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There's no denying it: Ron Swanson loves his food
Mealtime with Ron Swanson.
Any lover of Parks and Recreation knows that legendary Ron Swanson is a force to be reckoned with — especially at mealtime. Among Ron Swanson's favorite foods to devour? Bacon-wrapped shrimp, steak (not from a diner), bacon-wrapped turkey legs, burgers, and eggs. We see meat as a recurring theme here.
Check out the supercut of Ron Swanson's best food moments (and Aziz Ansari's "grapefruit" bit") as we gear up for the season premiere of Parks and Recreation on Sept. 20.
Parks & Rec Theory: Tammy 2 Tricked Ron Swanson Into The Documentary
Participating in Parks & Recreation's "documentary" was out of character for Ron Swanson, and a theory suggests he was tricked into it by Tammy 2.
Parks & Recreation introduced some of the biggest enemies of the main characters, and one of the most dangerous ones was Tammy 2, Ron Swanson’s ex-wife, who might be the reason why he was part of the series in the first place. Created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, Parks & Recreation debuted on NBC in 2009 and came to an end in 2015 after seven seasons. The series had a rough start, with its first season not being well-received, but it found its voice in the final episodes and the subsequent seasons were much better.
Parks & Recreation followed the daily lives of eternal optimist and perky bureaucrat Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) and her friends and co-workers from the Parks Department in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. One of the most popular and beloved characters was Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Leslie’s extremely deadpan boss who was known for his love of meat, whisky, woodworking, his hatred for the government, and his two very problematic ex-wives, Tammy 1 and Tammy 2. Parks & Recreation featured both, but the one that made the biggest impression was Tammy 2.
Played by Offerman’s real-life wife, Megan Mullally, Tammy 2 was the Deputy Director of Library Services in Pawnee, which immediately made her an enemy of the Parks Department. She was manipulating and ruthless, and could transform Ron completely in no time, which has made some fans believe that she tricked him into agreeing to take part in the documentary filmed throughout the series.
‘Parks and Rec’ ends, but we’ll always have the real Ron Swanson
After seven seasons, NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” comes to an end Tuesday night, giving the world a reason to ugly-cry as hard as if Li’l Sebastian had died all over again.
(Don’t know who Lil Sebastian is? AKA you don’t watch “Parks and Rec?” What are you doing here!? Go binge!)
No more will we have Leslie Knope to inspire us. Gone will be the excuses to “treat yo self” from Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle. Never again will we guiltily laugh at Garry/Jerry/Larry Gergich.
But true fans know the loss that will hurt the most: Ron Swanson.
Ron Swanson, our freedom-loving, meat-eating, mustache-rocking man’s man. He’s our instructor of how to live on your own terms while remaining fiercely loyal to your people — characteristics we’d want in any man, especially our fathers and bosses. We’ll be lost without his rants, his wisdom, his giggle. Is there anyone who can replace him?
Well, there is a real Ron Swanson who lives in Indiana.
Real as in, his legal name is Ronald Maurice Swanson. He is 65 years old. That’s all we knew about him when we cold-called his house in Noblesville, Ind., to ask if he could be our stand-in Ron from now on. We lined up all the iconic Swansonisms and set out to discover if this Ron abides by them.
This Ron Swanson picks up the phone, and his voice is deep and booming. After a short explanation, he agrees to tolerate our quest. When asked if he enjoys a good chunk of steak, he says:
“Oh yes. Oh yes. Meat and potatoes. I like to grill, I got a Weber Grill here in the garage. I cook them in the oven, I cook them in the frying pan. Sometimes marinated, sometimes plain. I love steak. I like hamburgers. Rib eye is my favorite piece of beef.”
2. Most especially, breakfast meat.
Leslie: “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Ron: “People are idiots, Leslie.”
This Ron: “Yes. Bacon and eggs. Biscuits and gravy. Biscuits aaaand gravy.” We’ll take it.
3. A side of whiskey with that meat?
Ron Swanson of Pawnee, Indiana, keeps Lagavulin in his desk. Ron Swanson of Noblesville, Indiana (about 30 minutes outside of Indianapolis) doesn’t drink much, except for a beer every once in a while.
4. Ron Swanson is a masterful woodworker
And so too, is Nick Offerman who plays him. He runs a woodworkers collective that sells hand-crafted furniture and canoes carved from fallen trees.
Happily, the real Ron Swanson is also a man of the table saw. Retired from a job as a construction project manager, he spends much of his time on doing household fixes for his friends. He built this, which would make both Offerman and the fictional Swanson proud:
“Matter of fact I got a book case I built, oh lordy, probably 18 years old, 6 foot wide, and 6 and a half feet tall,” he said. “The thing about it is, doing something with your hands, building a product you know is going to last, there’s a certain amount of pride in that.”
5. He’s an avid outdoorsman.
“That’s me. I’d just rather be outside than inside at any time,” the real Ron said.
Ron joined the Army when he was 21 years old, close to the end of the Vietnam War. Until then, he said, his No. 1 hobby was fishing. He grew up in Panama City, Florida, so he was always close to the water. He still loves it now.
6. He spreads that appreciation for the outdoors to the youths.
In one of the most memorable “Parks and Recreation” episodes, we witness Ron Swanson as leader of the Pawnee Rangers, duking it out with Leslie Knope’s Pawnee Goddesses. (Leslie wins, with puppies.)
The real Ron was a Cub Scout pack leader.
“I’d teach them skills, how to pitch a tent, how to dig a trench around that tent so water drains away, how to build a camp fire, how to tie a knot, all those types of things,” he said. “I tried to teach them respect.”
7. He has a few divorces under his belt.
Well, for the real Ron, there is no Tammy I or Tammy II — there is only Sherry. They met when Ron was stationed at Indiana’s Fort Harrison. He was scheduled to go to flight school in Alabama, but because the Vietnam War was winding down, the Army canceled that next round of classes. He stayed in Indiana and fell in love with Sherry, a civilian worker at the base. They have been married for 43 years and have two children.
“She’s just a real good person,” he said. “Thoughtful and caring and she would help anyone. I’m just fortunate to have her.”
8. To be Ron Swanson to disdain the government
Real politicians love “Parks and Recreation” because it shows government as a force for good. (They told us so.) Ron Swanson is the antithesis to that admiration. If Ron Ulysses Swanson had his way, government would be “one guy who sits in a small room at a desk, and the only thing he’s allowed to decide is who to nuke.” Which sounds a little like Ron Maurice Swanson, who told us:
“Washington is too big and too complicated and no one can figure it out. I don’t think it’s a government of the people for the people, it’s a government of the government for the government.”
But don’t be fooled, he said, America is still the greatest country in the world.
9. Ron Swanson probably would have hung up on us.
Along with his disdain of the government comes Swanson’s repulsion to sharing personal information. But the real Ron Swanson was incredibly generous with his time and sharing.
10. Ron Swanson doesn’t care what you think.
Ron Swanson of Noblesville, Indiana, has never seen “Parks and Recreation.” Yes, many people have told him about a man with his name in the show, but he hasn’t felt the need to disrupt his routine. “I usually watch Westerns and ‘How It’s Made’ and the History Channel,” he said. “Those are the kinds of shows I like.”
Once he knew Tuesday would be the final episode of “Parks,” Ron Swanson said he might, like the rest of us, be tuning in.
Parks and Recreation – “Camping”
March 24th, 2011
Let’s get this out of the way, folks – this was an average episode of Parks and Recreation.
This does not mean it was terrible, nor does it mean it did not have its moments. And heck, I would even argue that it was purposefully average, allowing the in-story awkward post-Harvest Festival lull to be reflected by the episode itself in order to transition into the back end of the season.
I like parts of what that transition says, and I very much enjoyed parts of this episode, but I feel we need to be willing to say that this was below the standard that was set this season (even if that doesn’t mean that it was close to being anything beyond a slight disappointment).
Parks and Recreation: 100 Reasons Why We Will Always and Forever Love This ShowNBC
You should all be aware that it was entirely too hard to stop at 100 reasons why we love Parks and Recreation. We could go on all day and night about the wonders that is this show. Basically, we could take at least 10 things from every single episode of the NBC comedy as legitimate reasons why this series should never, ever go off the air. One-hundred episodes times ten? That's like, a million reasons why we love Parks and Rec. School.
As most of you know (and you better know), Parks and Recreation airs its 100th episodes tonight. And what better way to celebrate the citizens of Pawnee then by listing all the ways we love them and the town they live in? Here is our ode to Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari) and the rest of our favorite Parks and Rec crew:
Pawnee's woodworking finest
Most fans know that woodworking expert Ron Swanson spends more time in his woodshop than he does his office, but they might be surprised to learn that Ron's woodshop is actually Offerman's real-life woodshop. The actor even filmed his portion of the 2020 Parks and Rec reunion in the LA-based shop. Offerman revealed in a Paley Center interview that writers knew he was a woodworker because, during early talks for the role, he would tell them, "Hold on, I have to turn off my table saw." They eventually came to visit the shop and said, "You sir, are a nerd," and that maybe they could "milk some comedy out of it."
Offerman also salvaged wood from the set to make paddleboards for his Parks family, similar to Ron saving the wood from Ann's door to make Leslie a picture frame. The actor even made the wooden keepsake box that Ron gives to Chris in the show. Additionally, Offerman started the crafting show, Making It, with Amy Poehler, and he appeared in an episode of The Good Place where he taught the character of Tahani how to build the perfect chair. While the credits confirm that Offerman was playing himself since the actor and Ron are fairly similar, fans can make their own choice as to whether that's Nick Offerman or Ron Swanson hanging out in Heaven.
Every Single Breakfast Item Consumed on Parks and Recreation
If Gilmore Girls makes you crave Chinese take-out and Mad Men makes you want a stiff drink, Parks and Recreation will make you desperate for a waffle with whipped cream, served with bacon, coffee, and a heaping plateful of scrambled eggs. Parks and Rec is the ultimate breakfast show, and the evidence is overwhelming. From Leslie and gang fighting to save their beloved J.J’s Diner, to April and Andy eating turkey chili out of a Frisbee for breakfast because they can’t be bothered to buy plates, to Leslie’s sweet moment with Ben when she says, “It’s so nice to be able to sit here in public and have breakfast with you,” the first meal of the day is a cornerstone of the Parks and Rec world.
I’ve listed every breakfast food enjoyed on the show, as well as analyzed its relative importance—on character development, plot, and relationships.
Bacon makes an appearance on this show every time Ron Swanson orders food from J.J.’s Diner (or, rarely, another establishment in Pawnee.) Bacon defines Ron every bit as much as woodworking and his distaste for the government. When a grocery store offers him a vegan bacon sample, in an effort to save the world from fake meat, he accepts it and immediately discards it into the garbage, then proclaims: 𠇊nother.”
Ron also enjoys his bacon when Leslie gives him a plateful to enjoy on his birthday… in a room. All alone. The American Dream, Ron Swanson-style.
This breakfast staple makes a prominent appearance four times in the show. Andy eats it (and likes to read the boxes) when he lives with Ann. April likes to eat it at work. Then, when Andy and April are married, they both eat it together. Full circle!
I stopped counting how many times coffee appeared in this show once I hit 75 (although, in retrospect, I probably should have stopped sooner.) Because it uses a workplace setting, coffee is in 𠇌hris Traeger voice” lit-rally every other scene. It makes a spot on this list both for its prevalence and for its significance on the show. It illuminates each character’s personality: for example, Leslie drinks hers with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, Tom prefers espresso, and Donna likes hers like she likes her men… rk, rich, and full-bodied.”
Bonus points for its role in bringing April and Andy together. When Andy tackles a possum like the heroic shoe-shiner he is, he tells the newspaper: “I wouldn’t be able to do it without an early-morning caffeine boost from the amazing April Ludgate. She gave me the liquid courage I needed to tackle that beast to the ground.”
Doughnuts appear on this show twice. The first time, Ron brings them into the office and brings an extra box (one box was for him.) The second time, Ben gives Leslie an L-shaped ຜlair, convincing her that she couldn’t break up with him.
Eggs, or as Tom would say, “pre-birds or future-birds,” are secondary only to waffles and coffee on this show.
Ron tends to pair them with bacon. His diner orders range from: “I’m gonna get 12 eggs and part of a dead animal,” to possibly the best Parks and Rec line of all time: “Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. Wait, wait. I’m worried what you just heard was, ‘Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.’ What I said was, ‘Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.’ Do you understand?”
Eggs also make a statement in the horrific suburban Gergich family sing-along that Leslie is subjected to, “Start your day the Gergich way with eggs, bacon, and toast!”
It is also notable that Ron has a poster in his office of eggs, bacon, and toast. Originally, he has a framed picture of a woman with eggs, bacon, and toast, but he is forced to replace it once he escapes the clutches of his second ex-wife, Tammy.
Frittatas make a notable appearance at the first ever Galentine’s brunch. Leslie believes Galentine’s Day is all about “kicking it breakfast-style, ladies celebrating ladies.”
Oddly enough, Tom is the character who is caught eating fruit. He oftentimes entertains an apple at the office, and at one point peels a banana for an office visitor for a tip. April and Andy play catch with fruit while waiting for Leslie, revealing that both of them played baseball or softball growing up, so add it to the list of breakfast foods responsible for the cutest relationship of all time.
Andy asks Ann for a glass of milk when his cast is still on, and Garry/Jerry/Larry drinks it in the office (because of course he does).
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Oatmeal and berries
Ann orders oatmeal with berries for breakfast, which is just such an Ann order. On-brand.
While not as symbolic as waffles, pancakes do have some impact on this show. When Leslie first meets Ann, Ann makes them for boyfriend Andy and for Leslie, both of whom have fallen victim to the giant hole.
In season 7, Tom proposes to his girlfriend with pancakes—which is what they ate on their first impromptu date.
No one drinks any quality smoothies on this show, but Chris does force-feed Ben an herb smoothie when he’s feeling depressed.
It takes a keen eye to notice that sometimes Leslie prefers tea over coffee, which should come as no surprise, as she cannot handle her coffee without copious amounts of sugar.
Chris orders 𠇍ry toast and half a grapefruit” at a restaurant, which is conceivably the worst breakfast order I have ever heard.
Let’s all reminisce about when Andy lived in a pit amongst the rats, and ate vegetables from the park’s community garden to live.
When you think Parks and Recreation, “waffles” comes to mind immediately after “Leslie Knope” and before 𠇌omedy.” Leslie believes in waffles as much as she believes in equality (her stripper name of choice), especially with whipped cream.
J.J. tells Leslie that she is his favorite customer because she spent $1,000 last year on “waffles alone.” She throws her Eagleton nemesis onto a pile of garbage, wrestling her to the ground when she threatens to feed a waffle to a dog for a laxative. When Leslie orders “the usual” at JJ’s, Marta brings her waffles with whipped cream. For Ann’s first day at the Parks Department, Leslie schedules a “waffle explosion” at 10 a.m. When Leslie announces she is running for city council, the entire office eats take-out waffles out of plastic tins. When Ben tells Leslie he got her an engagement present, she guesses a waffle tower.
Ann tells Leslie she is moving to Michigan by force-feeding her waffles. And, perhaps most iconically, Leslie eats Madeline Albright’s waffle off her plate when they meet because she is stressed. That’s right, Leslie values waffles above Madeline Albright, her feminist government heroine. One of her most iconic quotes is: 𠇏riends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, and work… it doesn’t matter. But work is last.”
Tom enjoys the occasional yogurt at lunch—twice, to be precise.
It’s not solely the breakfast food consumed on the show that makes it such an iconic breakfast show—it’s how breakfast is heralded, how it is appreciated by its characters. By her own ranking, Leslie loves waffles more than (possibly) her friends, and certainly more than her beloved career. Tom proposes to his girlfriend using pancakes, Ron uses breakfast as wall-art, Gerry/Larry has a breakfast song, and breakfast plays an enormous role in Ron and Leslie’s friendship.
Ron promises Leslie that they will stay friends over breakfast at the diner, and he tells her that she’s welcome to his job once he moves on. Over the course of the show, their bond over breakfast remains one the main pillars of their relationship. When Leslie accidentally stands Ron up at the diner, it becomes a major, and heartbreaking, plot point.
Still, their most memorable breakfast together comes early on. When Leslie sits across from Ron at J.J.’s Diner, fork in her mouth, elbow propped on the sticky table, she poses: “Why do people eat anything beside breakfast food?”
“People are idiots, Leslie,” Ron answers. She smiles, mouth full of whipped cream, and nods.
Ron Swanson Food Moments That Will Make You Embarrassed To Know A Vegetarian
In the battle between vegetarians and meat-eaters, the vegetarians have two advantages: they live longer and they’re really good at recruitment. Even I, a man who once ate a turkey leg while riding on a jazzy scooter at a county fair, was once seduced into vegetarianism thanks to a zoo/recruitment camp that won my heart with a pig and its origin story. Only the smell of steak brought me back to the flesh — which is the one advantage that meat-eaters have as they try to keep their numbers up: the captivating smell and the illuminating taste of meat.
We also have Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman’s Parks and Recreation character — a man, a mustache, and the father of the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. And while The Pyramid informs us that a torso should be thick and impenetrable, it doesn’t tell us how to preserve our way of life when kindly vegetarians try to respectfully educate us on their meat-less ways or innocently mention that they don’t eat meat.
Thankfully, Ron Swanson’s meat-eating acumen stretches beyond his pyramid. Swanson is a prolific philosopher who oozes wisdom, and with that collected wisdom, we have built a list of ten life lesson that can be deployed to proudly state your case for meat-love — or steal one back for our side.
You should consume what you enjoy and you should enjoy what you consume. Especially when it’s meat.
While mere mortals can push themselves away from the table with a light sheen of meat-sweat and a feeling of satisfaction after enjoying one steak, Ron Swanson requires two steaks to find his happier state of being and a bit of whiskey to provide throat lubrication and, most importantly, even more joy. When was the last time you got meat-sweats from a salad?
Don’t be shy about telling people what you want and how much of it you want. Especially when it’s meat.
When presented with a steak that is unworthy of that grand title, Ron rejects it and orders every last strip of bacon and every last egg in the restaurant. Is this to punish the establishment for their meat hurbis, or is it Ron’s way of trying to fill the void left by his failed reach for a fitting steak? Maybe it’s both. We may never know the answer to that question, but what we do know is that Ron Swanson isn’t going to pay good money for a bad piece of meat in the name of politeness.
Intimidate your meat plate.
When we eat things without feelings — like brussels sprouts — how can they be afraid of us?
Go whole hog when returning to the meat-flock. A fish will not suffice.
Ron Swanson is a “no half-measures” kind of guy, so forgive him for thumbing his nose at the notion of fish as a “meat.” Yes, it’s an animal. Yes, it’s good for you and can be quite tasty when deep fried, but the same can be said about a Twinkie,. And you wouldn’t put a Twinkie in the same weight class as a steak, would you?
If you’re going to advise someone to break away from being a vegetarian, tell them to really break away and trade the poached salmon for a half-rack of ribs. Again, everyone talks about how heart-smart eating fish is, but no one ever talks about the foods that make a heart smile.
Don’t be afraid to mix and match.
Using the term “meat and potatoes” is a another way of saying that something is basic, so I can see the contrast between a pile of grey mutton and the colorful allure of a vegetable garden with a near limitless collection of choices, flavors, and textures. With that said, people like Ron Swanson are visionaries who look at a plate of various meat stuffs and ask: “Why not?”
Why not wrap a turkey leg with bacon? Why not wrap shrimp with bacon or stuff a pork chop with boneless riblets and chopped bacon? These aren’t just suggestions, they’re possibilities.
Try new things that resemble old things. Especially when those things are meat things.
Though Ron is a meat mixologist, he doesn’t like to stray from the basic meat groups. And he doesn’t like ethnic foods. When you tell him that a burrito is called a “Meat Tornado” and you disclose that it once killed a man, however, his mind will open up to a new “meat delivery system.” Learn from this.
Vegan Bacon is a lie.
I’ve tried the meatless meat-shaped things and I believe they taste like the darkest timeline version of whatever food they are masquerading as. Clearly, Ron Swanson agrees. While I agree with his philosophy as it pertains to vegan bacon, one should never abuse the free sample system, lest we start to see businesses kill the program altogether.
Ignore boundaries when it comes to portion size. #TreatYoSelf
In the words of the philosopher Eminem, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.”
Ron Swanson orders a party platter because he isn’t going to be held down by the societal standard of what an appropriate portion size is. He knows what he’s about. Do you, Beansprout?
You can find meat in the strangest places.
Everyone knows that you can find meat in a store, but nothing beats finding surprise meat. Whether it be from a gas station, a hotel you assumed had a muffin-only free breakfast, or a vending machine at a shooting range.
In the above video, Ron Swanson finds a buffet at a strip club. Look at that pile of bacon and the smile on that man’s face. He doesn’t have a care in the world, save for high cholesterol and the close proximity of his food to body glitter and hepatitis.
Always be prepared.
The meat supply chain can dry up quickly. One should always be prepared for a meat emergency, natural disaster, or apocalypse. A nice stick of jerky, a box of pre-cooked box bacon, or a can of spam — all of these can give you protein in a pinch should you need to fight off a wolf or a Democrat. Neither fake bacon nor a cucumber can do that. Lesson over.
Informed Meat Eater
Leslie gives Ron a treasure hunt for his wedding present, which leads him to the greatest gift of all.
I’ve been waiting for these clips to come on line ever since I watched the episode of PARKS and REC where they went to the U.K. I have an on going love affair with this show and in particular a man crush on the gent called Ron Swanson. He’s a mans man. He like dead animal, he likes scotch and he is no nonsense. So in the episode, “Ron Swanson from America” detests being in the UK, like any true American, but the episode ends with Leslie Knope giving Ron a special special gift that any man worth his salt would love.
The clips don’t actually show how it went down in the episode, but they are good enough, and his trip to the Lagavulin distillery is awesome.
Ronald Ulysses “Ron” Swanson is a fictional character played by Nick Offerman. Nick Offerman an actor, writer, and carpenter best known for playing the role of Ron Swanson. But, Nick Offerman, is much more than that. He is the owner and proprietor of the OFFERMAN WOODSHOP based in Los Angeles California that makes some damn fine woodwork.
They make everything. Its a little bit pricey, but the workmanship is ridic and I’m sure well worth it. If I had some extra bread and some extra room in my apt, I’d definitely buy some stuff.
Let me get my money up and maybe a house, and I will be one of the best customers ever.
Nick also has a great book out called, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living”. You can get it in the IME store here too. Check it out.
Ron Swanson of Parks & Rec vs. Nick Offerman: The Food Interview
Like the character he plays on Parks & Recreation, Nick Offerman is a man with a magnificent mustache. Something of a libertarian, most certainly a contrarian and definitely not a vegetarian, Ron Swanson is the gruff but goofy patriarch who viewers have come to idolize. Such is the curse of success that people so adore Ron Swanson, they often can't, or won't, separate the man in the eye of the meat tornado from the man who plays him.
It's a strange twist of fate for an actor who spent a good chunk of his early career working as a set-builder and performing in non-union theater in Chicago, a choice he likens to canoeing the L.A. River unironically. “Not a lot of people are going to hear about it, but… you're just happy to have done it,” Offerman says.
Married since 2003 to Megan Mullally, who played Karen Walker on Will & Grace, the two of them live in the Los Angeles hills, where Offerman spends as much time as possible avoiding the internet and grilling bratwurst.
Over a lunch of prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed corn and multiple desserts at the Tam O'Shanter Inn, located a few minutes from the Atwater Village workshop where he builds canoes and practices planking (not the stiffening viral trend), Offerman chatted with Squid Ink about mustache mania, his predilection for Dickensian restaurants and why, even in such a food-centric era, Parks & Rec may be TV's most food-centric sitcom.
“It's a great time to be alive,” Offerman says. “Popular music all sounds like Neil Young records from 1972, and we're reliving this artisan appreciation in all the food we're eating.”
Nick Offerman enjoys his steak. Credit: Guzzle & Nosh
Squid Ink: Now that I've bribed you with prime rib…
Nick Offerman: You've loosened my tongue.
SI: Everybody loves Ron Swanson. I used to do book reviews for Bitch, a feminist magazine. The entire editorial staff loves you.
SI: So here's a question from the Bitch editorial staff: “Do you have any problems with fans who refuse to differentiate between you as an actor and your role? (Confession: the entire editorial staff of Bitch is guilty of this.)”
NO: No, I don't have a problem with it. I've seen headlines on blogs that couldn't state it more plainly: “Nick Offerman, Ron Swanson: Indistinguishable.” It's very much not the case. I'm crazy about the character Ron Swanson, but Ron is like a Simpsons character. No mortal could survive his diet.
There are things about my personality, but they're very simple points. Ron loves to eat meat and he loves to work with wood and he's a simple guy who grows good whiskers.
NO: I'm not quite as good as Duke Silver, but I do play. There's no way, short of taking me out for prime rib, that the readers of Bitch could begin to understand that I'm just as much of a sloppy dipshit as the rest of us, trying to find my ass with both hands. Ron is a character like Superman. Christopher Reeve seems pretty indistinguishable to me from Superman, but I can comprehend what must be the differences. That was a bad example. Gene Hackman seems indistinguishable to me from Lex Luthor, but I can comprehend what the differences must be.
SI: Do you get a lot of Ron Swanson fan gifts?
NO: I feel like there's been some sort of shift in the zeitgeist, where people are now able to scratch a certain fan itch online. In [wife] Megan [Mullally's] day, we would receive a lot more things sent to our table at restaurants. There was more tangible physical evidence of fan worship. Nowadays, I actually don't get a lot of stuff, which I'm incredibly grateful for. What am I going to do with pigs with mustaches on them?
There have been a few occurrences where people in restaurants have sent me a rasher of bacon, which I am not going to turn my nose up at. I never let them down.
SI: As a food writer, I get a lot of well-meaning but silly food gifts. Eventually, I had to tell people: If you really like me, stop giving me bacon-themed gifts just give me bacon.
NO: Let's commiserate: I mainly get mustache stuff. Can you imagine me sitting here right now wearing an ironic T-shirt about mustaches?
SI: For the record, you're wearing a dark blue shirt that says “A visual aid for knot tying,” which is very practical.
NO: That's going to come in handy. If the shit goes down right now, and we get swept out to sea, guess who's got the knot chart?
I'm so grateful to be in the position where people want to express their love of our show with some sort of mustache-themed gift. I get that. They always say, “I saw this, and I had to get it for you.” That's where you need to change the thinking. See it, think of me and maybe have a laugh with your friends.
SI: How do you feel about fancified meat products: bacon jam, truffle burgers, beef foam, etc.?
NO: Yawn. See [the Parks & Rec] beef burger episode. There's no need to improve on meat.
SI: So Ron Swanson's “It's meat on bread” motto is your burger ideal?
NO: Sure. I love cheese. I love horseradish on my prime rib. Here's a difference between me and Ron: If I could order one meal of meat, it would be a bratwurst. I'm crazy about the bratwurst.
SI: When it's a scene with food, you don't have to eat Ron Swanson's food, but you often do.
NO: When you consume something in a scene, you learn to be very circumspect because you may end up having to consume that amount 30 times. When you're young, you think, “Man, it would be really cool if I smoke in this scene.” Then, on take 18, you're green and vomiting because you've been smoking for 90 minutes. So you learn with food: If you have to take a bite of something, don't swallow it, and get a spit bucket. Even if you're eating one bite of cake, you may end up eating four pieces of cake by the time you add them all up. It makes sense, especially if you're attractive. I have the good fortune of not being included in that category.
Early on in the show, when I needed to consume something in the scene, the props people would be standing by with a spit bucket and I'd say, “Take that spit bucket away from me. You'll not be needing it.” Our show is not like a Kubrick film where we're going to do 40 takes of anything.
There's a scene in the episode about my birthday where at the end, it's just me eating steak and watching Bridge on the River Kwai. There have been many occasions when I receive a new script and I read something in the script that just makes me openly cry with gratitude. One of them was in that script. The tag at the end said, “This will not change: 30 seconds of Ron Swanson eating steak and watching Bridge on the River Kwai in silence.” I read that, and the fact that they said, “This won't change,” I just started openly weeping.
[That episode] was directed by the great film director Nicole Holofcener. (I'm so happy I've gotten to be buddies with her.) We were shooting that on a Monday, so I didn't eat on Sunday because I thought, “I'm going to eat so much goddamn steak.” We got to that scene in the middle of the morning. We shot probably a minute and a half. I got 4 or 5 good bites of steak before she said, “Cut.” And I was like, “No, I didn't eat yesterday!” So we went one more time, but then it was ruined. I had a couple more bites, but then it was gluttony. When it's something I'm creating on behalf of the show, it's important that I eat all this meat. When I'm doing it just for myself, I can't stomach that.
SI: Were there “standby steaks”? Did they wrap them up for you?
NO: There were, but I actually am pretty strict with my diet. I have a wonderfully hedonistic appetite, and if I wasn't really strict with myself, I'd weigh 300 pounds. I'm not good with moderation. It's either “Always be vigilant.” There's no, “I'm happy.” I either have to stay on top of it or become a full-blown alcoholic, which I may do. I'm still young.
Ron Swanson, probably thinking about a meat tornado. Credit: Courtesy of NBC.
SI: You learned not to eat everything on your plate, but I understand Chris Pratt, who plays Andy, just goes all-in.
NO: Chris is a man of many immense talents, none of them greater than his ability to consume comestibles. His digestive system is a gaping maw. And he has such an enthusiasm about eating. Chris can take a bowl containing 10 servings of pasta and, with two fistfuls, make it disappear. He can do that six takes in a row. I've also seen him eat, and this is not an exaggeration, eight slabs of ribs in about three hours — with absolute glee. He's an amazing human being. Truly a specimen worth studying.
NO: He is. He's such an amazing resource because his standup tours take him to every corner of the country and his interest in restauranting have combined into this incredible resource. I will find myself in Kansas City, and we have tonight off, let's go to a restaurant. I'll immediately text Aziz: “Kansas City. Sushi. Go.” He's like, “Well, do you like sashimi or…” He has it all broken down.
SI: The Parks & Rec cast is full of people who love food.
NO: It's very food-centric. I don't know if that has to do with it being a Midwestern show with a lot of heart. (“Home Is Where The Hearth Is” read an embroidered plaque on my mother's kitchen wall.) But we all definitely are really into our food. The ladies too — they just have to use less of it. They're in the business of being beautiful.
SI: Why do you think Ron Swanson, one of the most paleo-libertarian, comically hyper-masculine characters on TV, is such a hero to so many people, especially women? He's really the breakout character of the show.
NO: I think everyone in our cast could carry their own show. If my character is at all any sort of breakout from that, it can only be through some bizarre anomaly of the zeitgeist that I can't begin to wrap my head around. I feel, when asked that question, like a birthday clown who's asked, “Why do you think the kids are so freaked out by your makeup?” It's hard to tell if you're in the makeup.
I think Ron appeals to the simplicity that people crave in this age of information. We have such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choice. Do you want to hike in the Alps? There are 300 pairs of shoes you can order within the next 10 minutes. You have your choice of everything. Ron ignores all popular choice and just lives really simply.
Also, Ron celebrates things that we've been taught to eschew, like hair on a man. It's something that has been weaned off our Brad Pitts and our Jude Laws. But when you see it, you're like, “Oh, yeah. That's a fucking guy.” That's not a Hollywood boy-man, that's a fucking man, who if we need wood chopped, that guy can chop it. I think it just appeals to something sort of elemental in people.
SI: There's also a vicarious thrill to the unrepentant hedonism of Ron Swanson, Don Draper (Mad Men) and Jack Donaghy (30 Rock). We have to think about calories and moral consequences. They just smoke and knock back Scotch and sleep with stewardesses.
NO: They revel in their disdain of moderation. They're like, “I'm going to eat this whole fucking steak and then I'm going to smoke a cigar and it's going to be so delicious, you pussies.” I don't like to use that word in that way because it's misogynist, so I'll say, “you lily-livered sissies” instead.
Coincidentally, that was the trip with [Megan's character] Karen Walker on Will & Grace. People loved her because she said what she wanted to. She would drink a martini any time she chose. People love to see that. They love to identify with characters who are able to honestly speak their mind without having to deal with any consequences. Which is so boring and dry for an interview answer.
SI: But there are dimensions to Ron's relationship with Amy Poehler's character. He's not just the dry boss who sticks to his guns. He cares about the people around him, though grudgingly.
NO: It's a Lou Grant/Mary Tyler Moore vibe. The patriarch who is a ridiculous teddy bear, if you can just get through the layers of claws and teeth.
SI: What restaurants in Los Angeles do you like?
NO: Here [the Tam O' Shanter]. The Oinkster. I love The Oaks Gourmet — great burger. Have you been to Village Bakery? That place is amazing.
SI: Any other favorite foods?
NO: Well, we've discussed bratwurst. I love to cook out. My dad had a big article written about him in the Joliet paper. It was “gas vs. charcoal grilling,” probably a 4th of July pullout. Somehow, they got ahold of my dad, who is just a hilarious charcoal grillmaster. He does the Thanksgiving turkey on the grill. He is just an amazing griller.
SI: Do you have strong feelings about gas vs. charcoal?
NO: I guess I do. I stick to charcoal. I have a Kenwood charcoal grill. In our house, if anybody is cooking, it's me. I love making burgers. I love making pork tenderloin. Lamb chops I do on the grill a lot. But you just can't beat brats.
SI: Where do you like to eat sausages?
NO: The Red Lion, of course. That was another “victory meal”: their sausage platter and a couple of Hefeweizens. That was a happy time. That was back when you could smoke. These were great places to smoke back then, the Red Lion and the Tam O'Shanter.
For me, coming from a small town in Illinois, there's nothing more romantic than a place in Los Angeles where you can behave like you're in a pub on the wharfs of London. Have fish and chips. Smoke. Have a few pints. I've never known anyone who behaved like this, except characters in Dickens.