Flannel shirts and wood shavings: A night with Nick Offerman
The first thing I noticed was the incredible amount of flannel. Just off the eyeball test, 75 percent or more of the people there were wearing flashy, striped, cozy flannel shirts. And honestly, I should’ve expected this coming in. You may know Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation.” You may know him from his roles on “Will & Grace” and “21 Jump Street”—or even from his visit to Washington University in 2013. He is the mammoth of a man with a beard that could keep all of Canada warm. But what you might not know about Offerman is that he owns his own professional woodworking shop, the Los Angeles-based Offerman Woodshop.
Last Thursday, Offerman made it out to St. Louis’s Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 36 Union Hall to promote his third book, “Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop.” The event was presented by Left Bank Books, a bookstore in the Central West End, along with Maryville Talks Books, a lecture series through Maryville University.
While Offerman’s first two books were semi-autobiographical, “Good Clean Fun” focuses primarily on his woodworking shop. The book, which was released Oct. 18, discusses the people that work in his woodshop, shares tips for woodworking and even gives step-by-step instructions on how to make several small projects. In addition, it also includes humorous essays and pieces dedicated to his woodworking heroes.
As the book talk began, I started to realize that I wasn’t going to get to hear behind-the-scenes stories from “Parks and Recreation” but rather would hear behind-the-scenes stories from Offerman Woodshop, instead. As he walked onto the stage, holding a large Starbucks drink, the crowd of approximately 500 stood and applauded.
This didn’t last long, as Offerman reminded us that he grew up in Illinois, as a Chicago Cubs fan. He pulled out his large-scale “W” flag and waved it in the audience’s face, much to the dismay of all the Cardinals fans in attendance. He proceeded to clamp it to the front of the podium, so it just sat there as though it were mocking St. Louis the entire time. He made up for it, though, with the greatest description of St. Louis that I have ever heard.
“This is a killer town,” he said, “…salt of the earth old neighborhood with brick buildings that make me erect.”
Every joke he makes is followed by a silence that is one second too long. Then he emits a high-pitched schoolgirl-esque giggle—an innocent laugh that certainly does not match how the man looks or what he says.
Offerman talked a lot about how he was excited to write this book because it would basically allow him to hang out in his shop all day without any other obligations. He read some sections from the book then told us how the creative process for woodworking differed from acting. He also tried to drill home the point that this book is not just for lumberjack men, but for everyone, regardless of gender.
“There’s a lot of girl power in this book,” he said.
The book even includes a section on fashion written by actress and comedian Megan Mullally, who is also Offerman’s wife.
For the most part, Offerman seemed to steer away from any sort of political talk, jokingly pointing out that he isn’t smart enough for that, but he did point out that we are all in this together as one country—a country that he very much loves.
He said that, unlike Ron Swanson, “I’m very much down with both France and Canada.”
Another highlight of the talk was his explanation of why it is better to make a stool with three legs instead of four because it won’t wobble if it has three.
“If you make [a stool] with three legs, you’re a badass, guaranteed,” Offerman said.
He also went into a pretty in-depth explanation of a self-described “homoerotic comic” inside the book, of himself and actor Chris Pratt cutting down a tree from the forest.
But my two favorite moments came during the question and answer section at the end. One woman asked him if he ever made presents for his wife.
“I did make a couple paddles for late-night fun,” Offerman responded, setting off a roar of laughter.
One man stood up and asked him what some of his favorite and least favorite words are. His least favorite word?