Nick Offerman

Nick Offerman Biography

Author, Comedian, Actor (1970–)
Nick Offerman is best known for playing Ron Swanson in the popular sitcom, Parks and Recreation.


Born in Joliet, Illinois, on June 26, 1970, Nick Offerman studied acting in college before moving to Chicago, where he founded an acting company and made ends meet working as a carpenter. His big break came when he landed the role of Ron Swanson on the sitcom Parks and Recreation, which he starred in from 2009 to 2015. Offerman has subsequently had roles in several movies and published two books. 

Early Life

Comedian and writer, Nick Offerman was born in Joliet, Illinois, on June 26, 1970. He is the second of four children, whose parents, Cathy, a nurse, and Rick, a junior high school social studies teacher, provided a comfortable, middle class upbringing.

His childhood was greatly influenced by his grandfather, Ray Offerman, a local mayor and natural funny man, whom Offerman has credited as being his greatest comedic influence. Much of his free time was spent on his grandfather’s farm, where he learned to work the land and use tools.

In high school, Offerman embraced his outsider status and gravitated toward a number of different interests, from playing saxophone to sports to acting. He graduated in 1989, and then enrolled at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to study acting. It was there that he immersed himself in the school’s acting scene and used his carpentry skills to build props for local theater houses.

Acting Career

Upon earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1993, Offerman moved to Chicago with several friends, where he eventually founded Defiant Theatre, an experimental acting company. Around meager paying acting gigs in various plays he paid his bills doing scenic carpentry and roofing. 

In 1996, Offerman caught his first, small break when he landed a minor role in the 1996 action movie, Chain Reaction, starring Keanu Reeves and Morgan Freeman. His two scenes were later cut, but the pay was substantially more than anything he had received swinging hammer and it also allowed him to earn his Screen Actors Guild card.

Not long after, he landed another small role in the indie film, Going All the Way, starring Ben Affleck. When shooting wrapped up, the film’s director saw enough talent in Offerman to successfully push him to move to Hollywood to launch his career.

Financial struggles still plagued Offerman in L.A., however, and he continued to work as a carpenter, building cabins and decks to keep food on the table. Later, he moved on to making fine furniture. But higher profile acting gigs did come his way in the form of bit spots on TV shows like ER, 24, Gilmore Girls, and The West Wing, among others. 

Parks and Recreation

In 2004, Offerman auditioned for the role of Michael Scott for the American version of the hit British comedy, The Office. The role ended up going to Steve Carell, but one of the show’s producers, Michael Schur, was so impressed by Offerman’s talent, he scribbled his name down and kept it by his computer.

When Schur had the chance to launch his own show, Parks and Recreation, several years later, he still had Offerman’s name with him and offered the actor a part on the show.

On the sitcom, which starred Amy Poehler, Offerman portrayed Ron Swanson, a meat-and-whiskey loving libertarian who directs the parks and recreation department of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. As the show's popularity deepened during its seven-year run, from 2009 to 2015, so did Offerman’s celebrity. 

In 2011 he was honored with a Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy.

Not surprisingly, success yielded more opportunities for Offerman. He's appeared in the Adult Swim series, Children’s Hospital, had a guest stint on The Simpsons, and been a semi regular in the animated series, Bob's Burgers. He also had a recurring role in the hit series, Fargo.

Film Work 

In addition to his television work, Offerman has appeared in a number of films. The lineup ranges from Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005) and Sin City (2005) to The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) and 21 Jump Street (2012). In addition, Offerman acted in and produced the 2012 movie, Somebody Up There Likes Me. He also provided the voice for the character, Metalbeard, in the 2014 box office smash, The Lego Movie, and and Gavin in the 2016 animated film, Ice Age: Collision Course.


In 2013 Offerman published the semi-autobiographical, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living. A sequel, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers was released in 2015.

Both books gave message to what many fans, already knew: Offerman hadn't hit it big because he was like everyone else in Hollywood, but had done so because he's different. 

“Here is a polar bear of a man, not the best-looking guy by any means, living smack-dab in the most superficial city on earth—but by being himself, he succeeds,” wrote Chicago Magazine, in a 2013 profile. “There’s something commanding yet comforting about his presence, as though you’re watching the goofy uncle, the one with the ridiculous giggle who cracks up the whole family at backyard barbecues, finally make it big.”

Personal Life

Despite his show business success, Offerman continues to run and manage a woodworking shop, which specializes in fine furniture and canoes, out of his home in L.A.

He lives there with his wife, actress and comedian, Megan Mullally. The couple has been married since 2003.

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