Nick Offerman on Making His Whisky-Sipping Yule Log Video: ‘I Cried My Eyes Out’

Find out how the comedian landed the enviable job of sipping Scotch beside a Yule log, thanks in part to "Parks and Recreation."

Photo Credit: Emily Shur

Holiday specials are a long-running tradition. Think “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” And there are, as She & Him collaborators Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward told us, beloved holiday albums, too. Now in the age of the Internet, there are holiday memes.

The star of one of those is comedian Nick Offerman. He and his robust mustache starred in seven seasons of the hit TV sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” He also runs a woodworking shop, and has a new book out about woodworking called, “Good Clean Fun.”

We had him on the show in November to talk about woodworking passion and to tackle a few or our listeners’ etiquette questions. But last year, he appeared in a viral parody of those Yule log videos. Instead of a crackling fireplace… it showed Nick sitting beside a fireplace serenely sipping Scotch.

Hosts at many a holiday party played that video on an endless loop last year. So, we  decided to ask Nick just how exactly it came to be.


On how that whisky-sipping Yule log video came to be

Nick Offerman: They say it’s nice work if you can get it. You know what, it’s one of the many incredible pieces of good fortune that came to me from “Parks and Recreation.”

On the show, Ron loved Lagavulin. And turned out it was both my favorite already, and also the favorite of Mike Schur, the incredible genius who created “Parks and Rec” with Greg Daniels.

And so, eventually we plugged the whisky so much on the show that we eventually got in touch with Lagavulin, and we shot an episode where Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, gives Ron a treasure hunt that ends at the Lagavulin Distillery on the island of Islay in the Hebrides in Scotland.

And, I mean, I imagine being an actor, being me, and you get handed this job, and then you’re on a boat, and then you turn around and you are at Lagavulin [laughs]… I cried my eyes out.

So we developed a really warm friendship that I’m crazy about, and so we’ve done three batches of commercials for them. We were getting ready to do a batch last year for the holidays, and one of our brilliant writers, named David Phillips, he just tossed out that idea: “What if we shoot Nick silently so that it’s like the Yule log video?” And we all just said, “Holy shit! This is either gonna be a complete turd, or it’s gonna be amazing.”

And we set it up, and we shot one take for 45 minutes, and then it took off like crazy. And then somebody cut together like, a ten hour loop of it. And I’m grateful for nothing more than the fact that my sense of humor has allowed me to get paid–

Brendan Francis Newnam: To sit and drink scotch.

Nick Offerman: Yeah! They’re like, “What if we just shoot you doing nothing.” And I said, “Great! Maybe next year you could shoot me sleeping.” Like, how could this get more lazy?

On how he managed to sit still for the 45-minute-long taping

Nick Offerman: I’m a mellow guy. It does take a lot of focus and it’s a meditative act. They say, “OK… three, two, one… do nothing.”

And a funny note is that, you know, as you could imagine, people selling alcohol are very careful with good reason about telling people to use it responsibly, not encouraging people to get shit-faced.

And so, the rep for the company was there at the Yule log [taping] and they really did some math. And they said like — I forget how many sips I take, three or four, but they get out a chart and they’re like, “Look, it’s OK.” Like, “You could take three sips.” And so they would like give me the nod and like, “OK, 15 minutes has gone by, you can drink it again.”

A lot of thought goes into it what ends up being a pretty simple-looking task.

Rico Gagliano: Was each sip just incredibly exciting for you?

Nick Offerman: It was. Although, what I do sitting there for 45 minutes is I go into a day dreaming state. It’s not like I’m sitting there going, “Come on,” you know, “God! how long has it been?”

Instead I, honestly, because I’m often in that state in some sort of acting or show biz job, my go to channel, if I need a day dream, is I just immediately start thinking about the next [wood] shop project.

Photo Credit: Josh Salsbury
Nick in his wood shop, doing wood shop things. (Photo Credit: Josh Salsbury)

And so, it’s quite enjoyable. I’m like, “OK, I’m gonna cut out those ukulele fronts, sweet, sweet maple. Oh, time for another drink, terrific. What a nice surprise.”

Nick’s stance on tipping

Brendan Francis Newnam: After you’re, you know, you’re paid to sit and drink scotch for 45 minutes, do you like over tip your barista, or something? Like when you encounter someone who’s actually, you know, not that you didn’t do work for your money, Nick. But when, you know, that like later that day are you just uber generous with all of you’re tipping?

Nick Offerman: Well, while I never waited tables myself, every single other person in my life was waiting tables while I was like, an actor trying to make it myself. I was hanging lights for Disney, at one point. I was working as a scenery carpenter. I was hustling.

And so, now that life has been so good to me, pretty much into my early 30s, I just started tipping like crazy. And when people get into arguments about tipping, I find that really upsetting because, by and large, if you can afford to go to a restaurant, what’s two bucks gonna kill you, you know?

But the person that’s waiting tables is busting their ass literally for tips and so I feel like if we can afford to go out for steak and a drink, give an extra three dollars.