Nick Offerman may have landed in the public eye thanks to his portrayal of Parks And Recreation’s Ron Swanson, but there’s more to the mustache model than just a love of bacon and a keen sense of carpentry. He’s also a guy that loves his wife, Megan Mullally, and together, the two are touring their old Hollywood-style revue, Summer Of 69: No Apostrophe, which, as the name might suggest, is just as much about their sex life as it is about their love for entertaining. The tour hits Baltimore’s Hippodrome at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center tonight, before continuing on to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, and other East Coast hot spots.
The A.V. Club talked to Offerman about what attendees can expect at these shows, as well as what he thinks about his face being slapped on countless pieces of pro-bacon paraphernalia.
The A.V. Club: What’s your message for America with this tour?
Nick Offerman: Get naked and put your parts on or in each other.
AVC: It’s not a G-rated tour. You guys say that as much, and the name of the tour pretty much gives that away, but it doesn’t seem that everybody that attends gets that. I read online that, in Virginia, a couple brought their baby to the show.
NO: That’s right.
AVC: Is that something that you encourage? Are you surprised that people don’t know that it’s dirty?
NO: We have not made love with a baby in our marriage, but I don’t want to get all judge-y.
It’s funny, you know. We try to be very open about the fact that it’s a filthy show about our sex life and our marriage. It’s called “Summer Of 69: No Apostrophe,” which is not that subtle. If you are familiar with simple arithmetic, it doesn’t take long to discern it’s a show about performing oral sex on one another.
The world of online reviews—and you probably know this much more than me because you work at The A.V. Club—has been really interesting. I’ve been aware of them the most since I started publishing books and performing as a touring humorist. Generally, people who love you—at least in my experience—don’t go online and say, “Oh my God, that book was great! I’m going to make sure I’m properly represented in Amazon reviews.” But the people who, in my experience, are often churchy—those are the people who we upset. We make prurient jokes in our show about people like Jesus and we use foul language. It’s not a very pure or holy show, as it were. And man, those people have a club that just goes and gives us bad reviews. It’s one of those things. I’ve always been interested in comedy and comedy pushes the boundaries of taste.
It’s funny. We played Oklahoma City and Atlanta, the Carolinas… different Bible Belt spots and we played all over Texas and we were nervous that we would get in trouble somehow or that someone would take a shot at us. And really, even communities that were very churchy, a few people would sometimes get up and leave, but most of the churchy people that we know would say, “Come on, it’s hilarious. Your show’s super funny.” If somebody can’t understand that you’re just being funny and not particularly sacrilegious, they need to loosen up. It’s not your problem. These people paid to come to a show called “Summer Of 69: No Apostrophe.” It’s not a church function or a TED Talk about morality.
AVC: There are always going to be those kinds of people, though. The ones that take their kids to an R-rated movie called Sausage Party and then complain when there are swears.
NO: “I thought it was just nice hot dogs and donuts.”
There’s a great Bertolt Brecht quote, but I can’t remember it. I’ll paraphrase. He said, “If you’re not offending a third of your audience, then you’re not making art.”
AVC: You guys are also pretty open about the fact that you’re two adults who have sex—and not, like, hot to trot 21-year-olds that have sex, but middle-aged adults who happen to love going at it.
NO: To be sincere and boring for a minute, that’s exactly what the show is about.
Look, I’m 46, Megan’s 57, and we have a happy marriage. We get it on with each other and we feel very celebratory about that. We don’t feel ostentatious. We don’t go make out in front of people at the mall but we will happily sing songs about it and trumpet the fact that we simply are happy in middle age as a loving couple, because I do think there’s a real ageism in our business where if you’re over 35 you’re not supposed to ever kiss anybody with tongue.
AVC: And you’re not supposed to be openly excited about being in love or being married. You guys have been married for more than 10 years, and you’re saying, “You can have a happy marriage.”
NO: That’s the Parks And Rec labor coming through, where in a time of great cynicism, it’s much safer to protect your insecurities by saying everything is not cool. Dipshits like us and Leslie Knope show up and say, “I don’t care! I’m excited about this!” Because it’s great. It’s purely great. And it’ll never go out of style.
AVC: Since you brought it up, let’s talk about Ron Swanson. He’s become this icon for so many things, most of which don’t really represent who Ron was as a whole. Yes, he liked woodworking and breakfast, but he was also emotional and loving and a complete person.
NO: You’re right. People definitely—and this is true of a lot of popular culture—but people like to put it in their social crucible and boil it down to then be used to make their own points. And so Ron Swanson, because of his simple rules for living, became a lot of peoples’ icon for their own aspirations of simple living. And so anybody from meat eaters to scotch drinkers to gun wielders to libertarians all hold Ron up as their champion, but he was much more complex than that. He was a very outspoken feminist. He was a man of few words and people mistook that for a man of few colors.
The thing that I appreciated the most about Ron and the way he was written by our brilliant writers—it wasn’t my idea—was that they made him a great supporter and celebrator of women. Traditionally, that character is more like Al Bundy or Archie Bunker, where they’re much more apt to be misogynists or, at best, dismissive of women. Ron was completely fair. Whoever had the skills or the passion or the decency, whether it was a man or a woman, he drew no line. He didn’t care about sex or race. All he cared about was sincerity and hard work and character.
AVC: What do you and Megan do on the road? Are you driving from venue to venue? And what would a dream tour be like for you?
NO: We hate taking airplanes because we’ve taken too many. We’ve taken enough airplanes for five lifetimes already. So we set up the tour so—for example, we flew to Charlotte. That was our first show, and now we’ll drive to 16 other cities along the East Coast. And that way, it becomes like we’re on a road trip vacation together and then we stop every night and make some people laugh. We’re super boring and small scale, so there’s no posse. It’s me and Megan and a poodle named Clover, who I’m walking right now, with a guitar and a ukulele and a couple of backpacks. That’s kind of our dream tour.
The only thing I think we would engineer into it would be the same amount of shows over twice the amount of days. Physically, as I’ve learned, it’s really fun touring, but you never get to actually really enjoy the places you go. You roll into town in time for sound check, hopefully. You do the show. And then we usually get on the road and put in a couple of hours toward tomorrow night’s city. Our dream tour, I think, would be, like, three shows a week, then we could enjoy a couple restaurants and get a back rub here and there.
AVC: Instead you just eat hummus and whatever’s backstage.
NO: We’re not kids, and when I started touring, Parks And Rec was still on. By and large, wherever I would go, they’d show up with 12 pounds of barbecue or some restaurant would show up and be like, “The chef has prepared you an omelet using 72 eggs and two whole pigs.” I understood the complimentary nature of that gesture, so I would do my best to return the compliment by consuming as much of it as I could. And then my cardiologist said, “Hey, you might want to check out a head of cabbage.” Now we only eat cabbage while touring.
AVC: You guys are well known for your love of puzzles. What do you like about doing puzzles?
NO: Well, if you’re asking that question, you’ve obviously never done a puzzle.
Our ideal getaway is sitting at our Offerman Woodshop slab dining table and putting together a 25,000-piece puzzle while listening to an audio book. I think, especially in this day and age when there are so many channels vying for your attention wherever you go, when you check into a puzzle—they’re like yesterday’s videogames. It’s a place to which you can escape and say, “Okay, nobody can reach me. I’m putting together this puzzle of naked Burt Reynolds and we’re listening to the latest George Saunders book.” It’s like heroin. We’ve been known to break the speeding limit getting home to work on our puzzles.
AVC: Do you save them? Or do you break them up after you’re done and put them back in the box?
NO: With great pleasure, we break them up as soon as we’re done, although we’ve gotten into the habit of doing a little photo shoot. That’s what ends up on Megan’s social media channels. But then we crumple it up and put it back in the box. It’s like theater. If you weren’t there, you didn’t see it.
My best friend had a great idea, which was to spray mount the puzzles to a hard board and get them framed—I love this idea, actually—it’s that Megan and I both sign the back of them and then get them framed and drop them off at a thrift store so that, perhaps, somewhere down the road, maybe some fan would discover that they had one of our puzzles. I said, “That’s a fun idea, but what you’ve just suggested is that we turn this into yet another project.” And the reason we do puzzles is to escape our projects.
AVC: Or that someone would find one, and then it would become the internet’s new obsession. They’d be on an Offerman/Mullally puzzle quest.
NO: Or nobody would give a shit and then we would be depressed. Lose-lose. “You guys, but—we signed them!”