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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Nick Offerman offers a night of storytelling and song

On Saturday night, "Parks and Recreation’s" Nick Offerman (the actor behind the show’s amazing character Ron Swanson) appeared at the Pabst Theater in front of a full house not exactly sure what they were about to get. Luckily, their instincts to come were rewarded with a terrific night of storytelling and song.

Emerging from backstage shirtless, Offerman stated that "minor nudity was advertised…minor nudity was achieved." With his stomach extended, he then thanked Mader’s for a delicious dinner and pointed out how his evening’s meal had contributed to this bloating. "If I lived here, I’d be the next John Candy." After covering his torso with a gawdy Western-style shirt that resembled the American flag, Offerman addressed the elephant in the room about what the show’s content would be. "Thank you for coming out in this cold weather for seeing me do…you have no idea what. You must love that television program."

Offerman’s show was called "American Ham" and consisted of his ten tips for prosperity. After listing each tip, Offerman would tell a story from his life that added depth to this list. On a few occasions, such as his tip of "eat red meat," no additional details were necessary and he would move on to his next lesson. He also had a guitar with him on stage and would cap some of the tips with a song of his own that tied into the theme.

There are several similarities between Ron Swanson and Nick Offerman, including a shared love of woodwork and the aforementioned red meat.
Offerman also possesses a very rare gift in that his own laugh is able to make the audience follow suit. The best classification of his laugh is that it is a delightful giggle that doesn’t seem to match the human being where it came from. While glimpses of this have been seen and heard on "Parks and Recreation," there were several moments where Offerman couldn’t maintain the stern façade he often employs and would break by laughing.

The riskiest moments of the show were early on in the evening when Offerman tackled the Bible and politicians who use it as a crutch when making laws. Specifically going after the Book of Leviticus, Swanson offered citations that everyone has heard politicians make but then went on to directly quote other aspects from this same book that aren’t adhered to whatsoever. While this portion could have been alienating, Offerman was very compelling in his argument that it doesn’t make sense that some of the "rules" from this book need to be strictly enforced, while other parts are ignored because they are outdated.

What made Offerman so compelling to listen to was the sincerity he had for what he was saying and the fact that it never felt like he was being preachy. It’s very refreshing to hear someone who is completely honest and totally at ease with who they are. In this way, Offerman was reminiscent of Milwaukee’s own Dan Harmon, the "Community" creator who can’t help but be honest about everything. Unlike Harmon, Offerman has a much better filter with which thoughts of his are better for public presentation than others. Since Offerman grew up in Illinois, he had several connections to the state of Wisconsin and he weaved those in perfectly to help win over the local crowd even more. He even went into great detail about the craftsmanship behind the Pabst Theater, which showed that Offerman had done his homework.

Once he had offered all ten tips and served his full course of "American Ham," Offerman concluded the evening with a song that he deemed to be the dessert: his cover of "5,000 Candles In the Wind" from "Parks and Recreation." This rousing tribute to Pawnee’s biggest celebrity Lil’ Sebastian was a delightful closer and appropriate nod to the reason many people were at the Pabst to begin with.

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