Bare-chested and stone-faced, Nick Offerman strode onto the Union Theater stage Wednesday night declaring, “Minor nudity was advertised; minor nudity … achieved.”
Offerman is most famous for his role on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” as the mustached, government-hating parks department director Ron Swanson. Offerman’s stop in Madison was part of his “American Ham” tour, one centered around his “Ten Tips for a Prosperous Life.” As he moved down the list of tips, it quickly became clear that Ron Swanson was the role Nick Offerman was born to play.
Offerman’s show was more than just your routine stand-up – in fact, he prefers to be described as a “humorist.” The show was part anecdotal comedy, part enlightening rant and part vulgar musical.
Although the 10 tips provided the structure for the night, most of the show came from digressions involving sex, religion, drugs, red meat and even the “magic” of his package. But the real treat of the night was learning that Ron Swanson’s absurdly feminine giggle was not a construction of the character but the actor’s actual laugh.
Putting on his American flag button-down shirt, he began by embracing the Madison crowd. He split the audience into two groups and asked to hear the “Eat Shit! Fuck You!” chant. He described it as a “sporting good time.”
He then began his 10 tips with: “Engage in romantic love.” This led to plenty of sexually explicit humor and a song dedicated to his wife, Megan Mullally (also his fictional second ex-wife in “Parks and Rec.”). The song was titled “The Rainbow Song,” and it skillfully balanced between being sentimentally heartwarming and startlingly filthy.
His second tip, “Say please and thank you,” expanded into a speech about decency towards others and tangentially became a diatribe against parts of the Bible, namely the Book of Leviticus. Offerman bluntly argued how “fucked up” lots of the punishments for “sinful nature” in the book were. Imitating the Biblical scripts, he mocked some of the more bizarre passages, such as the penance for a woman who has menstruated, which is to bring two turtles to a church. Offerman quipped as one scrip to another, “Dammit Steve, what’s with you and the turtles! I said money or wine!”
Continuing with controversial topics, Offerman described his annoyance with homophobes and those who opposed gay marriage. He asked, “How can people hate love”?? and argued that the issue of gay-marriage was a distraction to the real problem: “There are fucking vegetarians everywhere.” “A meal is a covenant between one man and a piece of charred animal flesh,” he said. This segued into his tip: “Eat red meat,” which came after “Always carry a handkerchief.”
His next tirade came out of his advice to “Have a hobby.” In this segment he scorned the downfall of mankind as a result of technology. He lamented that nobody can fix a flat tire anymore, and that they just call a service. He then griped about how rather than learning a skill during their free time, people just play with their devices. “Instead of playing, draw something; fucking draw something!” he shouted. Offerman then admitted what he considers, and I think many men would agree, to be one of the most phenomenal skills a woman could be learning: knitting yarn dresses. “How fucking hot is that”? he asked.
He continued to mourn the current state of man with his tips, “Go outside, remain” and “Avoid the mirror,” during which he bemoaned the cubicle life and our obsession with physical beauty.
Offerman returned to religion with the tip: “Keep Jesus in your heart … for sex.”
He described his first experience with sex and how it resulted from “being saved.” Offerman declared that if you haven’t been saved yet, “Get out of here, right now; go!” because it will lead to the best sex of your life, a combination of “sinful anticipation and Christian guilt.”
“Use intoxicants” was his next tip, and he claimed that merging religion and intoxicants was “a real trip.” Riffing off Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Offerman then sang, “Jesus Take the Weed.” By far his best song of the night, it described Offerman picking up Jesus as a hitchhiker and Jesus pulling out a bag of weed aptly named “Burning Bush.”
His final tip encapsulated his life philosophy: “Paddle your own canoe.”
Offerman stands by simple and unmoving principles: He strongly believes the individual is responsible to take care of himself and should respect the life choices of others. Unless they are a vegetarian. (Then “face punch ‘em.”)
If you were unable to see Nick Offerman this time around, don’t fret: He vowed to return to Madison on June 2 for Vegan Cooking Day “to burn this motherfucking city down.”
Due to an editing mistake, there was a typo in the initial version of this article online. The Badger Herald regrets the error.