Nick Offerman knows how to make an entrance.
The “Parks & Recreation” star had to start his show at the Wisconsin Union Theater late Wednesday night because so much of the audience was stuck in a seemingly endless will-call line.
So when he emerged on stage about a half-hour after the scheduled start time, Offerman was wearing jeans, work shoes – and no shirt, his beefy, marbled physique glistening in the Union Theater floodlights. “Minor nudity was advertised,” Offerman said, as the pale blue squares of cell phones popped up throughout the darkness. “Minor nudity achieved.”
To quote Offerman’s libertarian character Ron Swanson – delicious.
Offerman put on a shirt (American flag motif) and, with his shaved head (for a movie role) and beard, looked like a fireworks stand tycoon. He rhapsodized about the cheeseburger at the Old Fashioned, and led the crowd in the R-rated call-and-response cheer often heard at Badger football games. “That’s a sporting good time.”
He was in town as part of a college tour for “American Ham,” a one-man show he described as being built around 10 tips for a more prosperous life. Offerman described himself as a humorist, not a stand-up comic, and here was the kicker – although the show was hilarious, and many of the tips seemed culled from Swanson’s own code of conduct, it was pretty solid advice.
He was really funny. But he wasn’t kidding.
“It’s really exciting to speak to the young, exciting minds who are going to be saving us from the incredible mess that we’re handing them,” he said. “So sorry about that.”
Offerman’s tips included “Eat red meat,” “Say ‘please and thank you,’” and “Go outside. Remain.” In person, Offerman is clever, philosophical and disarmingly earnest, his Swanson-esque baritone of authority occasionally punctuated by an endearing, almost girlish giggle.
His most impassioned discourse came for “Get a hobby,” which he defined as learning to do something with your hands besides playing “Angry Birds.” A skilled woodworker like his TV persona, Offerman worried that Americans were becoming too much like the helpless people in “Wall-E,” distracting themselves endlessly on their smartphones instead of learning how to perform an actual, practical skill.
“Instead of playing Draw Something, f------ draw something!” he said.
Much of Offerman’s talk centered around that theme, that people need to turn off their phones, log out of Facebook and interact directly with the world and each other. One of several witty songs he sang on guitar during the night was a version of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” called “I Stay Offline.”
“If you have one of these human bodies, you have an obligation to do all sorts of cool s--- with it,” he said. “You can build the Brooklyn Bridge with one of these. Or you can get a kickass score on Jenga.”
One could easily see Ron Swanson agreeing with most of what Nick Offerman said on Wednesday night. Offerman explained that the “Parks & Rec” writers created Swanson as a highly exaggerated version of himself.
“It takes me two to three weeks to build a slab table,” he said. “Ron can have six Irish whiskeys and build an Irish harp in one night.”
Offerman is appearing again in Madison, sort of. The indie comedy “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” which Offerman produced and stars in, plays at 10 p.m. Friday in the Orpheum Theater as part of the Wisconsin Film Festival. “It’s a strange, whimsical little fable,” he said.”If you like cool things, you’ll like it.”