Nick Offerman’s Key Advice: ‘Hug Before Punch’

The self-described “teddy bear” offers up NOT-fighting words to help our listeners masterfully plan their grilling takeover and more.

(Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Webby Awards)

Each week you send in your questions about how to behave, and here to answer them this week with a bit of gruff wisdom is “Parks and Recreation” actor and comedian Nick Offerman. After chatting with Rico and Brendan about his new book and his woodworking passion, he stuck around to tell handle our listeners’ grilling quandaries and whiskey woes.


Coaster conundrum

Rico Gagliano: Here is Adam, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Adam writes: “If I have a guest who repeatedly places a cold beverage — sans offered coaster — on a hand-made reclaimed oak coffee table, how can I gently suggest, without first slamming their head into said table, that they utilize the coaster I presented to them?”

Nick Offerman: Well, that is a very good question. I would first urge you to never turn to violence as a first resort to any question. I always say hug before punch. Perhaps gather your guest in a bear-like embrace, and gently explain to them that this wood would appreciate their love as much as it is loving us.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Is it like a menacing hug?

Nick Offerman: No, it’s a genuine hug. I’m an absolute sissy teddy bear who happened to be put in the body of a badass sheriff. People often think I’m being intimidating when I’m actually suggesting…

Brendan Francis Newnam: So you don’t even have to decide what kind of hug it is, it’s just going to be a little menacing anyway, by your…

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, you kinda get both.

Nick Offerman: I mean I try to communicate like, “Hey, first of all, I love you. Second of all, you’re really pissing me off with your beverage on my table.”

Rico Gagliano: In that way, I feel like you embody America, in a way.

Love and whiskers

Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question comes from Aaron in Greenville, South Carolina. Aaron writes: “Hello Mr. Offerman. What is the acceptable length a beard can go down your neck? I usually stick with no lower than my jawline, but I’ve seen others grow it on their jowl, but not below that. What do you think?”

Nick Offerman: Well, full disclosure, I’m sitting here with a pretty fulsome face bush hanging off my mug. And so, I can answer this question in two ways. My first sincere answer is: do whatever the hell you please with your appearance. That is our right, it’s a free country.

Now if my wife were sitting here with me, I would say, “Well, let’s think about this.” But she, actually, is really generous. I have the craziest gamut of facial hair from clean shaven to like, crazy big beards. And she really appreciates them. And as someone who has really meticulous, refined taste, this I take as a great act of generosity on her part.

Nick Offerman's range of facial hair. (Photo Credit L to R: Michael Buckner/Getty Images / Jason Merritt/Getty Images / Emily Shur)
Nick Offerman’s range of facial hair. (Photo Credit L to R: Michael Buckner/Getty Images / Jason Merritt/Getty Images / Emily Shur)

But I mean, if somehow part of your life, like say you have a job where they’re worried about your beard, then I’d say either grow your beard however you want, and find a new job. Or try to gently eke out a compromise. But always let your freak flag fly whenever possible.

Brendan Francis Newnam: I’d also say though, if your neck hair is longer than the beard hair near your cheeks, that’s not acceptable. A little bit serial killer-y.

Nick Offerman: Generally, that would be probably considered unattractive. I’d say the ultimate barometer is how well you’re getting kissed or not. If you’re getting satisfactorily kissed, then who gives a shit?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Who cares? That’s a good etiquette guideline.

The art of the grill takeover

Rico Gagliano: Here’s Nolandry, via Somerville, Massachusetts. Nolandry says: “When a friend who has a tendency to burn anything and everything on the grill invites you over for dinner, is it rude to take over the grilling situation?”

Nick Offerman: What a thoughtful question. My immediate thought is, you want to insinuate yourself into a position with them, without encroaching on their territory. And mammals cooking meat over a fire is [a] very sticky situation. It’s rife for violence. You don’t want to lose a hand.

Insinuate yourself, say, “Hey, I wanna have a cool party like you do. So will you teach me grilling ways?” That requires the person to pay a lot more attention to their cooking. And you could even front-load, you could say, “I read a little bit about it. I have this digital meat thermometer I’ve been carrying around with me, but I have no master to show me how to use it.” And so trick them into cooking more sensitively.

Rico Gagliano: There you go. Tricks.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Lie to them, and trick them.

Rico Gagliano: And bring along a thermometer just in case.

Who gets the last of the good scotch?

Brendan Francis Newnam: So this question comes from Dan, in Milton, Vermont… I feel like a lot of these questions are coming from good woodworking places.

Nick Offerman: Absolutely. Hotbeds of deciduous lumber.

Rico Gagliano: Not a lot from the desert.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Dan writes: “Here’s a scenario. While entertaining, a friend and I decide to enjoy a glass of scotch. Upon lifting the bottle, I find that there’s only enough excellent scotch for one glass. Do I offer it to my friend, and fill my glass with a more inferior libation, or do I suggest that we both partake of a different beverage?”

Nick Offerman: Well first of all, what an excellently worded contribution. Hats off.

Rico Gagliano: Public radio in action.

Nick Offerman: And what an excellent set of questions. I’m tickled pink with your listeners.

Rico Gagliano: You’re welcome.

Nick Offerman: I have a very solid answer to this conundrum. In Japan, you traditionally — whether you’re drinking scotch or sake, and beer, those are the favorite libations on the island of Nippon — you never fill your own cup. You fill your neighbor’s cup. And politely, they in turn keep yours full.

First of all, this guarantees that everyone gets as drunk as you do, which is important in international negotiations. But more importantly, it’s to me, it’s a great metaphor for life. I’ve written about — in L.A. traffic, it’s really easy to become infuriated, because everybody in L.A., it’s the city of dreams, so presumably, 97 percent of the people on the road are chasing a dream of some sort.

Rico Gagliano: Real fast.

Nick Offerman: Maybe 98 percent. So my technique is, always figure out how long it’s gonna take me to get some place, and then give myself an extra 15 to 30 minutes. Then you can say to everyone, “I understand, you’re chasing your dream, go ahead,” instead of trying to jockey and be in that rat race. And I’m telling you, it made my life so much happier.

And by the same token, always give your friend the good scotch. If you have other less-good scotch, you still have a glass of whiskey, dumb ass! Like, if you have whiskey to drink, you’re sitting pretty. Do you know how many people wish they had a glass of garbage whiskey?

When in doubt, always treat your friend before yourself.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Serve the scotch, give yourself a 15-minute dream cushion. Nick Offerman, thank you for telling our audience how to behave.

Nick Offerman: My pleasure. I mean, It’s an ongoing project. I still am learning everyday myself.