Nick Offerman: “Paddle Your Own Canoe” | Talks at Google

Nick Offerman: “Paddle Your Own Canoe” | Talks at Google


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 do you have nothing
but these plays? And I was like, no. But they’re really good plays. Are you familiar
with “The Crucible”? It was really weird. I was super uncomfortable. And people– my peers
would say, dude. I can’t believe you,
like, blew that meeting. You have to go in
there and be a shark, and like, blow your x factor
all over the people interviewing you. And I was like, I don’t
do that to people. I don’t sell myself. I don’t want people to hire
me because they thought it was cool sitting in their
office to do a job on stage. That doesn’t make sense to me. And all the people that I
saw chasing that, chasing the sort of fashion
of the business, reading magazines to see, like,
how to get their hair cut, and like, try to go
to the right parties, trying to find all the ways
by which you might get ahead in the business without actually
doing so for the right reasons. And I said, I don’t
like any of this. It’s gross. So I’m going to step out of it. And that’s why I gave up
the commercial auditions. I gave up trying to act like
people trying to get work here, and instead do what
made my life happy up until that point, which was
build things with my tools, work in theater, even
though nobody comes in LA. I found a great theater company
called the Evidence Room, and started working with them. And that didn’t make
me rich or famous, but it made me super happy. It found me the love of my life. And so that’s my answer
to your question, is to try to avoid
all– don’t look for the answer in
any popular culture magazines or channels,
because they’re usually trying to make money–
trying to either sell magazines or shoes or
Rogaine or something. But instead, it’s that
great John Lennon quote of, “Your life is what
happens while you’re busy making other plans.” I really try to focus on that. I come from this wonderful
salt of the earth family in Illinois, and
it’s a really happy family. And so I try to just
maintain my life like my family does
in Illinois, which is get together with people,
enjoy food and drink, make things. And the things that
I avoid are like, isolationist, like basically
multimedia masturbation, where it’s so easy
to spend a whole day, like, doing all kinds of
things online, or like, chasing down somebody from
junior high on Facebook. I don’t know. I found I’m much happier
trying to continue to interact with people. And I’ve often said that
it’s so much more fun to have eight people
with one beer each, than to have one person
with eight beers. That sounds
wrongheaded, but I’ve crunched the numbers many times. And I stand by it. I hope that’s of
some sort of service. INTERVIEWER: All right,
that’s all the time we have. Thank you again, Nick Offerman
for coming to talk to us. NICK OFFERMAN: Thank
you for having me.

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