Beard and Loathing in Santa Rosa

Actor-humorist Nick Offerman is coming to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts tomorrow, Saturday, for his one-man show, Full Bush. Should be a hoot. I interviewed Offerman for the paper a couple of weeks ago, and the star of NBC’s hit sitcom Parks and Recreation was the very picture of bearded affability and generosity with the fun quotage.

One of the cool things about Offerman was his unbridled enthusiasm for all things North Bay. He and his wife, actor Megan Mullally, spend lots of time up here, much of it in the nude.

Offerman recalled coming to Santa Rosa when he was younger, and described it with a sort of boyish wonder, as a kind of Oz-like place where he could “be as weird as I wanted to be in the Santa Rosa neighborhood.”

Nobody cared, nobody batted an eyelash, he said, and noted that gigging at the Wells Fargo Center has been a dream gig of his all along. He’s arrived.

Santa Rosa has some weird people on its streets, to this day. Any morning visitor to Peet’s Coffee on 4th Street knows this: It’s a rolling parade of pipe-poking travelers and bug-eyed sub-mystics shaking the morning dew from their backpacks and eyebrows. I had this vision of Offerman, pre-fame, wandering among the misfits of Santa Rosa, wholly in his element, and a wooly one at that.

Anyway, it was a cool chat with Offerman. Go check out the interview if you didn’t see it. Saturday’s show promises lots of laughs, but with a message. He told me that “as a humorist, I’m fed up and frustrated, and all I can do is continue to promote individualism, free thought and human decency.”

But the message he’s pushing out in Full Bush goes beyond a simple cry for civility and shared libertarian values—his are of the left-of-center libertarian ethos, with big-ups to Teddy Roosevelt along the way. Offerman says he aims to point out to his audience that consumer choices we make have ripple effects that are easy to blow off. Whether it’s a certain brand of clothing or gasoline, he says, “people are doing damage to other people.”

I spent a few minutes talking with the hirsute humorist about a beard competition I covered down in New Orleans last year for the local daily. Lotta fun. There were a lot of very high-concept and super-groomed guys making the scene at the legendary club Tipitina’s for the event, but the coolest thing about it was the guy who won the overall award for Best Beard.

That guy had a wild, disheveled beard that was kind of scary, and mesmerizingly cool at the same time. Sort of like New Orleans itself. The dude looked like he’d just come off a six-month stint on Survivorman. He looked like someone you might see hangin’ out in front of Peet’s on any given morning.

Offerman took the bait, oh, but he did: “It’s quite comforting to hear that at least the National Beard competition had the sagacity to award the Full Bush participant.”

Sonoma County Library