The Masculine Mystique


In his new book, Parks and Recreation star (and now author) NICK OFFERMAN Offerman sheds light on what it means to be a man.


Nick Offerman has long been viewed as the epitome of all that is man. After all, it was his ample facial hair, affinity for meat and woodworking ways that inspired his burly Parks and Recreation character, Ron Swanson. Now, in his new book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living (Dutton Adult, $27), the 43-year-old comedian and actor takes readers behind the mustache to reveal his testosterone-laden secrets.

The book serves partly as a memoir, with Offerman detailing his early life on his family’s farm in Minooka, Ill., and his humble beginnings on the standup and improv scenes. But Paddle Your Own Canoe is just as much a guidebook for life, containing meaningful and humorous ­insights the funnyman has gleaned through the years. “Basically, this book boils down to how an average human … like myself, relying solely on warped individuality and a little elbow grease, can actually rise from a simple life of relative poverty to one of prosperity, measured in American dollars and Italian band saws, sure, but more importantly, laughter, wood shavings, and kisses,” he writes in the book’s introduction.

Readers will come away with an assurance that, underneath all the beefy bravado of his public persona, Offerman is the ultimate man’s man behind the scenes too. For instance, the actor, who now lives in Los Angeles, where he runs a working woodshop, names his father and uncles as his greatest role models because they taught him how to use tools, work hard and do a job right.

But perhaps what makes Offerman so widely­ beloved by men and women alike is that he’s not afraid to embrace his softer side. The proud owner­ of three poodles and a college transcript that boasts two semesters of ballet, Offerman even admits to loving to sew. “I find sewing to be very empowering,” he says. “I’d love to knit if I had time. Essentially, they’re just tying knots on a very small scale — sometimes it’s with a needle and thread, and sometimes it’s with a quarter-inch boat rope in my woodshop.”

In talking to Offerman, one learns that, perhaps above all else, a man’s man is humble. When asked what inspired him to write his book — which he dedicated to his wife, comedian Megan Mullally — Offerman answers: “I have had a very lucky run of great teachers in my life, and I have found myself with the opportunity to pass along some of the lessons I’ve learned from them to others — and make people laugh at the same time, if I can.”