We did a double take when Nick Offerman wandered into the North Bennet Street School Friday.
The actor famous for playing the mustachioed Ron Swanson on NBC’s dearly departed “Parks and Recreation” was nearly unrecognizable.
“My mustache is speaking at Wesleyan,” explained the actor-comedian. “The North Bennet Street School couldn’t afford my mustache.”
In town to give the commencement speech at the renowned woodworking school in the North End, Offerman explained that he shaved the ’stache because he’s a character actor and Swanson is just one character.
Of course, his physical appearance mattered little to the school’s graduating seniors, many of whom know Offerman as much for his skills as a cabinet maker — his LA-based Offerman Woodshop specializes in handcrafted furniture — as for his deadpan humor.
Before addressing the graduates at Old North Church, Offerman toured the school with president Miguel Gomez-Ibanez, pausing now and then to chat with students and admire their handiwork.
“Gorgeous work,” he said, looking at the tool box built by senior Carly Lowe. “I’ve been to a lot of woodworking schools, but what’s titillating about this place is the students are learning 18th- and 19th-century joinery techniques. If you can make museum-quality reproductions like these, you can do everything else in your sleep.”
Offerman told Kathryn Taub, a first-year student in the violin-making program, that he’d made one ukulele — “it has two heinous mistakes but it sounds like a ukulele” — but his real ambition is to live in Alaska with a gang of luthiers and make acoustic guitars. Looking at Taub’s violin, one of seven instruments she’ll make during her three years at the school, Offerman was impressed.
“That’s some badass work, my friend,” he said. (Offerman called the violin “the most sublime wooden object known to man or woman.”)
Addressing the North Bennet Street School’s 80 or so grads, Offerman was both silly and serious as he lamented the culture of consumerism that puts a premium on profits at the expense of design and quality.
“Furniture and cars are engineered to last for 48 hours after the end of the warranty,” he said.
Offerman praised the school’s locksmithing students for their “meticulous and clever work that keeps the wolves from entering . . . and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well.
“I’d also like to speak to you in private about [making] some custom handcuffs," he said.
To students in the jewelry-making program, Offerman said he likes it when his fingers and toes are festooned with feathers and precious metals.
“I am a beautiful princess in my true heart,” he said. “But let’s keep that between us.”
As you might expect, students and their parents enjoyed Offerman’s not-so-high-minded remarks, and rewarded him with enthusiastic applause. Offerman hung around Boston a little longer, appearing Friday night at the Wilbur Theatre to hype his new book, “Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom With America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers.”
Also while he was in town, Offerman was presented with a key to all of Boston’s parks by Chris Cook, head of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.