Aziz Ansari/Nick Offerman: An Unintentional ‘Parks And Recreation’ Comedy Showdown @ Count Basie Theatre/Pollak Theatre

RED BANK/LONG BRANCH, NJ—A quirk of venue-booking fate inadvertently pitted Parks And Recreation co-stars Aziz Ansari (who plays Tom Haverford) against Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson) on two successive nights in Monmouth County.

Playing a taciturn, crisis-avoiding, sax-playing, woodworking enthusiast with a four-pound mustache as the director of the Parks And Recreation Department Of Pawnee, Indiana, Offerman has dubbed his theater tour American Ham due, in part, to Ron Swanson’s oft mentioned love of red meat on the show, and because Offerman, a trained stage actor with a long list of credits, still can’t seem to get around the fact that he’s a breakout character (Swanson has a large online fanbase) on a hit television series.

Wandering on stage in well-worn jeans waving casually with one hand while carrying an acoustic guitar and his shirt in the other, a topless Offerman placed his guitar carefully on its stand and struck a few beefcake poses for the crowd before ambling over to the microphone and deadpanning, “Well, all the advertisements for this show promised ‘partial nudity’… and I didn’t wanna let anybody down.”

Low key, very much in character (or, is the character him?), cynical, blunt and unassuming, Offerman promised that “now that the nudity thing is out of the way” an evening of “sing-alongs, sea chanties, woodworking hints, timely references to meat, and [his] ‘Ten Tips For A Prosperous Life’ will follow.”

The guitar proved more than a prop as Offerman interspersed well-played, lyrically-tweaked, potty-humor ditties such as “King Of The Road,” “The Apple Pancakes Song,” “Keep A Handkerchief In Your Pocket” and a Johnny Cashed “I Stay Offline” between droll insights on celebrity culture, L. Ron Hubbard, Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel,” gay marriage, straight marriage, The Hobbit, intoxicants, religion, manners and, of course, red meat—all of which, in their eventual unfolding, served as solid evidence validating his “Ten Tips…”

Aziz Ansari’s performance the night before at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre was a much more strident affair as the delivery, pace and presentation of the material was machine-gunned at the packed house in a voice (sorry to say) that grew annoyingly shrill and irksomely repetitious around the one-hour mark.

No topic was off limits as Ansari riffed on bad Chinese food, child molestation, rape, marriage, growing up an Indian in South Carolina, adulthood, religion, children, and the joys of NOT having children. Unplanned set highlights were a five-minute haranguing of a patron texting something in the front row as Ansari first took to the stage—causing him to wonder what was so important it had to be sent right then and there; and the moment Ansari asked the crowd to “get the picture taking thing out of the way now” which resulted in a brief, but incredibly intense, cell phone flash show.


Nick Offerman’s “Ten Tips For A Prosperous Life”:

Engage In Romantic Love – Say Please And Thank You

Carry A Handkerchief – Eat Red Meat

Get A Hobby – Go Outside – Avoid Mirrors

Maintain A Relationship With Jesus Christ (If It’ll Get You Sex)

Use Intoxicants – Paddle Your Own Canoe