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Nick Offerman has prepared a new song for his Canadian fans.
It is pretty specific. The Emmy-nominated actor will be performing it as the headliner of the Great Outdoors Comedy Festival on Friday, Aug. 25 at Prince’s Island Park. Offerman does not really consider himself a comedian, preferring the broader “humourist” label that also covers his work as a bestselling essayist and memoirist of books such as 2021’s Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside, which will come out in paperback on Oct. 3 and features Offerman musing about his love of the great outdoors with pals such as singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy and author George Saunders.
Still, over the years Offerman has become known for his erudite stand-up routines, particularly since the release of his 2014 Netflix special American Ham. So fans expect him to pepper his act with original compositions such as The Rainbow Song, a simultaneously tender and raunchy ode to his wife Megan Mullally that he wrote for her 50th birthday, and I’m Not Ron Swanson, a song meant to comically distance the actor from the mustachioed libertarian he famously played on the sitcom Parks and Recreation.
“I have a special song just for this show called Canadian Man, which is a paean to the undeniable superiority of Canadian men over men of all other nationalities,” says Offerman, in a Zoom interview from Los Angeles. “I do a lot of homework. Just learning all the things you can do in a Canadian Tire, for example, could be a song in and of itself. I just toured a bunch in England and because they have a new king, I understand, and that’s somewhat related to your nation’s government, I will also do my new song asking the King to knight me because I understand celebrities can be knighted just by the good graces of being known to the public. I also have a good chunk of the show that could simply be called ‘The Gordon Lightfoot Section.’”
Offerman has never been shy about proclaiming his love for Canada and Calgary in particular. He first worked in the city more than 20 years ago as part of the little-seen satire Speaking of Sex, which co-starred Bill Murray, Jay Mohr, James Spader and Offerman’s future wife Mullally. The two had just starred in a play together and begun a relationship “in a hot and heavy way that was not advisable,” he says. “When you do a play, this happens a lot, where you start hooking up with a cast member and you call it a showmance … it’s like hooking up on Love Island or something.”
When the play’s run finished, Mullally announced she was going to shoot a film in Calgary and figured it would allow the two to “take a breath” and see if the relationship had legs. As fate would have it, Offerman stepped in at the last minute to replace actor Ted Levine for a role in the same film. The couple fell deeper in love in the months they spent filming in the province. They married in 2003.
“She couldn’t get rid of me,” he says.
Offerman returned to Calgary in 2014 to play the conspiracy-minded, small-town lawyer Karl Weathers in the second season of Fargo. In 2021, he was in High River shooting one of the most talked-about episodes of TV in recent years, playing a survivalist who falls in love with a stranger (played by Murray Bartlett) who seeks refuge from a zombie apocalypse in HBO’s The Last of Us. The standalone episode, which chronicles the 25-year romance between the two, earned Emmy nominations for both actors.
“I’ll be talking about my work on The Last of Us and the public response to it,” he says. “I talk about that and I talk about homophobic hate that I received online because The Last of Us has some same-sex storylines. I wrote a song about it called I Thought I Was A Man But Was Wrong.”
The timing of this interview is somewhat unfortunate. Offerman’s work on the aforementioned television shows — not to mention others such as Devs and The Resort — makes him one of the most recognizable faces of prestige TV. But he can’t talk about his career in TV and film at great length. On the day of this interview with Postmedia, Offerman was on his way to the picket lines outside of Universal Studios in Hollywood as part of the SAG-AFTRA strike. As a striking member of the actor’s union, Offerman is forbidden from promoting the film and TV projects he has worked on. When asked about the strike, Offerman makes his position clear with an off-the-cuff comment that sounds anything but off-the-cuff.
“To your gentle readers,” he says. “Please enjoy anything I might have said about my previous acting work while understanding that we are standing in solidarity, the members of SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America, the WGA, against the (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) who are greedily hoarding the earnings of the artworks that we make and they distribute. It’s important to me that I don’t say anything promoting their profits until they agree to meet the very fair and equitable requests that we are making in this strike.”
Offerman says he is very happy to be returning to Alberta, saying, “I would move to Calgary in a heartbeat. It has everything.”
He says his performance in the city on Friday will cover a wide variety of subjects, including his “miraculous marriage of 20 years.” He plans to perform a “very quiet folk song about my relationship with Jesus” and a “quiet rock ballad about my relationship with Siri.”
“I’ll leave it to the audience to decide which has more devotion in it,” he says.”Other than that, I’m going to bring my full hedonist, my full Dionysian, Offerman to this outdoor comedy festival. Shirts may come off. Gyrations will abound. If there ends up being a plague of locusts, that’s out of my hands.”
Nick Offerman will perform at the Great Outdoors Comedy Festival, which will also feature Sam Morril and Dan Soder, on Aug. 25 at Prince’s Island Park. Visit GreatOutdoorsComedyFestival.com.