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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: October 24, 2017

Nick Offerman comes to Maine for a comedy show, stays for the craftsmen

Written by: Ray Routhier
Actor, comedian and woodworker Nick Offerman will perform at Portland's Merrill Auditorium on Nov. 2 Photo by Emily Shur

Actor, comedian and woodworker Nick Offerman will perform at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Nov. 2
Photo by Emily Shur

Rockport furniture maker Peter Korn has never met actor Nick Offerman and never saw him on the critically-acclaimed NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” where Offerman played a whisky-drinking, libertarian woodworking buff named Ron Swanson. But Korn still speaks very highly of Offerman, specifically about his work spreading awareness and appreciation of fine woodworking in general and Maine craftsmen in particular.

“I appreciate how he has used his public profile to advocate for our craft,” said Korn, executive director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport. “He’s been kind enough to mention my book (‘Why We Make Things and Why it Matters’) several times.”

Comedian and actor Nick Offerman, who has his own woodworking business in Los Angeles. Photo by Josh Salsbury

Comedian and actor Nick Offerman has his own woodworking business in Los Angeles. Photo by Josh Salsbury

Offerman, 47, could be hilarious on “Parks and Recreation” and is bawdy during his live “Full Bush” stage shows. He’s scheduled to perform the latter Nov. 2 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland where he says he’ll talk about “the cultivation of fulsome body hair,” among other things. He says during his live shows he becomes “a less educated and more foulmouthed Garrison Keillor,” telling stories and singing songs. The show is for “mature audiences only,” according to the venue’s website. In recent shows, he’s told stories and jokes poking fun at social media, pubic hair, Jesus and “the awesomeness of ukuleles.”

But while his shows have blue humor, his love of woodworking and respect for Maine woodworkers is serious stuff. He calls Maine “a regular Disneyland” for a woodworker.

While many performers stopping in Maine mention they’d like to see L.L. Bean or get a good lobster dinner, when asked what he likes to do in Maine, Offerman ticked off a list of a half-dozen Maine woodworking shops, tool makers, canoe builders and other craftsmen.

Comedian and actor Nick Offerman's latest book, about woodworking, came out in 2016. Book cover image courtesy of Penguin

Comedian and actor Nick Offerman’s latest book, about woodworking, came out in 2016.
Book cover image courtesy of Penguin

He buys his hand tools for his Los Angeles woodworking business, Offerman Woodshop, from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren. When asked by various publications for his current reading list, he often mentions Korn’s book. He’s studied the work of several boatbuilders in and around Brooklin, on the Blue Hill peninsula.

And he is a huge fan of New Gloucester furniture maker Chris Becksvoort, whom Offerman called “one of the living woodworking masters.” When you look up images of Offerman online, there are several of him wearing a T-shirt with the words “C.H. Becksvoort, Furniture Maker.”

In fact, Offerman thinks so highly of Becksvoort that he had the woodworker do a guest spot on “Parks and Recreation” in 2012. Becksvoort had never seen the show when he met Offerman at a woodworking event in Connecticut around 2010.

“We were talking and he said he’d like to have me on the show and I thought ‘Yeah, right’,” said Becksvoort, also a contributing editor for Fine Woodworking Magazine. “Then he called me and asked me to come out.”

Becksvoort still wasn’t convinced he should do it. What would a fine woodworker do on a sitcom anyway? But then his wife mentioned that another Mainer, former Sen. Olympia Snowe, had already been on the show. So he decided he could too.

In the episode, Offerman’s character gets giddy when he sees Becksvoort at a woodworking show.

 

“I had some very positive response to that. The things he does are good, definitely, for woodworking,” said Becksvoort.

Thomas Lie-Nielsen of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren says comedian and woodworker Nick Offerman came to his tool workshop about a year and a half ago for a visit. Offerman, a star of NBC's "Parks and Recreation," will perform Nov. 2 at Portland's Merrill Auditorium. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Thomas Lie-Nielsen of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks in Warren says comedian and woodworker Nick Offerman came to his tool workshop about a year and a half ago for a visit.
Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Thomas Lie-Nielsen, of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, says he’s sold tools to famous people before, including actor Harrison Ford. But he’s never seen an actor or comedian work their love of woodworking into their entertainment career the way Offerman has. Offerman has written books that meld humor and woodworking, including the recent “Good Clean Fun,” made his TV character an avid woodworker, and uses woodworking and the idea of making things in his comedy routine. In radio commercials for his Portland appearance, he jokes that the last time he was in Maine he “taught a German Shepherd to use a Dewalt sliding compound miter saw.”

On another past trip to Maine, maybe a year and a half ago, he visited Lie-Nielsen to have a look around the tool works.

Offerman has been acting in theater, films and TV for more than 20 years. While working at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in the mid-’90s, as an actor and carpenter, he met Amy Poehler. The two teamed up in 2009 for “Parks and Recreation,” which provided Offerman with his breakout role and aired for seven seasons. Writers used a lot of Offerman’s own likes to create Swanson. Offerman loves woodworking and making anything by hand, and he appreciates good scotch. But he drinks less than Swanson, is not strongly anti-government and giggles more, he says.

Besides touring with his “Full Bush” show, Offerman has continued to acts in films, including the 2016 drama “The Founder” about Ray Kroc, who made McDonald’s the biggest restaurant chain in the world. Offerman played Dick McDonald, a New Hampshire native who created the first McDonald’s restaurant and its fast-food concept with his brother, before selling to Kroc. He’s set to host a new reality show with Pohler on NBC that’s not yet scheduled called “Making It.” It’s a competition where people from around the country make things, and Offerman and Poehler are the judges.

Would Offerman consider living in Maine full time, given his love of the woodworking scene here and his admiration for its craftsmen? If single, maybe. But he’s married to actress Megan Mullally, best-known for the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace,” and she’s definitely a city girl.

“My wife is very attached to L.A., and I’m very attached to my wife,” he said.

Nick Offerman

WHEN: 7 p.m. , Thursday, Nov. 2
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $50.50 to $70.50
INFO: porttix.com

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