The overwhelming majority of Nick Offerman’s fans know him from his incomparable performances as Ron Swanson in the sitcom Parks and Recreation. And rightly so, because Swanson is a genius character brought to life by Offerman’s even more amazing acting. Paddle Your Own Canoe feels like a tug of war battle between Offerman’s actual personality and his Ron Swanson persona.
Let’s face facts – Offerman probably never would have been a published author if it wasn’t for his breakout role in Parks and Rec. And Paddle Your Own Canoe is filled with Swanson-esque quotes about eating meat, drinking scotch and making sweet love to a lady. However, an even larger percentage of the book is Offerman’s examination of his struggles and successes as an actor. Because of his brilliant character acting, it is easy to lose sight that Offerman is not Ron Swanson 100% of the time. So it is a bit strange initially to hear Offerman discussing his extensive theater background and love of the stage as well as his prodigious use of recreational drugs other than the signature Swanson scotch.
All of these non-Swanson type parts of the book are just as interesting as when he is spouting Swansonisms. The problem, and it is a small one, is that the book often feels like Offerman wanted to write a humorous autobiography extolling the virtues of the stage and the acting method while the publishers merely wanted him to write a book in his Ron Swanson character’s voice. It’s like the publishing executives said, “Sure, we will give you a book deal and let you discuss how fantastic the art of stagecraft is, as long as you agree to mention scotch and facial hair and wood-working every chapter as well.” (Offerman has spent his adult life engaging in carpentry and wood-working to be fair.)
Overall, any fan of Ron Swanson should also enjoy Offerman’s background of himself. If anything it just makes Offerman’s character acting that much more impressive. Offerman does a good job of balancing the aspects of his most well-known role with his personal and professional stories and struggles.
– I highly recommend listening to the audio book version. Hearing Offerman do his signature Swanson giggle at his own jokes and letting the expletives fly freely is fantastic.
– Offerman praises Sam Elliot’s mustache, which raises my anticipation of Elliot’s reprisal of his role as Swanson’s antithesis on Parks and Rec.