Review: Nick Offerman: American Ham (Sundance 2014)
PLOT:PARKS & RECREATION star Nick Offerman serves up “10 tips for a prosperous life” in this one-man-show recorded at New York’s Town Hall theater.
REVIEW:Calling AMERICAN HAM a stand-up comedy concert film would be inaccurate as while he’s a funny guy, Offerman is not a stand-up comedian. He doesn’t tell jokes- that’s not his thing, nor is it part of his appeal. The opening intro, which calls Offerman a “humorist”, nails it, as that’s exactly what he is. He’s a throw-back to folksy, down-home, straight-talking humorists like Will Rogers, albeit given a distinctly edgy, 21st century bent.
The show begins with Offerman walking out onto the stage, bare-chested in all his Ron Swanson-glory, before donning an American flag button-up shirt, where he proceeds to give the audience his ten essential tips for leading a prosperous life. They range from simply “eat red meat” to lengthier diatribes about why you should “carry a hanky”, “get a hobby” or “engage in romantic love.” It’s a lot like his recent book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe” (one of the tips), albeit done in a folksy, conversational style where Offerman uses the tips to go off on a variety of tangents, all of which are funny, and many of which are surprisingly thoughtful.
If you watch Offerman on PARKS & RECREATION, you’ll be surprised at how thoughtful and warm a guy he comes across as. While he plays up him own Ron Swanson-image (many of the character’s defining traits seems to have been based on him), he’s a sweeter guy than Ron. One thing is for sure- the man adores his wife (Megan Mullally) and many of the tips relate to his life with her and how he keeps their marriage going. A whole lot of these tips seem to involve graphic depictions of their sex life, but again- we can all learn a lot from such a model of manhood. Here and there, he breaks out into song, singing in a kind of broken, country-esque falsetto that’s endearing, with the songs being deliberately corny.
While most of the material is fairly light, Offerman does spend a lot of time weighing in on religion, with a relationship with Christ being a must…as long as it gets you laid. If not, well, make up your own mind. Offerman, for all his old-fashioned, ultra-masculine appeal, is a super enlightened guy, preferring to base his morality on what he calls “the holy texts of J.R.R Tolkien and BATTLESTAR” GALACTICA- both old and new”, which him decrying a lack of open-mindedness among people in general. To Offerman, everyone should have a voice, unless- of course- you’re a vegetarian (tongue-in-cheek).
While basically just ninety minutes of Offerman going off on a variety of topic, AMERICAN HAM is always engaging, thanks to Offerman’s considerable appeal, and a fresh visual style courtesy of director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who worked with him on THE KINGS OF SUMMER. Here and there they cut away to an interstitial featuring Offerman and Mullally, giving the film a bit of a visual break, although the shooting of his material on-stage is always dynamic in the way the best concert films- like EDDIE MURPHY: RAW and RICHARD PRYOR: LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP- are.
Of course, ninety minutes of Offerman speaking his mind may be more appealing to some than others, but if you like what he does on PARKS & RECREATION, this is a given. He’s a likable, funny guy, and at times, he even comes across as wise. People could do worse than to take some of his common-sense tips to heart.