OFFERMAN: Casting my wife, who is a comedy juggernaut, allowed us to go to disgusting places of intimacy I wouldn’t dare approach with any other actor, out of sheer politeness. When we got the script for that episode, Megan took me to a soft, grassy area in our yard, and we rehearsed disgusting kissing and groping techniques to see how far we could comfortably go, to find our safe zone. I have lots of good friends I love making comedy with, but if one of them had been cast, I couldn’t have licked all over her face or rammed my tongue down her throat the way I could with my wife because she’s my legal property.
PLAYBOY: Obviously. Last season, in the episode “Ron and Tammy, Part 2,” there’s a scene in which you and Amy Poehler walk into Megan’s office and find her bent over, showing her backside and a thong. After everyone gets a good look, she stands up and tells you she was just checking for scoliosis. Then it gets hotter as Megan is intimate with a large, stiff piece of beef jerky. Is she acting or bringing it from home?
OFFERMAN: It’s a fine line. She’s certainly using the wiles she’s developed over her 53 years. Fortunately, we have a deep and abiding love, so she never has to resort to checking herself for scoliosis to take me there. The beef jerky? Well, ever since watching her on Will & Grace I’ve been astonished at how Megan can get away with the most filthy gestures and insinuations on network television. Even Mother Teresa would know it was a penis slapping her in the face. I just have to shake my head in wonder.
PLAYBOY: Your initials are N.O. Do you ever think you’d have been better served if they were Y.E.S.?
OFFERMAN: In college, the whole theater department would audition for the semester’s plays at once. They’d post the cast lists, and you had to initial that you accepted your role. The department was run by a dignified British ex–TV star named David Knight and his wife, Wendy McClure Knight, an ex–West End musical dancer and theater performer. It was so great to have these regal theater professors in the middle of Illinois. One day Wendy called me into her office, where she was always enjoying a cup of tea, and said, “We’ve posted the cast list for Three Sisters. You were given the role of the 92-year-old doorman, Ferapont, who has three lines, and you have written ‘No.’ It’s actually not a bad role. Would you care to explain?” I said, “Wendy…my initials are N.O.” She was very embarrassed. That’s the only time it’s gotten me in trouble.
PLAYBOY: Would it bother you to learn that on a website of cats that look like Ron Swanson some of them are female?
OFFERMAN: My wife insists I have a powerful and beautiful lady inside me. My inner lady is very coquettish. She makes a great pan of biscuits. And she’s a terror in the garden.
PLAYBOY: Megan is 12 years older than you. Describe the charms of the mature woman.
OFFERMAN: Megan has had and continues to have a wonderfully successful career in the viciously difficult field of beautiful women in Hollywood. I’ve always been glad that I’m not a good-looking young woman in this town. Without kissing any ass, I said to her when we first became acquainted, “You, to me, are like a playboy Centerfold. You are a fucking knockout.” She’s a beautiful, stacked lady. So, you know, it’s easy to stomach the age difference if your wife is insanely gorgeous. There’s never any issue. I don’t have a tough meal to get down. I don’t think, Wow, you’re really starting to look like an old shoe.
PLAYBOY: How tough was it to quit smoking?
OFFERMAN: Tough. I was a magnificent smoker—two packs a day of Reds. I loved it. But I’ve had to learn to pay attention to my hedonistic tendencies. I started to quit when I was 31 or 32, but I was sort of an idiot about it. Megan and I were going on a romantic trip to Paris. I said, “Perfect. I’ll quit smoking now. Let’s go to the airport. I’m done!” We landed at Charles de Gaulle, and everyone there was smoking. I don’t think I left the building before I had a pack of Gauloises in my pocket. A second attempt was during a trip to New Orleans. I did a film called Lush with Campbell Scott, and I thought, Great, I’ve got this time to myself. I’ll quit smoking…on my movie…in New Orleans…during Jazz Fest. I went on the patch, but by the time I beat it, I was a pack a day again. Now Daddy’s medicine is nicotine candy.
PLAYBOY: After the Emmy nominations last fall, much of the media whined that you had been snubbed. We agree you should have been nominated, but is there really such a thing as an Emmy snub?
OFFERMAN: No. That said, my wife and I believe being snubbed is amazing. I’ve gotten so much more positive press from it than if I was dude number six. My take on art trophies is that they’re set up as though we’ve all run a footrace. They’re like, “And the winner, by a nose, is.…” Jon Hamm’s acting is just that tiny bit more quality thisyear than Hugh Laurie’s—you know? It’s easy to dismiss. When my mom called me, outraged that I’d been “snubbed,” I said, “Listen, Mom, you’re using some foul language. I’m gonna allow it today, but I’ll just remind you that if down the road I ever do get nominated by these folks, somebody else’s mom is gonna be cussing on the phone. So don’t worry about it.”
PLAYBOY: Maybe you should take extraordinary measures. Tell us about Ron Swanson’s sex tape.
OFFERMAN: I think it would be in a sort of shadow-puppet genre, captured inadvertently by a neighbor maybe trying to make a video for America’s Funniest Home Videos and filming some shadows in flagrante delicto coming from Ron’s shop, through a tarp.
PLAYBOY: We usually ask if you wear boxers or briefs, but this time let’s add thong and loincloth.
OFFERMAN: I have a dream that I’ll become a kilt guy at some point. I’ve tested the waters with Megan. Somebody sent us an advertisement for a badass dude kilt, the kind you could wear to frame houses. That put me over the edge. I was like, “Honey, I could wear this kilt.” My wife has incredible taste.
She is amazing at designing our house and both her wardrobe and my own. She is an absolute tastemaker, while I have taste in my mouth and little else. All my choices are practical ones. These days, realistically, I do boxers or boxer briefs, if they’re cotton boxers with the button fly. I kind of swing between those two, literally. Ron Swanson probably has three pairs of Army surplus boxer shorts. They’re on a rotation. He launders them only in salt.
PLAYBOY: You come from a grizzled, salt-of-the-earth farm family. Was it tough to come out as an actor?
OFFERMAN: My family is so nice, and their list of vocations—schoolteacher, paramedic, librarian, repeat ad nauseam, and a bunch of farmers—shows how solid they are. Any layman would have a difficult time understanding what could be hard about a job like acting and what makes 12-hour days exhausting. I remember at one point, to sort of break away from my conservative family upbringing, I was nude in a play. That’s right. I had to show my genitals to an audience, get tattoos and prove to myself that I was a cutting-edge artist—he said with a laugh. But it played its part. Acting should be approached fearlessly.
Just don’t ask me to sing.
PLAYBOY: What’s more difficult, the acting or the rejection?
OFFERMAN: The rejection. I heard this Robin Williams quote years ago: “For an actor, getting a job is your job. When you get a job, that’s your vacation.” I’m kind of mad that Robin Williams gets that quote because I don’t think he had much of a job then. He’s been working pretty steadily.