Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally have played two of the most memorable sitcom characters ever —
Offerman brings “American Ham” to the Wilbur Theatre for three shows, two on Saturday, and one on Monday, with Nancy and Beth as an opening act. (Mullally will also perform two shows of her own on Aug. 28 and 29 at the Art House in Provincetown.) We got the couple on the phone earlier this week
Q. Nick, what does “American Ham” mean?
OFFERMAN: Well, when I was first invited to start speaking to audiences I immediately thought, “God, I don’t know if you understand, what a mugging, capering fool I am.” And so to give the audience a bit of a hint I called the show “American Ham.” At the same time I hope it’s a serving of steaming, succulent meat that fills the audience’s spiritual bellies and gives them the fuel they need to sally forth.
Q. Megan, does he talk this way all the time?
MULLALLY: No he doesn’t [laughs].
OFFERMAN: Thank God.
‘I never would’ve had the guts to sing in front of an audience without [Megan’s] coaching and sort of prodding me, well, beating me, really, to practice. . .’
MULLALLY: It’s interesting to me when I read interviews because I’m like “Gosh, that’s pretty good.” Ever since he’s started doing interviews he’s developed this very literary persona which I think is very enjoyable.
Q. Nick, I saw you host the Television Critics Association awards and you did a great job, playing and singing, so I’m curious if music is part of “American Ham.”
OFFERMAN: I think you’ve just exposed the amount you must have had to drink that evening and I applaud you [laughs]. I’m such a big fan of Megan’s who has such an incredible, beautiful voice. I’m really her pupil. I never would’ve had the guts to sing in front of an audience without her coaching and sort of prodding me, well, beating me, really, to practice and strengthen my voice, flogging me into a tearful triumph where I was finally able to break into song in front of an audience. [Mullally laughs.] You’ll find as you see “American Ham” my musicianship, or lack thereof, is somewhat masked by the humor in my songs. No one ever asks me to sing because it sounds pretty like they do Megan.
MULLALLY: To put the beginning of that answer into layman’s terms, when he first started playing the guitar, I would hear him in there with this teeny whispery voice coming out. And I would say, “Look when you’re all alone, in the shop, or even in your car or whatever, you know, sing out Louise!” There’s muscles in there so you have to sing at a certain volume to strengthen them and so he did that and now he sings great.
Q. Do you all get the sense of investment that some fans seems to have in your marriage, of people enjoying you as a public couple and rooting for you?
MULLALLY: I don’t know that we actively walk around feeling it, but I think it’s starting to sink in, right? [Laughs.] People do seem very thrilled or comforted by our relationship or something.
Q. Is there a sense of pressure that comes with that? Like, if you were to be seen arguing about melons in the supermarket everyone would be afraid that it was over?
OFFERMAN: Well, first of all it’s all, it’s a ridiculous question. We’re in complete agreement on all melon-related matters. Honeydew can suck it and everything else is delicious.
MULLALLY: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
OFFERMAN: I think that we’re two of the many lucky people in this world who managed to find the right person and are in a relationship that is lasting and healthy. We just happen to be more in the public eye because we’re both on TV and in film. And so I think people, just in a sort of neighborly familial way, are like, “Thumbs up, I applaud you guys for not spending your time down at the strip club eating bath salts with the rest of the Hollywood spouses.”
Q. Because that is what is happening in Hollywood?
OFFERMAN: You should see the Evite.
MULLALLY: I think also there’s something about the fact that we both work in comedy. Neither one of us has played Hitler in a TV movie. We’re known for more pleasant things, so it’s assumed we’re both quite pleasant, and then you extrapolate from there. I’m from Oklahoma and he’s from Illinois, I think that factors into it a little bit.
Q. You have both played many roles in your careers on Broadway, TV, and film, but for a wide swath of the public you are specific characters. How do you deal with the idea that for some viewers it’s hard to see beyond Ron Swanson or Karen Walker?
MULLALLY: There’s always going to be people who are going to be mad that I’m not Karen Walker, and the same would apply for Nick with Ron Swanson. And sometimes I feel with these concerts, our band Nancy and Beth obviously isn’t well-known, and if they just bill it as an evening with me than people come expecting me to do a Karen Walker impersonation and that can be a little confusing sometimes.
OFFERMAN: The first thing I always think when people ask me that question is how goddamn lucky we are to be in a position to be able to play a character that became indelible in any way.
MULLALLY: It’s complete insanity! What are the chances of that happening? That the two people who live in one household would both have gotten some kind of role on television that became that popular. What are the odds?
Q. Nick, you have a book coming out in October called “Paddle Your Own Canoe.” Why should people buy it?
OFFERMAN: If people like mediocre anecdotes and stories about jackasses peppered with salty language then they’re going to be crazy about my book. It’s a lot of fun, it’s actually inspired by my stage show. People kept asking me: “How did you get so manly?” Or “How are you so capable in an old-fashioned way in this modern world?” Which are both ridiculous suppositions. I immediately remind them that I am not terribly manly. I went to theater school and will happily don tights and mince about the stage for you for a sandwich and a song. And also that I’m very lucky. I’m just the guy who landed in this role who has a brilliant team of writers writing really funny things about a very manly character. And so in the show I sort of offer up the parts of my personality that are very similar to Ron Swanson and then I spend some, hopefully enjoyable, time dispelling the rest. There is minor nudity. And in the book as well there’s minor nudity. It’s a lot of fun, some great anecdotes from my life and just my thoughts. The subtitle is “One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living.”Interview has been edited and condensed. Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.