Ron Swanson of Parks & Rec vs. Nick Offerman: The Food Interview
|Courtesy of NBC.|
|Ron Swanson, probably thinking about a meat tornado.|
NO: Chris is a man of many immense talents, none of them greater than his ability to consume comestibles. His digestive system is a gaping maw. And he has such an enthusiasm about eating. Chris can take a bowl containing 10 servings of pasta and, with two fistfuls, make it disappear. He can do that six takes in a row. I've also seen him eat, and this is not an exaggeration, eight slabs of ribs in about three hours -- with absolute glee. He's an amazing human being. Truly a specimen worth studying.
SI: Aziz Ansari is a big foodie too. We've written about him.
NO: He is. He's such an amazing resource because his standup tours take him to every corner of the country and his interest in restauranting have combined into this incredible resource. I will find myself in Kansas City, and we have tonight off, let's go to a restaurant. I'll immediately text Aziz: "Kansas City. Sushi. Go." He's like, "Well, do you like sashimi or..." He has it all broken down.
SI: The Parks & Rec cast is full of people who love food.
NO: It's very food-centric. I don't know if that has to do with it being a Midwestern show with a lot of heart. ("Home Is Where The Hearth Is" read an embroidered plaque on my mother's kitchen wall.) But we all definitely are really into our food. The ladies too -- they just have to use less of it. They're in the business of being beautiful.
SI: Why do you think Ron Swanson, one of the most paleo-libertarian, comically hyper-masculine characters on TV, is such a hero to so many people, especially women? He's really the breakout character of the show.
NO: I think everyone in our cast could carry their own show. If my character is at all any sort of breakout from that, it can only be through some bizarre anomaly of the zeitgeist that I can't begin to wrap my head around. I feel, when asked that question, like a birthday clown who's asked, "Why do you think the kids are so freaked out by your makeup?" It's hard to tell if you're in the makeup.
I think Ron appeals to the simplicity that people crave in this age of information. We have such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choice. Do you want to hike in the Alps? There are 300 pairs of shoes you can order within the next 10 minutes. You have your choice of everything. Ron ignores all popular choice and just lives really simply.
Also, Ron celebrates things that we've been taught to eschew, like hair on a man. It's something that has been weaned off our Brad Pitts and our Jude Laws. But when you see it, you're like, "Oh, yeah. That's a fucking guy." That's not a Hollywood boy-man, that's a fucking man, who if we need wood chopped, that guy can chop it. I think it just appeals to something sort of elemental in people.
SI: There's also a vicarious thrill to the unrepentant hedonism of Ron Swanson, Don Draper (Mad Men) and Jack Donaghy (30 Rock). We have to think about calories and moral consequences. They just smoke and knock back Scotch and sleep with stewardesses.
NO: They revel in their disdain of moderation. They're like, "I'm going to eat this whole fucking steak and then I'm going to smoke a cigar and it's going to be so delicious, you pussies." I don't like to use that word in that way because it's misogynist, so I'll say, "you lily-livered sissies" instead.
Coincidentally, that was the trip with [Megan's character] Karen Walker on Will & Grace. People loved her because she said what she wanted to. She would drink a martini any time she chose. People love to see that. They love to identify with characters who are able to honestly speak their mind without having to deal with any consequences. Which is so boring and dry for an interview answer.
SI: But there are dimensions to Ron's relationship with Amy Poehler's character. He's not just the dry boss who sticks to his guns. He cares about the people around him, though grudgingly.
NO: It's a Lou Grant/Mary Tyler Moore vibe. The patriarch who is a ridiculous teddy bear, if you can just get through the layers of claws and teeth.
SI: What restaurants in Los Angeles do you like?
SI: Any other favorite foods?
NO: Well, we've discussed bratwurst. I love to cook out. My dad had a big article written about him in the Joliet paper. It was "gas vs. charcoal grilling," probably a 4th of July pullout. Somehow, they got ahold of my dad, who is just a hilarious charcoal grillmaster. He does the Thanksgiving turkey on the grill. He is just an amazing griller.
SI: Do you have strong feelings about gas vs. charcoal?
NO: I guess I do. I stick to charcoal. I have a Kenwood charcoal grill. In our house, if anybody is cooking, it's me. I love making burgers. I love making pork tenderloin. Lamb chops I do on the grill a lot. But you just can't beat brats.
SI: Where do you like to eat sausages?
NO: The Red Lion, of course. That was another "victory meal": their sausage platter and a couple of Hefeweizens. That was a happy time. That was back when you could smoke. These were great places to smoke back then, the Red Lion and the Tam O'Shanter.
For me, coming from a small town in Illinois, there's nothing more romantic than a place in Los Angeles where you can behave like you're in a pub on the wharfs of London. Have fish and chips. Smoke. Have a few pints. I've never known anyone who behaved like this, except characters in Dickens.
Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.