Nick Offerman to chat with Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders about his new book


Did you know you were going to write about these three trips – hiking with Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders, visiting the Rebanks farm in England, and embarking on an Airstream tour with your wife – before following them?

No, I didn’t. I just had the general notion of the book – it originally came from my love of Wendell Berry’s writings and other agrarian and environmental thoughts. When I found out that I could tour as a comedian and then write books and have a bit of readership, the question always remained, what do I want to convey to my readers? And so I had this idea that I had been awakened to our relationship, our imperfect relationship, with Mother Nature. And I hope I can get a few other people around to get their heads out of their video games and [instead look at] sycamore leaves in the yard.

A lot of people know you first as an actor. But I’m curious, which bug stung you first: play or write?

I came to the reading first. I grew up in a cultural vacuum: a small town in Illinois in the ’70s and’ 80s. I had no culture channels other than the Three Channels and Popular Radio. My cousin and I desperately wanted to be breakdancers in the mid 80’s. We had to stay up really late on Saturday nights listening to a Chicago radio station to listen to hip-hop, Grandmaster Flash and all that. My aunt, who was a librarian, gave me “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and Madeleine L’Engle and so on, and it was definitely the source of my imagination and my sense of creativity and storytelling. But when I went to college and was trying to figure out the trajectory of my adult life, I learned that what I want to do is take those grimaces that I had practiced in class, and people will pay me to do them on a stage. And so that’s always been my thing. And learning to write books was a really nice surprise.

You are well known as Ron Swanson, and the character shares many of your passions, from woodworking to camping. How much did the creators of the show take out of your own life to create it?

While researching the idea for the show, they met a local official in Los Angeles, a libertarian woman who wanted to bring down the government from within. So it was the seed of the character. And when I auditioned to play Ron, that’s what he was talking about: capitalism versus government. Mike Schur and I agreed that Ron would have a big, beefy mustache. And as brilliant comedy writers always do, they looked at the toolkit I brought to work. If you have the chance to develop a character over 125 episodes, the smart writers will then use these tools in a way that audiences will suspect it was your idea from the start.

Nick Offerman’s new book is “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play”handout

It’s interesting because you don’t share his politics. Your admiration for some of FDR’s New Deal products, like WPA and CCC, is reflected in the book. Has your own politics been shaped by your readings on agrarian ethics and the natural world?

When I step back and try to squint my eyes through my carpenter glasses, I see corporate finance as a huge source of power and a major problem. I have read a lot of Theodore Roosevelt’s writings and he [essentially] Said 120 years ago, if we ever let companies put their money into politics, we’re screwed. I have a chorus in the book where I loosely detail the ways we go south in terms of our relationship with nature, and the reason each time is money. When I look at our two-party system, both sides are lousy with flaws that are fueled by it. I often quote Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, [who] are the two most vocal politicians claiming that all of these politicians are taken by business. For example, how can we expect them to make the right decision when it comes to fossil fuels when they are all paid for by fossil fuel companies? I think it’s worth considering, folks.

What is the solution ?

I think, just like many, many things that seemed impossible in our lifetime – same-sex marriage, incredible advances for the rights of people of color and women and LGBTQ people, legalization of marijuana – I think our processing of our natural resources is heading that way too. I think the same way we say now, “Can you believe we used to smoke in restaurants?” Once we realize that we have to let the oil companies stop managing our relationship with Mother Nature, someday we’ll say, “Can you believe everyone had an SUV?” “

What does going out into the wild do for you and why should we all do it more often?

Two nights ago I finished a long day of filming and I was tired. I usually try to run four or five miles a day, but I said, “Maybe I’ll just lift my feet instead. And then I said, “No, you know what? I know how it works. And I put on my things and run out and in a minute my body felt so good to be outside. There is just something about the rhythm, the simplicity of going into the elements. It doesn’t require any distraction. And pretty soon I got to the top of the hill and the most beautiful blazing sunset in a cloudy sky almost made me cry. And I thought I had just spent the most beautiful part of my day just walking around on top of that hill. Wendell Berry and Rebecca Solnit have spoken very eloquently about the value of walking and the pace of walking; when we speed up, which capitalism and consumerism are telling us to do, then we are missing out on everything nature offers us because we are trying to go to the mall to grab the last pair of Air Jordans. If you slow down and go out and walk you might find that you don’t need to buy anything.

Visit to register for this event online. Tickets cost $ 28 and include a copy of the book to pick up at the store; a $ 37 ticket includes sending the book.

The interview has been edited and condensed.

Kate Tuttle, writer and freelance critic, can be contacted at [email protected]

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