Nick Offerman didn’t come back to Madison solely to sample Wisconsin’s fine beer, meats and cheeses. But as he rubbed his bare, sated man-belly appreciatively on stage at the Barrymore Theatre on Saturday, it was clear that had become part of the agenda.
“This is the Old Fashioned,” he told the first of two sold-out audiences, pointed to one side of his substantial stomach. Then the actor and comedian pointed to another side. “Great Dane. That was delicious.”
Offerman obviously has quite a bit in common with his most famous character, the burly meat-loving libertarian Ron Swanson on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Both men share a frontier spirit, a passion for woodworking and a love for red meat. (On last week’s episode, Swanson ordered breakfast thusly: “Twelve eggs and part of a dead animal. Dealer's choice.”)
Offerman grew up in Minooka, Illinois, and went to “Jesus camp” in Wisconsin as a lad. The audience included his brother, who Offerman said had texted him before the show from Mr Roberts bar to tell him that an Irish punk band was playing later that night, and that he was currently watching the bartender arm-wrestle an old man for a free shot.
Offerman texted back a single word: “Madison.”
But while Swanson seems like he’d be happiest in an isolated cabin in the woods, Offerman comes across as a much more embracing and deeply humanist figure, using his comedy to evangelize the virtues of hard work, tolerance, and fellowship.
As he did for a sold-out crowd at the Wisconsin Union Theater, Offerman’s “American Ham” one-man show offered ten tips for a prosperous life. And if the tips were very funny, that didn’t mean Offerman wasn’t completely serious. He’s expanding the show into a book, “Fundamentals for Delicious Living,” that will be out in October.
So, while it may not capture the profane yet sincere flavors of Offerman’s performance, here are his 10 tips for a prosperous life.
1. Engage in romantic love.
“Being a romantic takes some guts, and takes some stupidity. But it makes life so much more delicious.”
2. Say ‘Please” and “Thank You.”
“Life is hard enough. So instead of isolating yourself from the pack, look around, and make sure that everyone around you is having a good time."
3. Use a handkerchief.
“It’s an incredible accessory. If someone’s tears needs drying, or if a severed artery needs a tourniquet. You can poke it through your hand and make a pouch, for collecting acorns or pussywillows, or bear’s teeth down by the fighting ring."
4. Eat red meat.
(No explanation given. None required.)
5. Get a hobby.
“When you can make something with your hands, it’s not nerdy. It’s actually super-sexy. Who would you rather be attracted to? Someone who can text fast, or someone who knit the dress that she’s wearing?”
6. Go outside. Remain.
(Again, no further explanation given or required.)
7. Avoid the mirror.
“It’s evil. When you look in the mirror, you see yourself, and you see Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt and the vampire dude. You’re basically comparing yourself to an erotic cartoon. Are you a human being? Then you are beautiful.”
8. Maintain a relationship with Jesus Christ – if it is getting you sex.
(Offerman then told a story about becoming a born-again Christian in high school so he could sleep with the girl he had a crush on.) “The two key ingredients are Christian guilt and sinful anticipation.”
9. Use intoxicants (responsibly).
“We have this social agreement that if you work hard, you get to get a buzz on afterwards. You earn a delicious treat of pleasure.”
10. Paddle your own canoe.
(From Offerman’s closing song) “Siddhartha said life is like a river/the thought of letting it pass by makes me shiver. Paddle your own canoe.”