Nick Offerman on Getting Punched in the Face and New Definition of Manliness
The actor talks whiskey, fathers, and the art of being a modern day man.
Nick Offerman has some pretty great advice for getting punched in the face.
"I can take one, and I have. I’ve learned it can be just as effective to fake it," the actor tells MensHealth.com. "I think that translates to a good approach to life in general. If you can fake a punch to the face, your life will be longer and happier than if you go around losing your teeth."
He's talking about his time spent at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, back when he wasn't that great an actor, but he'd work his way into five-line roles by choreographing fight scenes and building sets with his own two hands. But Nick Offerman — immaculately bearded and unfailingly polite, with a charming tendency to say "do not" when he could say "don't" — has a habit of weaving simple questions into invaluable life lessons. The 47-year-old could read his shopping list and sound like a wise old age spinning yarns around a campfire.
Which isn't exactly where we met him, in the offices of alcohol and beer producer Diageo, but there were two glasses of Lagavulin whisky between us, which Offerman lovingly says is like "drinking a campfire." We're here to discuss the actor's Scotch-worshipping shorts series "My Tales of Whisky" — co-created by Parks and Recreation masterminds Dean Holland and Morgan Sackett — the latest of which co-stars Offerman's father, Ric.
"I come from a tradition of great dads," the actor tells us. His dad grew up in an Illinois farm community; his grandfather was mayor of the town. It's the simple, dirt-under-your-fingernails lifestyle that shaped the man Offerman is today. "My father's advice was very good," he says. "It was quite simple. It was 'work hard' and 'be honest' and 'have good manners.' It took me some years of bristling against his advice thanks to human nature."
"Once I left his house and went to college and real life came crashing down, I called him immediately and said, 'Sorry I’ve been such a dick the last few years, and thank you so much for your advice.' I was in tears because it was suddenly so profoundly effective, these lessons he had given me were applicable to any walk of life and they still serve me to this day."
But things have changed with the rise of social media and of the #MeToo movement. Raising a son has changed, as has the very idea of masculinity.
It's a change Offerman — the literal definition of a man's man — is all too aware of.
"I often get accused of being manly and I kind of bridle at that accusation," he tells us. "Because I know that it carries with it an old-fashioned sensibility that to me borders on or includes a touch of misogyny. Or machismo to the point of aggressiveness or bullying. I would refute all those things."
The Parks and Recreation star instead has a different definition of manliness, one that "includes characteristics that I feel like all people of character can share regardless of their sex."
"I have female relatives that can drink me under the table and can probably beat me in a fist fight," Offerman says. "So I equate manliness much more with character and standing up for your principles."
What advice would Offerman offer to a young man in 2018? "It’s sort of a combination of John Wayne and Pete Seeger," he says. "A hardness will serve you well but it has to go hand-in-hand with a softness."
"That’s the new regime. We’re coming to understand that the manliest thing you can do is have the guts to show your vulnerability, to show your emotions, to be able to cry at something worth crying at and not be called a sissy by your peers."
With that, Offerman — who we won't call "manly," but will certainly call a busy man — has to go. We throw out a final question, a simple one: Does he have any whiskey drinking advice?
And Offerman, of course, of course, turns the simple into the profound. He can't help it. He doesn't look at us, he looks into the amber liquid in the glass, grinning.
"My advice is to craft your life in such a way that your whiskey drinking can be for enjoyment," he says. "Which means that it’s delicious and in moderation, rather than for escapism or to obliterate your consciousness."
He takes one more sip. "The more you can taste the goodness of your whiskey, I think that bespeaks the more care you’re taking with how you live every day."