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Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

Nick Offerman @ The Pabst Theater

Feb. 23, 2013

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Melissa Miller
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Nick Offerman lends more than a little bit of himself to his breakout “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson, the sitcom’s spokesman for all things masculine. Like Swanson, Offerman is a proud outdoorsmen, an ardent red meat eater and an expert woodworker, and the show’s writers draw generously from his real life. That canoe that Swanson builds in the show’s second season? Offerman actually made that himself, following the process he detailed in his 2008 instructional DVD, Canoe Building with Nick Offerman. Offerman and Swanson aren’t entirely the same person, though, as the comedian made clear at his Pabst Theater appearance Saturday night. For one, Offerman’s political beliefs are more in line with what you’d expect from a television actor than a small-town libertarian. And while the mythical Swanson is a man of few words, Offerman is a man of many, enough to easily fill a chatty two hours. Offerman may share Swanson’s deadpan demeanor, but underneath it there’s a mighty gregarious fellow who can only stifle his laughter for so long before letting loose a surprisingly gleeful giggle. That giggle never failed to illicit a big laugh in return from the audience Saturday night. Actually, most everything Offerman did met with a substantial laugh. Outlining his 10 Tips for Prosperity for a show he titled American Ham, he held the crowd’s attention with a performance that was part stand-up routine, part motivational lecture, with periodic musical-comedy breaks (he sang seven or eight songs on the guitar, many of them much more sexually explicit than anything on his mostly wholesome NBC sitcom). And while the crowd’s vocal fandom made his job easy, Offerman did his part to earn those laughs by leaving himself exposed—sometimes literally, as when he took the stage shirtless, letting the shocked crowd drink up his barreled chest and prominent belly, but more often with unabashedly intimate details from his life and marriage. He shared his experiences with drugs and religion, and made genuine pleas for the audience to get off their couches, put away their PlayStations and lead truly fulfilling lives (should they find that fulfillment by building something, so much the better).  Not everything in his routine worked. Given its digressive structure, it was paced a shade or two slower than the typical stand-up act, and some of Offerman’s monologues about the Bible and The Hobbit dragged on without enough comedic payoff. But the casual, “things I believe” chattiness of the show also lent it its unique charm. Most performers who play the Pabst comment on the theater’s beauty, but few also share with the audience the year it was built and a story about the architect who designed it. At the core of Offerman’s life lessons was a call for listeners to take interest in the outside world, and he was all too happy to lead by example.