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Offerman's first book looks to his roots

‘Parks & Rec’ star shares stories of his life and hometown

Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 5:27 p.m. CDT

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If you love Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson on “Parks and Recreation,” if you find his deadpan comedy in his American Ham routine hilarious, you’re going to enjoy his first stab at writing a book, which hits bookstores Oct. 1.

The Minooka native’s first book, “Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living,” is part biography, part philosophy, part local history and part hilarity.

Offerman begins his life story to date with tales of growing up in small-town Minooka with a population of 768 at the time.

He shares memories of everything from sitting in the muddy strawberry patch as a baby eating berries fresh from the vine to watching Grandpa Mike Roberts neuter a baby pig on the family farm.

“The first few chapters are about growing up in Minooka out on Bell Road and working on the Roberts’ family farm,” Offerman said. “There’s a lot of idyllic memories, playing ball, chasing girls around.”

While there aren’t any Minooka secrets revealed or family skeletons in the closet, Offerman doesn’t mind embarrassing a person or two to get a laugh.

He has no qualms about telling the world how sisters Carrie and Laurie are champion belchers, a skill the Offerman family members are proud of, but other sides of the family prefer to rolls their eyes at.

“My family is all discussed and talked about as protagonists, influential characters,” he said. “Most of my family members are heroic people.”

He also shares his misadventures as an altar boy at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Minooka and how he first tried out his dry sense of humor in order to amuse his friends and cousin while reciting the week’s Gospel as a lector, with the adults being none the wiser.

Offerman found out early in life that he could get people to laugh at his expense, he said.

“The nature of the Minooka stories is what a young clown will get into in a small rural town with not much to do,” he said.

The path from being a cut-up in Minooka to television star and now novelist takes the reader on a journey from his boyhood hometown to studying acting at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign to creating the Defiant Theatre. 

He also spills the beans on which of the many Minooka heroes he based his Ron Swanson character.

You get more than a glimpse of the love of his life, actor Megan Mullally (“Will and Grace”), how they met and when, just months into their relationship, he took her to the family’s hunting and fishing cabin in remote northwest Minnesota.

Along with his brand of humor, you also get an in-depth list of ways to live your life in the form of subchapters. Offerman is not shy in sharing his beliefs, whether it’s about hard work, religion or how men should groom themselves.

He feels the need to share his adventures – and he has many – taking the opportunity to pass along some of his wisdom, he said.

“My main objective is to make people laugh while they unwittingly come away having gained a lot of sustenance,” Offerman said.

His book was born from his stand-up routine American Ham, in which he gives his “Ten Tips for Prosperity.” He figured it would make a funny book, so he wrote it down and shared it with a few publishers.

The publishers liked what he had written and quickly informed him, “We are going to need about 300 more pages out of you,” he said.

He spent a solid two months getting down his memoirs and imparting his comical brand of wisdom.

The final result is “Paddle Your Own Canoe,” in which he urges people to make their own choices, have their own opinions, pull themselves up by the bootstraps in times of despair and do a lot of laughing.

“I am really astonished at what has befallen me in the last few years,” Offerman said. “I never dreamed I would write a book. I am quite proud of it. I am excited to make people laugh.”

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