When you think of Nick Offerman, you may first think of him as an actor, writer, comedian, voice-over artist or carpenter; you may connect him with a character he developed, like Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson or Fargo’s Karl Weathers. What you are not particularly likely to define him as is a philosopher. But if you see Full Bush, his comedy tour stopping Nov. 5 at the Benedum Center, that may change.
The 90-minute solo performance is split between spoken standup and original “country style” songs, in which “I’ll wax philosophical about this life’s philosophy of mine, Full Bush,” Offerman says in a phone interview. The tenets of this belief system include maintaining an aware presence in daily life and interactions with others, rather than succumbing to the myriad distractions contemporary technology and priorities supply. It emphasizes finding where we connect instead of focusing on where we diverge. “There’s been a lot of wasted energy on anger these days, but we’re still going to be here. We’re still going to be neighbors,” says Offerman. “I give encouragement to hug each other.” Heady and heavy as all of this may sound, it’s presented with simplicity, warmth and humor, cloaked so kindly in entertainment that we might become enlightened without even realizing it.
In the musical segments, Offerman is his own accompanist. Mostly he plays guitar, but for one song he plays a ukulele that he fashioned himself. Offerman fans know that his creativity includes a passion for craftsmanship, recently translated to the Offerman Woodshop. This Los Angeles-based shop produces fine wood pieces ranging from boxes to boats, coffee tables to moustache combs, and is another expression of the Full Bush philosophy of a considered and deliberate life that favors the hand-made over the mass-produced. “Anything can be ordered with the click of a button,” Offerman says. “What’s meaningful is when you make something for someone — food, woodworking, knitting them a scarf.”
What’s also meaningful is sharing yourself through your work, and there’s no better way than through live performance. Offerman began his career on the stages of Chicago; returning to the communication that exists between audience and artist in the same room is still the pinnacle of creative expression for him. Not only is he going full bush, he’s coming full circle.