Nick Offerman: We're Making Everyone Not White Or A Billionaire Unhappy
Nick Offerman is railing against the planet.
Not the oceans, forests, and myriad wildlife, you have to understand -- but the global systems, corporate greed and individual apathy putting us on a sure-fire track to destroying it all via global warming.
"We're really all to blame," Offerman tells 10 daily over the phone.
"We're all created these systems, these sets of rules, by which we're trying to adhere to, but we're failing miserably. We've ruined the planet."
He laughs that typical Nick Offerman laugh, a guffaw familiar to any fan of Parks and Recreation, NBC's beloved workplace sitcom where Offerman played grumpy libertarian boss Ron Swanson for seven seasons, earning him a Television Critics Association Award and two Critics' Choice Television Award nominations.
"We're making people very unhappy unless they happen to be white and/or billionaires," he continues.
"I think we've fallen under the spell of consumerism. I think by and large in modern civilisations we have all enjoyed the luxury of relative peace in our countries, which leads to ambivalence and apathy. We say, Oh, I guess everything's going okay, the electricity is still on, I can still stop and get a burger at the fast food joint so I guess everything's okay, and that allows the powers that be, the machinations of particularly corporate America to continue creating a stranglehold on the government, and instituting nefarious policies that enrich them, and continue to disenfranchise most of the rest of us."
He pauses. "That's not funny," he says, and then laughs his trademark laugh again.
But Offerman is going to make it funny by turning the lens back on all of us. His new show, All Rise, is a "proper revival suggesting the existence of a higher power in the land than commerce", a one-man rally against consumerism and greed designed to make you laugh. Promise.
This idea of comedy-with-a-message took the world by storm last year, with Hannah Gadsby's Nanette changing the global conversation about what it means to laugh and at what. Is that the way comedy is heading? Is it not enough to simply make jokes anymore?
"I think that's definitely the case for some of us," Offerman muses.
"I did catch Nanette, I think it's astonishing. I had the pleasure of meeting [Gadsby] and I was rather star-struck because I thought that was such a forward-thinking and provocative piece of work."
Offerman isn't a comedian by training, news that will come as a surprise to those who know him only through the framework of Parks and Recreation. His background is in theatre acting, and it was only when he started working in television and film -- hitting the global stage with Michael Shur's comedy (the producer has since gone on to steer heavy hitters Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place) -- that people began to think of him as a comedian.
They also tend to think of him as a near perfect replica of Ron Swanson, the meat-loving, whiskey-swilling, handlebar moustache-sporting head of Pawnee's Parks and Recreation Department.
It's easy to see why: Ron Swanson loves woodworking; so does Nick Offerman. Both exude a sense of shrugging off institutions and finding your own capability, and even one of Ron's on-screen love interests -- Tammy Two -- was played by his wife of almost two decades, Megan Mullally.
The two also share an unflinching warmth for their fellow human beings, a trait that is at times lost on Ron Swanson's wider fan base.
"[Some] people -- particularly in rural areas -- would rather think of him as a more traditional misogynist, macho character, and that's just bad TV watching," Offerman says.
"That's not on us. He was [actually] a wonderful human. People often conflate him with more of a stereotypical, conservative mid-westerner, but he actually supported everybody, which made him a terrific feminist. He would absolutely be for gay rights and all civil rights. He truly supports everyone's fair shake."
Swanson stays in close contact with his former castmates, which includes the now bonafide movie star Chris Pratt (Andy Dwyer), Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope), Aubrey Plaza (April Ludgate), Adam Scott (Ben Wyatt), Aziz Ansari (Tom Haverford), Rob Lowe (Chris Traeger), Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins), Retta (Donna Meagle), and Jim O'Heir (Jerry / Gerry / Garry / Larry / Terry Gergich).
They have a group chat, called 'Parks Family', and usually not a week goes by when somebody hits it up. The day before we speak, it was O'Heir's birthday.
"Those are always a lot of fun because there's a lot of love thrown around, and then it always devolves into giving him a hard time," says Offerman, proving that life imitates art; O'Heir's Jerry Gergich was mercilessly mocked and bullied by his coworkers.
"It's not just specific to Jim. As in so many families, the reason he gets such a hard time on the show is because he's actually the sweetest possibly guy in the universe, so of course that's who you beat up. We don't discriminate on the text thread, everybody gets a hard time, although usually when things get too sweet, Aubrey will swoop in and cast an evil spell."
It's comments like this that make it hard to separate the artist from the art: of course Jim O'Heir is the nicest of them all. Of course Aubrey Plaza is casting evil spells.
But if it was Ron Swanson, not Nick Offerman, performing a stand-up show, then he would literally be on stage for 90 minutes building a chair.
"And you would think that was hilarious for about five minutes, and then it would get really boring," says Offerman.
"I actually have 90 minutes of wonderful material, so let's have some fun."
All Rise is coming to Australia in June 2019, hitting up Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Sydney and Brisbane. Tickets are available from Live Nation.
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