For reality junkies missing the good-natured conviviality that shows like The Great British-Baking Show can offer, might we suggest Making It? The Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler produced and hosted crafting series is in its third season on NBC and routinely provides some of the summer’s most inspiring and heart-warming moments of human connection. Though it’s ostensibly a show for makers and creators, it’s also a show about friendship, potential, and—thanks to Offerman and Poehler—the truly transformative power of a good pun.
The third season of Making It kicked off last week with a surprise twist ending that (spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen it) found the show not only not eliminating a contestant but adding two more makers to the mix. We talked to Offerman about his dislike of “mean television,” which he calls “gross,” as well as why he thinks of himself as sort of a Hollywood shovel.
The A.V. Club: Making It has such a supportive, encouraging vibe. Why is that important to you? You even found a way to double down on that vibe this season, choosing not to eliminate anyone in episode one and instead adding two new contestants. How did that come about?
Nick Offerman: I don’t like mean television. I especially don’t like it when it involves real people, like reality shows that are designed to make people cry or cause them pain and we’re supposed to revel in that [as viewers]. It feels gross. I’d like to see that person get a hug right now. And so when Amy pitched [Making It] to me, it literally sounded like it was a show that would do just that. It would encourage people to make things with their own hands and sink or swim. The show would kind of throw their arms around the people and the audience and say, “Look at this amazing thing we humans can do. We can make it! There’s no there’s no limit to the things we can make with our imaginations and our creativity.”
Life is hard and it’s full of pitfalls, especially in the last couple of years. It’s gotten pretty bleak. To be able to say, “If you have a bunch of popsicle sticks and a hot glue gun and a ball of string, look at how much fun you can have. Look at how much mirth and affection you can you can shower upon yourself, but also those around you” and so forth and so on—I prefer to be on the side of life that is creating and blossoming rather than the side of life that is destroying or consuming.
As to the second part of your question, Amy [Poehler] and I, that’s been our strategy from the get-go. “How can we trick the network into letting us not eliminate anyone from this competition show?” That’s the ultimate goal. I hope we don’t rest until we succeed and are only adding a person every episode until the finale has like 20 contestants. Until we arrive at that, I think that we have failed.
We’ve definitely scored our first victory. So it’s NBC: two, Nick and Amy: one.
AVC: This is the third season of the show. How much pressure is there to innovate every season?
NO: There is a lot of discussion. Everything is so, so malleable these days. From month to month, streaming platforms and entertainment delivery systems continue to change and evolve and mutate. So every every time we get to do another season, there are questions of like “should we should we do seven minute episodes or should we do three hour episodes? Should we do a five episode season? Should we do a 50-episode season?” And then the structure within the episodes as well is sort of tossed up in the air and reassembled.
But so far we really like the way it’s working. Personally, I’m very much a “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” guy. So whenever I come back for the new season and the smart people—meaning my fellow executive producers—they say, “Well, we’re talking to the network and this season is going to be about what you can do for others with your crafting or how you can honor the planet and how you can honor the resources that we draw from in nature.” And I say, “Great. I’m here to do the show where we celebrate people who make cool things, and I’m glad you guys have the incredible brains you do, because that sounds like a great idea.”
AVC: You yourself are a maker; you’re a woodworker, among other things. Has the show inspired you to take up other types of crafts?
NO: Well, it does. I find it incredibly inspiring, almost to the point of being painful, because one of the one of the weird conundrums of my personal life is I have this wonderful wood shop in Los Angeles where I can make whatever I want to out of wood, and I’ve made a lot of things off my list of dream projects, like different furniture pieces and hand-built wooden cedar canoes. Ukuleles are my current obsession, on my way to guitars. The conundrum is that I also have been very lucky getting work as an actor and a writer, and that’s what I set out to do. I went to theater school. What I really want to do the most is give people the medicine of storytelling with the delivery system that is me, whatever that entails. So my wood shop takes a back seat to that. Then I’ll watch somebody on the show who weaves a basket out of rope and clever knot-tying, and I’ll say, “Oh my god, I want to go sit under a shady tree and do that for a week.” But the problem is that week will never exist.
So the answer is yes. I’m so magically enthralled by so much of the talent on the show, but if I were to stop up and say, “Hey, I want to try that rope basket,” I would say, “Hey, buddy, you’ve got those ukuleles waiting for you at the shop,” and I’d go, “You’re right. I better go finish those before I start tying my knots.”
AVC: On the episode of the Conan O’Brien podcast where he was talking to Barack Obama, the two were discussing how they love and understand the craft of writing—as in fiction and non-fiction—but that they can’t wrap their heads around what songwriters do. Is there a kind of maker or creator that you admire but also really can’t figure out?
NO: I’ll kind of loosen it up a little bit or be a little bit general with you. This is something that I’ve learned over my decades working as an actor, and that it’s the people—whether they’re crafting on our show or whether they’re creating a TV show or writing a novel—it’s the people with that expansive kind of vision. I learned that I’m a very good soldier. I’m very good with a shovel. What I really need is a great general, a woman or a man who can see the battlefield and say, “Okay, this is we’re going to do in about 125 episodes of this comedy show. You with the shovel, I need you to go over by the hill and dig the most amazing trench,” and I’m incredible at that. I’m so grateful for someone who can plan the whole thing and who can utilize my shovel skills. Because when things have gone well for me, the business will say, “Would you like to create a show? You should write a movie.” And I say, “you know what? I don’t think I’m good at that. I think we should find somebody who’s good at writing those things and see if they could use a shovel in their project.”
The same goes for Making It. When somebody can envision—if we do a makeover where they turn a closet into a secret hideaway, or they turn a shed into their dream space—if somebody gave me that challenge, I’d be like, “I can think of a really cool desk that I would make for that.” But then beyond that, I would immediately call my wife and say, “Hey, honey, what color? Can you send over some wallpaper ideas>” because she’s one of those people who does our houses and so forth. The house is her masterpiece. I’m sitting here in our guest room right now looking at all of this stuff, and there’s a three-legged stool that I made and there’s a four poster bed that one of my woodworkers made at my shop. That’s my jam but I need the Megan Mullallys and the Mike Schurs of the world to say, “We’re going to create a larger construct.” Amy and her producer partners thought of our show. People ask me to pitch shows, and I say, “I don’t know. A show about a shovel? A shovel thing? I mean, there are all kinds. You can dig downwards. You can spread things with a shovel?” And they’re like, “We really are going to need more.”
AVC: There are a lot of streaming services now. Maybe someone will bite on that shovel idea. You never know.
NO: You never know. I always thought I would end up a superhero called The Shovel.