Nick Offerman Shares His Love Of Woodworking In 'Good Clean Fun'
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Comedian and Actor Nick Offerman stole scene after scene as the Libertarian man's man Ron Swanson in the NBC sitcom "Parks And Recreation."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "PARKS AND RECREATION")
NICK OFFERMAN: (As Ron Swanson) I have a joke for you.
AMY POEHLER: (As Leslie Knope) OK.
OFFERMAN: (As Ron Swanson) The government in this town is excellent and uses your tax dollars efficiently (laughter).
MCEVERS: He's also a best-selling author and a woodworker. His latest book is about that. It's called "Good Clean Fun." He writes about how he grew up working with wood and only later got into acting, which he likes to call clowning.
For Nick Offerman, woodworking is more than a side job or a hobby even. It's kind of a way of life. And that's what he wants to share with this new book, along with practical, do-it-yourself instructions. Offerman runs a shop with a crew of craftsmen and women here in Los Angeles. He came to the studio the other morning to tell me about it.
OFFERMAN: Well, it's really fun. We have six woodworkers at Offerman Woodshop, and while I'm here talking to you, they're in the shop, making all this stuff. And there's a lot of really nice, affordable gift items at offermanwoodshop.com. But...
MCEVERS: (Laughter) At low, low prices.
OFFERMAN: It's really fun. Everybody makes their own products. So one guy, Matt Micucci, makes a wooden kazoo. Chris makes just coasters and pencil holders. So there are basic items and then crazy massive custom tables and beds. And we're able to kind of cover the waterfront.
MCEVERS: Are beards are required at your wood shop?
OFFERMAN: Not at all.
MCEVERS: (Laughter) I'm just joking.
OFFERMAN: My brother has a magnificent beard. His beard makes me look like a girl scout.
MCEVERS: OK, 'cause you've got a pretty bushy situation going on there.
OFFERMAN: Thank you. I - you know, people ask me if it's for a role and I say no, if you see me with a huge beard it means I don't have an acting job.
MCEVERS: (Laughter) Right.
OFFERMAN: I always wish I had a big beard.
MCEVERS: You know, this whole idea of, like - I mean, it sounds like you didn't, like, set out to, like - I need something to support my other thing. It's really something that you've just been doing, like, all your life.
OFFERMAN: It is. It's kind of the opposite. This other clown job is really cramping my style at the woodshop. You know, I've become a writer of books inexplicably. I had a wonderful couple years traveling around between my acting jobs and touring and my wife Megan Mullally's acting jobs. And so I said if I do this book about woodworking then everybody has to go to hell and I just get to go to my shop for four months.
OFFERMAN: And it worked like crazy.
MCEVERS: I feel like there are a lot of people out there listening who have spent exactly zero days being handy, like, their entire lives. Is there hope for people like this, and does your book provide it?
OFFERMAN: I think so. I mean, a lot of my own woodworking education comes from books and periodicals like Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking magazines. They're great teachers, but they're very somber. They're very sober. So it was important to me for this book to be really friendly and gentle and fun to let you know that whether you're getting into woodworking or making anything with your hands, it's really important to know going in that you're supposed to make mistakes. You're supposed to screw it up.
And not only do I think this is a very friendly introduction to woodworking, but I really have become a little bit of an evangelist to encourage - find something to make. If you make stuff for your house or your loved ones, you're curating your life in a way, saying, I don't have to just limit my choices to what I can buy at Amazon. I can also choose to make a table myself. And even if it looks crappy, it's still so much more charming because you've made that gesture.
MCEVERS: I understand you and Jeff Tweedy have written songs about woodworking with each other. Is this true?
OFFERMAN: Well, yeah.
OFFERMAN: Not just randomly. We're good buddies. And when we decided to do an audiobook of this book, my editor thought it would be a good idea to create some music for woodworking.
MCEVERS: OK. Any - you want to sing us an example, or should we just listen to the recorded version?
OFFERMAN: I - given the early hour, I'd be happy to recite for you the bridge to the radio hit...
MCEVERS: Yes, please.
OFFERMAN: ..."American White Oak."
OFFERMAN: The Latin which - the Latin name of which is Quercus alba. Great for beds, for sleep or reproduction, Quercus alba has a closed cell construction that makes it ideal for watertight vocations like barreling whiskey or floating wet locations like Atlantis or with Gandalf to the Grey Havens.
MCEVERS: (Laughter) And you wrote that?
OFFERMAN: I did.
OFFERMAN: I'm terribly proud of it. It's some of the geekiest work I've done.
MCEVERS: You had a lot of success with Ron Swanson. That's your character from "Parks and Recreation." He's this Libertarian government-hating Midwestern guy. And this book could sort of reinforce that character. You know, do you worry about being typecast in some ways? Like, oh, I love that Ron Swanson woodworking book. You know, like (laughter)...
OFFERMAN: It's funny....
MCEVERS: ...People won't be able to tell the difference?
OFFERMAN: Yeah, people ask me that a lot. And I guess I feel lucky because if I had to make a deal where I could never work in TV and film again in exchange for seven years of getting to play Ron Swanson, I would sign that in a second. If I just had a life of woodworking and live theater, that'd be perfectly fine with me. Being Mr. Megan Mullally is also a gig that I really relish. So sure, I would vaguely worry about it, but it doesn't seem to be crimping my style in any way.
MCEVERS: That's Nick Offerman. His new book, a seriously funny guide to woodworking, is called "Good Clean Fun." Thank you very much.
OFFERMAN: Thank you for being gentle with me.
MCEVERS: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.