Nick Offerman took the stage on Saturday night, sans shirt, in front of a sold-out crowd of over 3,000 students and their family members for an evening of stand-up comedy.
As he came onstage, he praised Binghamton University’s “noble emerald and white,” and complimented Baxter for winning Mascot Madness last year, beating out Cornell’s “Pooh Bear” and Cortland’s “Puff.”
Afterward, Offerman put on his shirt, explaining that he was allowed to display “brief nudity” as part of the guidelines he was asked to follow for Family Weekend.
Offerman performed his “Full Bush” routine, which partly refers to his “patch of pelt, covering the lower 16 inches of torso,” and partly refers to his lifestyle of knowing how to use tools to sustain yourself.
“We’re becoming like those baby-like adults in ‘Wall-E,’ who are fed milkshakes of everything,” Offerman said.
Offerman’s gruff, woodsy tone on stage — and his outfit, an orange flannel shirt with blue jeans — recalled Ron Swanson, his famous character on “Parks and Recreation,” a thoroughly American government bureaucrat who believes in neither government nor skim milk and, like his real-life counterpart, is a woodworker. Megan Mullally, his wife, recurs on the show as his ex-wife. She was the subject of his first song, “The Rainbow Song,” a comedic, romantic gesture to his wife. It’s part of what he called a woodworking-themed Johnny Cash cover album. Later in the show, he played the first ukelele he made, a mahogany “piece of shit.”
Between his surreal, off-kilter songs, Offerman gave love advice and talked about Wendell Berry — an agrarian writer who works on a farm in Kentucky — who he says inspires the humor and heart of his characters. He also gave students advice, drawing from his experience of growing up in rural Illinois.
“When I went to college, I realized that I had a leg up on everyone else because I could get up in the morning and get stuff done,” Offerman said.
Offerman said that he met students from the suburbs who said, “My mom doesn’t make me get up.” Meanwhile, “I already plowed two rows, motherfucker.”
Offerman’s philosophy of life is to “paddle your own canoe” (also the title of his book), which means to be self-sufficient. Before he could make a living as an actor, Offerman used his tools to build things, and continues to do so in his woodworking shop.
One of Offerman’s songs was a retort to Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” a parody taken from “American Ham,” his previous routine. He’s been feuding with Underwood for years, he said, and the song ruined what was his favorite genre of music, “pop-country Christian.”
“I have nothing against prayer and faith,” Offerman said. “I think they’re both wonderful institutions. Maybe say a prayer when you turn into a fucking skid.”
Two students, Jordan Siegel, president of Bing Stand Up and a senior majoring in mathematics, and Jeremy Kaplowitz, the group’s vice president and a senior majoring in economics, opened the show with their own stand-up routines. Stephanie Zagreda, vice president for programming of the Student Association and a senior majoring in English, said that, unlike Demetri Martin and Lewis Black, who performed for the last two Family Weekends, Offerman wasn’t touring with anyone else – he drove himself from New York City to Binghamton. Zagreda said she could not disclose the cost of booking Offerman because of contract confidentiality.
Zagreda said the SA Programming Board had trouble finding another comedian whose style would work well with Offerman’s. A few groups approached her about opening for him, and she ultimately decided to showcase student talent with Bing Stand Up in what turned out to be the SAPB’s first sold-out non-concert show in the Events Center.
“They did very well for what the audience was, and for how big it was,” Zagreda said. “I’m sure they were shaking in their boots a little bit, with the size of their audience.”
Siegel opened the show sporting a Reptar sweater and a mix of jokes from his stand-up routines. His performance was followed by Kaplowitz.
“It was probably the most people I’ll ever do standup in front of, ever,” Kaplowitz said. “It was crazy.”
Offerman closed his performance with a guitar rendition of Mouse Rat’s “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” a farewell to Li’l Sebastian and a welcome surprise to fans of “Parks and Recreation.” Some of the crowd sang along.
“Please work hard, and don’t do too many drugs,” Offerman said. “Get off your caboose, paddle your own canoe.” And then he walked off the stage.
Assistant Release Editor Odeya Pinkus contributed to this report.