.
I like the sound of that.
And so this is the first song from that forthcoming album.
It's very much in progress, but this is just a taste.
Thank you to Kristie for loaning me her guitar.
Mine arrived broken.
This one is cute as shit.
[MUSIC_-_NICK_OFFERMAN]
NICK OFFERMAN: My final offering for today's lunchtime
is the final song and tip from my touring humorist
show, "American Ham."
It's also the title of my book, "Paddle Your Own Canoe."
If you can't find a piece of philosophy in this,
then I suggest you think again.
There's more.
[MUSIC_-_NICK_OFFERMAN]
INTERVIEWER: So welcome to Google.
Thanks for indulging us with song and a little bit of dance
as well.
NICK OFFERMAN: Thank you for having me, Google.
And I would like to also say thank you to the local chef
Bill Billenstein for filling my gullet with delicious meats
and starches.
INTERVIEWER: Glad you enjoyed it.
So I have actually a question.
The name of the book is "Paddle Your Own Canoe,"
but this is actually a canoe that's you've built yourself.
NICK OFFERMAN: It is, in fact.
Was that--
INTERVIEWER: That was a leading question, yeah.
NICK OFFERMAN: Grammatically speaking.
Would you like to hear a little bit about it?
INTERVIEWER: Please.
NICK OFFERMAN: Her name is Huckleberry.
My wife was doing a Broadway show some years ago,
and we don't live apart for more than two weeks.
That's a rule.
Actors that work a lot, which we're lucky enough
to be sometimes, often have their relationships
suffer because they go to play Frodo
Baggins in New Zealand for 18 months.
Not naming any names.
What I'm saying is I turned down the role of Frodo Baggins
to preserve my marriage.
I made the right decision.
I went with Megan to live in New York, which
I was very excited to do.
And I had been looking for an opportunity
to build my first canoe.
So I took a bag of tools with me,
and I built it in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
And it was one of the greatest things I've ever gotten to do.
I highly recommend it.
Although if you're going to do it in this neighborhood,
I'd go with an ocean kayak.
LA is not a great canoeing community.
I learned the hard way.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, I see.
Well, they're opening up the LA river, supposedly, for--
NICK OFFERMAN: They are, and it's neat.
There's a cool section to kayak on.
Some of it looks very much like where Danny Zuko raced Greased
Lightnin' down the sides of the LA river, which is badass.
INTERVIEWER: Awesome.
NICK OFFERMAN: Great seeing you guys.
INTERVIEWER: So you were going to read a couple
sections from your book.
We don't have a lot of time, so I figure, you can do that.
And then we can basically open up the questions
from the audience
NICK OFFERMAN: OK.
The paddle, as well, is my best paddle so far.
It's Alaskan yellow cedar, to answer your question,
with accents of cherry inlaid into the handle and blade tip.
And there's some pretty bitchin' carving
going on in that paddle.
Paddles are really fun to make, actually.
And if you want to get into woodworking,
I recommend a paddle because it only
takes one piece of wood and some hand tools.
It's a great introduction to hand tools.
Moving onto my prepared remarks, the first little piece
is a quick anecdote about a waiting room not far from here.
It's in Santa Monica.
And, gosh, I guess it was about 15 years ago.
I was just out of high school, and I was auditioning--
I was new in town-- when you're trying to get arrested here,
you try and get kick-ass jobs and auditions,
but you also go to commercial auditions.
You go to any bullshit that will pay you
$1, because you're broke.
So I was going to all these commercial auditions.
If you guys know anybody that are good with the internet
and stuff-- I've never seen this again,
but there's a commercial that I did for a steakhouse.
The fuck was it called?
It was in the southeast.
I don't remember the name of the steakhouse, and I won't.
So I did a couple commercial spots.
If you can find that, it would probably be funny to look at.
I escaped from jail.
And I was conflicted going to these auditions.
I'm a classically trained theater actor.
At the time, I was incredibly snotty about myself.
I performed works of theater, like, I
memorized two hours of literature
and then presented dramatically on stage.
And then you're sitting in a room
with a bunch of guys that are like, all right.
You chew a piece of gum and it tastes bad,
so you make a funny face.
And that's the job.
And you're just like-- Jesus Christ, this is demoralizing.
So I had been in town for about a
year when I found myself auditioning for a Budweiser
spot.
I hauled my ass out to Santa Monica.
Same old waiting room, full of maybe 60 guys.
It's a big square room, and each wall has a bench along it,
so it's a big square of guys.
Mostly beer-loving, baseball fan-looking guys, so fat guys.
The schtick was, you're in the bleachers,
holding at a baseball game.
And you hear the sound of a home run crack off the bat.
The crowd noise builds, and you're holding two huge beers.
You probably remember this commercial.
And you don't want to set either one down
because Budweiser is so delicious,
or because ballpark beers are so expensive.
So you want to track this whole thing until the home run hits
you on the forehead, of course.
And you make a hilarious face, and then you fall over.
So the salient question was, who makes the funny face
of getting hit on the head with a home run ball the best?
The Bud spot also contained the role
of a little old peanut vendor, so there
was a motley throng of hedonist looking guys,
the beer drinkers, together with a bunch
of assorted little old men.
I was looking around, silently calculating the carpenter wages
I was not earning, and I realized
that sitting next to me was Donald Gibb, the guy who
played Ogre in "Revenge of the Nerds."
I was the appropriate age for "Revenge of the Nerds"
to have been a hugely beloved movie for me.
My wife passed on that movie, by the way,
which, something we've had to work past.
But it was a seminal film.
I was the right audience for "Revenge of the Nerds."
A classic.
He was also in the movie "Blood Sport," for mercy's sake.
This guy-- I remember this guy, "Nerds!"
He was a hero to me and every other teenager in the '80s,
and now he's sitting next to me at this commercial audition?
I thought, good God.
You can be this minor movie star and do a ton of TV roles,
and then 10 years later you're sitting next to me
at a fucking Budweiser spot.
I was truly reeling.
So I got up and walked around the room to clear my head.
Across the room, I passed another guy
whose face rang a bell.
And I looked back, and I'll be goddamned
if it wasn't fucking Carmine from "Laverne and Shirley."
I surreptitiously looked at the head shot in his hand.
And at the bottom, sure enough, it read, Eddie "Carmine" Mecca.
I was dumbstruck, thinking, you've got to be kidding me.
It might as well have been John Schneider
from "The Dukes of Hazzard," or Burt Reynolds.
You can be fucking Carmine and now you're
at this Budweiser spot?
Just then, Carmine started up a conversation
with the little old man next to him.
"Hey, you're Joey such and such.
You were in "Guys and Dolls" and "Singing in the Rain."
Joey was apparently an old song and dance
man, with whom Carmine was very impressed.
In a grinning reply, the man said, "Ah, come on, Eddie.
You saw that shit?
Fuhgettaboutit."
Fate, that fickle bitch, was grabbing
me oh so firmly by the shorthairs
and sending me a very clear message.
I ran out to the payphone, called my commercial agent,
and said, thank you kindly but I'm not doing this anymore.
This is not the life for me.
There was no shame in these commercial auditions.
I just knew that I would rather be making a solid $20 an hour
than making zero money to sit and wait for a lottery
ticket that could pay off big.
I understood in that moment what Robert Mitchum
had meant when he said, "Acting is no job for a man."
Years later, I got to work with Eddie "Carmine"
Mecca on an episode of Children's Hospital.
And he was a dreamboat.
Between takes, he would sing standards and Sinatra tunes.
He was a total peach.
Now if I could only shake hands with the Ogre,
I could bring my Budweiser trauma to a neat resolution.
[APPLAUSE]
You're very generous.
Thank you.
I'll give you one more little piece, subtly entitled,
"Don't Be an Asshole," I find it consistently difficult
to get around the notion that we are all, in our very natures,
assholes.
I'm an asshole.
I'm afraid you are also.
That's why the conversation about good manners
even exists in the first place.
We're cognizant, curious beings, capable of philosophical
thought-- nuclear physics, repeating Nerf weaponry,
global consciousness, Glade air fresheners,
and sentient automobiles.
But we're assholes first.
But this is because before we can
begin to argue mortgage rates and tuition hikes,
before we can roll up our sleeves
and thread a profusion catheter into the cholesterol-choked
artery of today's society, we-- every one of us--
must first replenish our mammalian bodies with food
and water, while establishing and maintaining
a comfortable climate around our bodies
through the employment of garments and heating/cooling
cooling systems.
Before we can arrive at the office
to resume our efforts to improve, say,
worldwide Muslim-Christian relations,
or the infrastructure of the Haitian public utility system,
we must commune-- and more to the point, commute--
with thousands of other animals upon ever-increasingly crowded
roadways and public transit vehicle systems.
It's during these more basic elemental steps in our day
that we reveal our true colors as assholes.
Our bodies tell us frequently, in no uncertain terms,
to do things that society has deemed inappropriate, or quite
often illegal.
Talking about the animal voice deep inside us
that we've learned to repress through socialization--
hey, Dave.
Look at that ripe young female cheering for the sports team.
You should make some babies occur.
Or, excuse me, Jorge.
That other family is in front of you
in line at the Reuben truck.
Your own family could claim all of the delicious sandwiches
and grow stronger if you simply kill that first family.
We humans contain within us instinctual signals,
influencing us toward the perpetuation of our species--
specifically, our own tribes or family units,
often to the detriment of others.
That's just how nature works.
What's amazing is that we've largely
contained these urges to the point of successfully checking
out of a crowded Whole Foods without decapitating
that crunchy, granola-haired hustler dude to trying
to squeak 14 items through the express lane
when the sign clearly states, 12 items or less.
You think we aren't all going to be
counting your fucking items, bro?
But we don't strike.
We take a deep breath, and feel better
for another day of carnage-free foraging at the grocery store.
As civilization developed, we learned
to establish some rules and guidelines-- laws,
if you will-- to convince ourselves
that it's not right to heed these animal urges.
OK, everybody, I know we used to just rip out
one another's throats if we wanted to claim, say,
a certain hunting territory for our own.
But we're all deciding in this new committee,
or let's say congress we formed, that that's not cool anymore.
We're going to lay down some notions
about personal property, and the ways in which we
can violate these notions.
And we're going to establish some punishments to hopefully
deter us from raping and killing one another,
mostly the weak people.
Over the centuries, we've continued
to evolve these notions so that every citizen receives
a fair shake.
And by God, we're still working on it.
For you see, gentle reader-- or listeners-- it's complicated.
In a society where to the victors go the spoils,
it can be difficult for said victors
to wrap their heads around fair treatment
or rights for all the people, especially
those who have been defeated or dominated
in one sense or another.
For example, slavery.
Although versions of slavery have been prevalent
all over the world throughout history,
I'll focus on American slavery during the last few centuries.
We Europeans were caught up in a system that
entailed the brutal, inhuman capture
and transport of brown-skinned Africans to the United States,
where they would be sold like work animals
to perform labor in the fields and houses of farms
and plantations.
Full on, flagrant, fucked-up assholery.
It's unthinkable.
This horribly criminal system existed for hundreds of years
before the white folks finally copped to its not
being super cool.
It took a long time for the whites
to wrap their heads around the idea of sharing
this nation, which incidentally was brutally
stolen by them from the indigenous tribes.
Inequality with the dark-skinned people
whom they had once owned like mules--
how did this ever occur?
Assholes.
The rules were being made by assholes.
These decisions were handed down from assholes on high,
and carried out by-- you guessed it-- assholes.
So thankfully, we got that bullshit straightened out,
on paper at least, but we're still
trying to heal the wounds of that
and countless other genocides and discriminations and ass
fuckings that we humans have handed one
another over the years.
The early transgressions that our laws sought to prohibit
involved a violating poleaxe or spear of one brand or another.
Many crimes of action required a sharp-bladed weapon
with which to pierce the skin or property of the victim,
or an actual penis with which to violate another
in the most intimate of breaches.
By now civilization has done, it must
be said, a pretty stand-up job of reducing these more overt
asshole moves with the promise of strict repercussions--
prison, death, what have you.
Terrific.
But folks, we have got us a very long way to go.
I here proffer my opinion that we the people
are still being raped on a daily basis,
but it's a much longer, much slower fucking.
The aggressors are-- I don't know,
the lobbyists for big tobacco, and for guns
and pharmaceuticals and agribusiness.
And their filthy, turgid cocks are enormous,
probing ramshafts made of money.
But wait!
I thought this book was a lighthearted look
at living one's life deliciously.
That's all well and good, fat boy,
but you cannot just blithely drift through life
in your canoe whilst turning a blind eye of the bullshit going
on all around you.
Really, all religious teachings can
be boiled down to just be cool.
Don't be an asshole.
The teachings of Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Yahweh,
Dionysus, Oprah, Yoda, and all the rest.
Confucius.
All we need to be told is that we are all
presented with a similar challenge in life, which
is you will encounter tests every day.
You can serve yourself, or you can serve others.
Now, before I dive headfirst off a self-righteous cliff
like a motherfucking juggernaut, let
me point out that I count myself as not only a human,
but a fucking American white guy with a decent brain
and set of life skills, which means I am,
by birthright, a major asshole.
I come by it honest.
It's the first rule of fight club,
admitting you're an asshole.
And once I saw this truth and swallowed it,
an excellent technique developed,
one that I believe makes my life much more calm and much less
desperate, therefore much more delicious.
The technique is, let the others go first.
At the airport, at the grocery store, at the pleasure chest,
hey ho.
The calmer I've become, the more I enjoy my day.
The more I enjoy my day, the more people enjoy me,
and the more they want to see me in my enjoyment.
Eventually, they want to see me enjoying
my day on the set of their film.
Turns out all I had to do was keep my cool.
I could hardly dive into this topic
without immediately citing the storied heavy traffic
of my hometown of 16 years, Los Angeles, California.
Crosstown trips continue to take longer and interminably longer
with each passing year.
And in the arena of the streets of LA,
a great many motorists reveal themselves
to be lacking in moral fiber.
Their integrity is questionable at best to begin with,
perhaps because Hollywood, more than any other American
community, is the city of dreams.
Los Angeles County is choking with these supplicants
to glittering visions, like that of impressing one's handprints
in the cement sidewalk outside of Mann's Chinese,
or delivering a sexual pleasuring to a studio head.
Of course, most of us will never realize
even the first flirtation of such a lofty climax.
And the frustration with that status quo
can foment quite a bitter, impatient, aggressive driver.
I can speak to the sensation as for my first years in LA,
I felt like I was in some sort of invisible queue,
bombarded daily by reports of all the goddamn guys in front
of me succeeding by inches, wedging me out
of TV pilots and film roles.
When I learned to ignore the business,
and instead focus on woodworking and my love life,
I merely calculated my drive time,
adding a 15-minute cushion for chilling out.
And Christ almighty, did my mood improve.
I usually don't read that section, but-- thank you.
That's generous, thank you.
I usually don't read that section,
but there's been some things in the news lately
of silly people shooting one another,
and different weird sort of end of days kind of violence
happening.
And there's a lot of talk from all the political pundits
and very smart people about what's to be done.
And I am not as smart as them, and I
don't have a solid opinion in terms of the statistics
or the science behind it, but I do feel like--
and something that my book goes to some lengths
to try and address is, I think the answer
to a lot of these questions comes
down to how we treat one another.
I feel like making us take our shoes off
at the airport-- I get the math of it.
I understand your logic.
But we're incredibly crafty monkeys,
and so if we want to do something stupid with a weapon
someplace, there's probably no regulation
that's going to keep us from doing it.
You know, so many men and women that
are incredibly handy with a piece of bamboo,
if they want to fuck you up, they will.
INTERVIEWER: Canoe paddle.
NICK OFFERMAN: And so my plan is to try and treat
everyone decently, so they don't feel
like they have to stick a sharp end shiv of bamboo
into any part of my person.
So besides trying to engender mirth,
I'm also trying to promote treating each other decently,
and just promoting good manners and remembering
that we're all in this together.
Thank you for having me.
And I guess now we'll ask some questions.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, we only have about 10 minutes.
So if you guys want to step up to the mic,
and anybody has any questions that they'd like to ask?
AUDIENCE: I was wondering if you had
any tips for cutting a concrete floor that
might be a little easier?
Because it wasn't really like three hours [INAUDIBLE].
NICK OFFERMAN: That's not my number one--
I try to avoid any masonry-based sheet goods,
which I think goes for most of us.
In general, I can say you get what you pay for.
So there's probably a diamond or carbide-tipped blade
that's more expensive, but will get you through your job
a lot faster than eight of the shitty blades that you thought
were a good bargain.
That's a gross generalization.
And I don't mean to make such sweeping statements.
But as a philosophy, I've found that if you
spend the money on the more expensive tool,
it ends up being cheaper in the long run.
AUDIENCE: OK.
Thank you so much.
INTERVIEWER: So maybe not a lot of people know this about you,
but you have your own woodworking shop.
NICK OFFERMAN: I do.
That's why I built a canoe.
It wasn't just, what should I do, should I go to the park?
Eh, build a fucking canoe.
I build furniture.
I have a shop in town.
Offermanwoodshop.com is our website.
We have some great Christmas items.
[LAUGHTER]
NICK OFFERMAN: Hello there.
Congratulations on those mutton chops.
AUDIENCE: Why, thank you very much.
Your mustache is an inspiration.
NICK OFFERMAN: I doffed my cap.
AUDIENCE: I am also a Midwesterner transported to LA.
NICK OFFERMAN: You're very handsome.
AUDIENCE: Now I'm getting all uncomfortable.
Yeah, so what I want is life advice from Nick Offerman,
like I think many Americans do.
I've come to a similar philosophy about assholes
as you have, in that it's important to relax
and chill and treat people decently.
But it's also true that sometimes when
I go back home to the Midwest, I come
across people who are proudly racist or proudly homophobic.
NICK OFFERMAN: Sure.
AUDIENCE: And it's difficult to continue
treating them with respect.
And I was wondering if you had thoughts on that aspect,
like when you give up on people?
NICK OFFERMAN: Well, that's a good question.
I generally give them seven strikes.
No, I mean I grew up in a very conservative, white, small town
where I met one black person once.
And I had heard of Jews, but like I got to college
and a kid was getting hazed and he had lox in his underwear.
And I said, what is lox?
And he looked at me funny.
And I said sorry, what is lox?
And he said, salmon.
Lox and bagels.
And I said, what's a bagel?
And I said, oh are you serious?
Like there's still Jews?
I had heard about them in Sunday school.
My town was that white and sort of Catholic and Methodist.
And so I mean, my solution was to move to an urban area, where
I could find people that were cool.
But I've had lots of conversations with people
in my family, or old friends from home
where you do what you can.
I mean, either you eschew their company
or in the case of family members, I try to gently say,
I know that, like, you feel that way because of this or that.
Or, you I know that racism was very prevalent in,
like, your generation or in your parents' generation.
But some stuff went down in, like, the '50s and '60s
that you might want to check out.
There was this dude, Martin Luther King, Jr. Like,
there's some exposition you might
want to avail yourself of.
But I remember having a talk with a member of my family.
I took them to see the movie "American Beauty."
And it was a very pointed trip to the movies.
I didn't tell them anything about it.
And we saw the movie.
And then we got out and I said, so what
do you think about that?
And he said, well, no, I'm OK with those guys,
as long as they don't try to hold my hand.
And I said, that's why I wanted to take you to this.
Like, that's like a fear-- that's
an old-school fear that you have been instilled with.
And can you understand that that's bad,
that if some people felt that way about you because you're
white or you're brunette, or because you're straight?
Can you understand that that's discriminatory?
And in my world of theater and artists,
it's an incredible melting pot.
It's a veritable Benetton ad of races and sexualities,
and they're all people that I love.
And we're all the same.
We're all working together to make something.
And many of my friends that you've met
are wonderful people that you like.
And can you understand how you need
to see them as human beings, rather than some sort of group?
So I try to have gentle conversations about it.
And sometimes I think it's a game that's
won by inches, certainly not by slam-dunks.
Remain patient.
That's the thing.
That's what that chapter is about is like, I can never
lose sight of the fact that we all have it in us to be like,
goddammit.
That Honda cut me off in traffic.
Fuck Hondas!
No, no.
No.
No.
No.
It's not Hondas.
And we have to remind ourselves to mind our manners,
and open the door for one another.
AUDIENCE: Thanks.
NICK OFFERMAN: You bet.
AUDIENCE: So I think you and Tom Selleck probably have, like,
the greatest moustaches in Hollywood.
NICK OFFERMAN: That's very generous.
AUDIENCE: So I mean, how old were you
when you first grew it out, and at what point were you
like, I got something here?
NICK OFFERMAN: Well, when I was at theater school at age
like 18 or 19, and it was interesting.
I was very much a greenhorn, like fresh kid
from the corn fields.
And I sort of saw the lay of the land.
And I saw, even in the microcosm of my theater conservatory
in Champaign-Urbana, I saw the sort
of different genres of actor.
There were cute people, there were funny people,
there were some that had both, that I was very envious of.
But I quickly determined that, of the options available to me,
I wanted to be a character actor.
I didn't want to go try and achieve the route of someone
looking the same all the time, and playing
the same version of some sort of heroic guy, or something.
And so I immediately began to capitalize
on my hair and my facial hair.
And sort of used every tool in the follicular toolbox.
And so I was so excited to get out of my little town,
and finally be able to do things that I saw in the movie
"Hair," like grow kick-ass mutton
chops like our last questioner.
And I'd say it was probably in my early 20s
when my man's mustache fully was achieved.
And it was clearly-- I was like, oh that's
going to be a great-- of my 12 different looks, that's
going to be a good one.
I hope I can play a sheriff someday.
But I come by it honest.
Like, people often ask me for tips on how to grow it.
And I say, don't shave.
If you don't do anything, it just-- it appears.
AUDIENCE: Usually how it happens.
Cool.
NICK OFFERMAN: Thank you.
INTERVIEWER: It's one o'clock.
Is it time for one quick last question?
NICK OFFERMAN: Yeah, I got 15 more minutes.
INTERVIEWER: I was going to say, so your current
mustache that you have right now, this
is the shooting mustache, right?
NICK OFFERMAN: It is.
This is the A game.
AUDIENCE: Hi.
NICK OFFERMAN: Hello.
AUDIENCE: I have a really big crush on Ron Swanson.
NICK OFFERMAN: I'm sorry.
Oh, so you have a really big crush on Ron Swanson?
AUDIENCE: Yes.
How much of you is in the Ron character?
NICK OFFERMAN: Not very much, apparently.
AUDIENCE: No, like the breakfast eating,
the scotch, the steak the libertarian--
NICK OFFERMAN: To be fair, many of us
eat breakfast and consume meat entrees and whiskey.
AUDIENCE: There are lots of vegans and vegetarians here.
NICK OFFERMAN: I'm actually down with that.
I applaud healthy eating choices.
So as you can see, I'm nothing like Ron Swanson, ma'am.
AUDIENCE: I have a little crush on you, too.
A two-parter.
What's the character you most want to play?
NICK OFFERMAN: The character I most want to play.
It's a good question.
I'm too old to play Hamlet.
Please, don't argue with me.
I passed it, like, three months ago.
I don't know.
I don't have a dream character as much
as I just love to perform great writing.
And so, if I was to sit here and say,
I wanted to play-- there's a great comic book called
"The Boys," and the head of this gang is a part I love.
There's lots of parts like that.
But until somebody turns in a script where
I'm like, oh, this is great-- I want to do it,
it's good writing that moves me much more than the notion of,
I would love to play James K. Polk someday.
Wait a second.
The Napoleon of the South.
That's not a bad idea.
I mean also, being handed this crazy dream role of a lifetime,
it's hard at the moment to care about-- nothing.
I don't want to play any parts, because this is such a feast
that I feel like I don't need to eat for a while.
But we'll see.
I'd love to play a fop, some sort of mincing fop.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
NICK OFFERMAN: My pleasure.
INTERVIEWER: So it's kind of interesting
that you've become so identified with this character.
But I learned from the book that you actually went into audition
for a different role on the show.
Why do you think this ended up being the one
that you were cast in?
NICK OFFERMAN: Well, in a nutshell,
you can get all the juicy details
Chapter [INTENTIONALLY MUMBLES] in the book.
Mike Schur and Greg Daniels were creating
the show very organically.
They knew some sort of archetypes they wanted.
They knew they had Amy and Aziz and Aubrey, I think.
And they thought, I think we want Rashida.
And so they were coming up with, they were filling in like, OK,
we need a guy who maybe gets involved with Rashida--
were filling out the cast.
And so they had me in to read for that guy, and also
Adam Scott, the day I went in.
And I've known Adam for a long time,
and he's such a funny, great guy.
He's also just such a great actor,
that there's no one I could think of that I would
rather not fucking see at an audition
where I'm like, oh great.
Which one of us-- I want to see you kiss Rashida,
or I see myself.
But so we both went in that day, and neither of us
ended up doing it.
I think it's experimental, where they say OK,
maybe that guy is too husky.
Maybe he's too goddamn charming.
Nobody would believe that he was single.
Or whatever, and they then further shaped the characters.
And NBC had a say, where they said--
and this is a funny quote that I heard from somebody, where they
came back and said, we asked you for Aaron Eckhart.
And you brought us Nick Offerman,
with indignant, righteous indignation.
I thought I was in the Eckhart file,
but I guess it's not the case.
So thankfully, they really wanted me on the show.
And they had conceived of this boss character.
I think they had initially pictured him as being older,
you know, being more of an administrator,
like a high school principal.
And so that's why it took a long time to convince NBC.
So they said OK, you don't want him
as somebody who kisses anybody.
We think he's funny.
Can we put him in this other part?
And they were like, no.
That needs to be a guy with white hair.
And so eventually, they came around.
And I'm so eternally grateful to those guys,
because it's really hard, as you all are well aware.
When you're dealing on a corporate level
with an artistic project, it's really hard for the corporation
to keep their fingers out of your pudding.
And if they've hired you to paint a picture,
there's somebody that wants to stand there and suggest a brush
to say, what if you do red there?
OK, sorry-- and try to tell you how to paint your picture.
And so I'm so grateful to Mike Scher and Greg Daniels
for sticking to their guns over a long process
to give me this part, because-- and of course,
you know, then once it works, then the corporation
is like, we found this guy.
He's terrific.
It took some doing, but we got him in the part.
INTERVIEWER: All right, I'll take another question
from the audience?
AUDIENCE: Coming from conservatory training,
it sounds like maybe you're more classical,
or were not always considering comedy.
Who were your comedy influences growing up?
Was it, like, Newhart, Don Rickles, or--
NICK OFFERMAN: No.
I'm a fan.
I'm a fan.
Newhart-- it would be more of an influence.
I'm not super familiar with Rickles,
although I think he's super funny, what I've seen.
But it's a weird thing in show business.
It took me a long time to learn that they
want you to be a specialist.
In theater, you do-- in any given season at a theater,
you might do a Sam Sheppard play, a Shakespeare, a Martin
McDonagh play, some weird experimental thing.
You might do the broadest "Phaedo" farce--
hilarious, like, door slamming comedy.
And then you may do the most serious Chekhovian drama.
And you're equipped, hopefully, with the tools
to do all of those things.
And they're all enjoyable in their own way.
I always loved comedy.
As a kid out in the country, the movies of Mel Brooks
were incredibly influential for me.
Steve Martin, early SNL.
I sat in school, I remember in grade school
sitting there doing pushups with my eyebrows,
because I wanted to be John Belushi when I grew up.
He was a very big hero to me.
And now I can do the wave with my eyebrows.
Thank you, thanks.
But I was literally in my mid 30s
when I realized-- I had been in town,
I had been working here and there,
and slowly getting better and better work.
But then something was weird.
There was a certain genre of like,
a Will Ferrell or a Jim Carrey movie,
or these big comedies where maybe there
would be 10 firemen.
And I'd see the movie and say, there
wasn't a-- I couldn't read for Fireman Number 7?
Like, what's the deal?
And I had learned that the people casting these movies
have these lists of, these are the people that do comedy.
These are the people that play tennis.
These are the people that speak French.
And I literally had to make a concerted effort to go--
and the people that do comedy come from the Upright Citizens
Brigade, Second City, Groundlings--
all of these venerated comedy schools, where people learn
improv and sketch, or stand-up.
Those are the people that are allowed--
that are licensed to perform comedy.
And when I started getting work in comedy,
some of the more substantial stuff
was I did a bunch of the George Lopez show.
And a couple casting directors after that would say to me,
oh, I didn't know you do comedy!
As though I was knitting, or something.
Oh, I didn't know that you crochet!
And so I made a concerted effort.
I called Amy, who I had known.
Amy Poehler.
I'd known her in Chicago just from palling around
in the early 90s.
We never saw each other's-- it's two separate worlds,
The world of comedy, and then the world of, like,
legit theater-- Steppenwolf Theater.
In town, it would be like the Taper and the Geffen, South
Coast Rep versus Groundlings and Second City and Improv Olympic.
So we were buddies, but we never went
to where each other worked.
It was like, how's your thing going?
You make up shit in front of people in bars?
Have fun.
I'm doing Ibsen.
I'm doing a little Brecht piece.
No big deal.
Good luck.
Good luck with your path.
So I was in my mid 30s and I called Amy and I said,
I need to be considered someone who does comedy.
Can I take a class?
Where do I start?
And she said, we've got some shows
that are designed for actors to play with our improvisers.
So I started doing those shows.
And it was like a switch had been flipped,
where they're like oh, you guys!
Nick Offerman does comedy.
And suddenly I was allowed to make people laugh.
I've still got five.
AUDIENCE: OK, I'll make this quick.
Hi.
So my husband is from Stillman Valley, Illinois.
Loves to build things, grows hair well.
[INTERPOSING VOICES] Sounds badass.
AUDIENCE: Really polite guy.
And we've been out here for seven years.
We moved here from Chicago, both theater people.
Columbia College.
And how do I keep him from turning into an LA asshole?
Like, how do you surround yourself with like-minded
people living in this town and--
NICK OFFERMAN: It's a very good question, America.
I'm a great salesman.
Did you say you went to theater school at Columbia?
When did you graduate?
AUDIENCE: I graduated in '96.
Sheldon Patinkin was my director there.
NICK OFFERMAN: OK.
'96.
I taught lighting there in the department in '95.
I was in "A Clockwork Orange" at Steppenwolf.
I had my whole head shaved, but just had the front inch of hair
with a huge red beard.
AUDIENCE: I would have remembered you
if I had your class.
NICK OFFERMAN: They called me Faceplate.
And at the end of one semester of teaching lighting--
I used to build scenery in their shop,
and they needed somebody to teach this lighting class.
I was 25, my students were like, 22.
Two of them were lovely young ladies,
who I maybe paid a little too much attention to
in the classroom.
And they were just, like, have you
done anything, like even a music video, or like