Nick Offerman’s Yule Log: A Needlessly Complicated Analysis

Despite working in Hollywood for the better part of 20 years, Nick Offerman didn’t really appear on pop culture’s radar until he co-starred as small-town Libertarian Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation in 2009. His personality, which deliberately came through in his portrayal of Swanson, is both charmingly thoughtful and gruffly rugged—a kind of educated, enlightened, smoke-free Marlboro Man for the 21st century.

It’s a tad ironic that Offerman would become the kind of reluctant internet hero that he is today. He doesn’t favor technology, but realizes it’s vital to his career, and his fan-base. Realizing this, he’s managed to subvert everyone’s expectations by doing what he does best: Drinking whiskey by a fireplace in complete silence for an uninterrupted 45 minutes.

As the segment opens on the kindling in his fireplace, before slowly panning back to Offerman, sporting a full beard, and wearing the kind of ‘office/cabin/casual’ outfit that he seems to have made famous—a tan sportcoat over a checkered flannel, tucked into dark jeans and workboots. He has a kind of sharp-eyed tranquility about him, staring into the camera, and by extension, the viewer. It’s the kind of look that welcomes you, but at an arm’s length. This is the internet, after all, but the internet on Offerman’s terms.

Less than one minute in, he breaks free of his steely gaze and takes his first sip of Lagavulin 16 year old Scotch, his look develops an uncanny warmth, and as the glass rests against the palm of his hand, there’s a smile everywhere but on his face. He stares at it lovingly, the first moment of true intimacy between a man and his environment.

In the perfect stillness of just the first minute, a sharp contrast to the increasingly shortened attention spans that both command and are controlled by mass media, something he said at a book reading he gave over the summer crosses my mind. He was referring to his first stint on Twitter, sometime around 2011, before he declared joining “to be a mistake” in the same Tweet where he advised his followers to join him outside.

He elaborated on that point, comparing Twitter to a window in his pocket to anywhere else but where he was, a profoundly practical explanation for the newly coined Fear Of Missing Out Syndrome (commonly referred to as FOMO). To him, it became a distraction too easily, and at a time when entertainment writers were forced to sharpen their skills to command viewer’s attention in the increasingly common “two-screens” household, his decision was a marked contrast from the still-embryonic norm.

As he returns to his forward stare, there remains a slight warmth in his eyes, as he sits meditatively still, at once lost in thought and holding in his laughter before taking his second sip. His eyebrows raise and he peers through the glass to the whiskey settled at the bottom with a lifetime’s culmination of admiration and respect.

With his third sip, whatever edge he had to him before was quickly getting worn away. The silence has to it a kind of jovial peace. As Offerman continues to warm himself by the fire, we continue to grow comfortable with the idea that he has let us join him. With each passing moment, the arm’s length felt at first gets less and less rigid, and with the fourth sip, it’s almost like we’re in the same room.


“Would Abraham Lincoln win a fight with Teddy Roosevelt?” someone asked the last (and only) time I was actually in the same room with Offerman, during a reading at Book People in Austin, Texas. He was in between chapters on his book, Gumption; the most recent passage had been about the 26th President when a micro Q&A session had broken out. He scoffed at the question (as he both should have and would be expected to), before opining that, would such a battle have occurred, Teddy would emerge victorious. While this was undoubtedly the correct answer, Offerman added an assumption about Lincoln that had a degree of oversight to it, which surprised me given his thorough, if not personally preferential, knowledge of American History.

A long while passes before his next sip, and his gaze now fixates alternately between the camera and what lies beyond (a look I suspect he has in his eyes even when not working), and his whiskey, at which he smiles affectionately before taking another drink. His smile becomes more pronounced through his thick, graying beard, almost like a kid on class picture day who can’t stop giggling to himself. A giggle that fans know is both infectious and charming.


By now, the border between the audience and the subject starts to blur in a way that could only be described as transcendental. Despite the fact that these are electronically transmitted, digitally encoded images, the absence of edits, volume, pop-up ads, music or distractions of any other kind no longer seem strange, but rather a way to unpack the overstuffed information filed away like Tetris.

It occurs to me to ask myself when the last time I had an image present such unparalleled tranquility – the answer was a couple months ago when I saw Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s The Assassin at Fantastic Fest. Although I again asked myself the same question about the last time that I’d seen anything with such a quality in day to day life, which was a much harder incident to recall.

Yet, on the very platform that defined the 30-seconds-or-less approach to getting, and keeping, a viewer’s attention, we have this video, which has tallied over a million views in a matter of days.

With the next two sips, as Offerman is well on his way to finishing the first glass, comes not only a smattering of playfulness, but the joyfully deliberate refilling of the glass, which once again finds its place on the right arm of his chair. After such a stillness such a simple movement is almost distracting, and afterward he crosses his leg before resuming the kind of casual gaze he began with more than 20 minutes earlier.

It hints at a kind of impatience, an almost daring to stop watching as we approach the halfway point. Still, before he even takes another sip, it passes, and we soon resume the kind of calm tranquility that we’d settled into before he pours himself another. He savors the next drink, the first of the new glass, unlike any other he had up until now.


Offerman’s favorable attitude toward Theodore Roosevelt shouldn’t have come as a surprise (it didn’t), and with Roosevelt’s history from everything from his time in combat, his boxing, or the fact he kept a fucking pet badger in The White House certainly underscores this. And, as I mentioned before, he was right to assert that Roosevelt would, in fact, win in a brawl against Abraham Lincoln. Although he scoffed at the question, he stated that “Lincoln wasn’t known to be a brawler.”

While we went on to the next chosen excerpt from his book, a little-known fact occurred to me, one which threatened to undermine that statement. Offerman was certainly not wrong on any level, as Lincoln’s reputation as an orator and a statesman precludes any notion of him being able to brawl, aside from a passing line in the movie Fight Club. However, while some may be aware of Lincoln’s rather impressive history as a wrestler, if polled, more people today would likely believe he hunted vampires before they realized he held the first ever nationally recognized wrestling title in U.S. history.

As he swirls the glass under his nose before another drink, there’s an approaching sense of completion, some kind of earned camaraderie through this shared time. An intimacy despite no direct contact or even communication. A kind of self-imposed, falsified approximation of a celebrity you’ve come to know through bits of video and internet memes, not unlike a cherry-picked Bible (or Constitution, for that matter).

Does that make it less genuine? Was that not the point? Have I really sat here for almost 45 minutes and watched Nick Offerman drink 16 year old Scotch?  Only one of those questions has an answer you’ll ever be sure of.

Finally, after my turn waiting in line (I was group “E”) to get my copy of Gumption signed, Offerman—again, while mid-book tour—took a genuine interest in each person he met, the perfect combination of cadence and handshake to make everyone feel comfortable. It was then that I took the moment to point out Lincoln’s history as a professional wrestler, a fact that he did not know, before pausing, and adding, “Well, that wiry son-of-a-bitch.” The two of us then clarified that, regardless, Roosevelt would have come out on top.

And with that, Offerman finishes the last of his Scotch in one mighty, satisfied gulp. With his eyebrows raised and a sense of accomplishment, he sets his glass down and walks quietly out of frame. A true piece of art to transcend the expectations of the increasingly impatient digital age.

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