Nick Offerman: American Ham: Sundance Review
Nick Offerman offers ten lessons for leading a more Offerman-ish life in his stand-up film.
PARK CITY — A concert film exposing both the endearing sides of the man behind Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson (woodworking, homemade valentines) and those we might just as happily not know about (like his fondness for describing semen), Jordan Vogt-Roberts's Nick Offerman: American Ham bills itself as "Ten Tips for a Prosperous Life." Given how many of these tips have something to do with oral sex, it's more like three tips and change -- which is okay for those who feel the man can do no wrong, but is pretty lightweight for those of us who've simply come to rely on him to make us laugh. A heavily bleeped slot on Comedy Central seems the most appropriate venue, though Nick Offerman's popularity might bump the film up to a pay cable berth.
Walking onstage at New York City's Town Hall, Offerman proudly bares his torso before donning a stars-and-stripes button-up. It's a body built by barbecue and bacon, untouched by hair-removal techniques, which is exactly what one expects. Since we already know that's what he looks like under his shirt, does he really need to show us?
Similarly, most fans would probably be happy to assume that Offerman has a highly enjoyable sex life with actress Megan Mullally, given how long they've been married and how adoring they are of each other in the press. But Offerman really needs us to know, making frequent and graphic reference to what he does with the woman who has legally been his property (he makes that line sound loving) for many years. Granted, plenty of comedians talk graphically about sex, but they're rarely talking about partners we know. If Offerman's our ornery-but-cool uncle, or big brother, or son we weren't manly enough to raise, it eventually feels like quite a bit too much information for him to tell us exactly what he puts where during couplings with Aunt Megan.
Maybe the actor is simply drunk on the freedom of escaping the intensely secretive, no-hugging-or-sharing persona of Ron Swanson. He's got to let it all hang out, to nail down the ways in which he is not his beloved character. Yet most of these life lessons would sound perfectly natural coming from Swanson -- they'd just be more pithy. Here, Offerman can start off talking about Tip #2: Say Please and Thank You, and soon be lambasting those "dicks" who wrote Leviticus, the Biblical justification for stoning gay men and treating menstruating women like lepers. The segues are anything but smooth.
Rambling or on point, Offerman is often very funny, and American Ham is most enjoyable when he's using that stern, authoritative voice to remind us of things we already believe: vanity is stupid; Twitter's a waste of time; it's healthy to get outdoors and to learn a craft or two.
One of Offerman's chosen hobbies is acoustic guitar, evidently, and about half of his ten commandments come with jokey little songs that will never lead anyone to suggest he make an all-music comedy record. Maybe if Offerman puts together another ten life tips sometime, one could be Stick with Your Strengths.
Production Company: Six Two and Even
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenwriter: Nick Offerman
Producer: Julien Lemaitre
Executive producers: Nick Offerman, Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Directors of photography: Matthew Garrett, Ross Riege
Music: Ryan Miller
Editor: Josh Schaeffer, Alex Gorosh
No rating, 77 minutes