“I try to be a husband first. I’ve had the good fortune to be successful, so it would be easy to define myself by my work. But I prefer making my domestic life and my relationship with my wife [actress Megan Mullally] my top priority. Of course, I feel very lucky to generate work while wearing a lot of hats—whether it be through acting, the written word, or my deep knowledge of classical dance. I’m kidding about that last one.”
With so much going on, how do you budget your time?
“That’s a difficulty my wife and I both face. We get such great opportunities, but then we have to check the calendar and say, ‘Which of these jobs can we do, but still get to kiss each other every once in a while?’ The older I get, the more I try to do just one thing at a time. Also, I’m not known for my refinement or finesse. I can probably write one of my clumsy books in the time it would take a great writer to sharpen his pencil.”
Did you do much standup before your current tour?
“I started about five or six years ago. I refer to myself as a humorist, just because I know a lot of really talented standups, and they think and operate in a way that’s far above my own system when it comes to generating laughs. I feel like I’m more of a storyteller. I’ve called myself a less-educated, foulmouthed Garrison Keillor. But that’s sort of self-flattering. Let’s say I would aspire to one day be referred to like that.”
What do you get from being in front of a live audience that you don’t from TV and movies?
“Performing my pratfalls on stage allows the audience to tell me with immediacy that I’m doing a good job. When you’re filming, you come to rely on the crew. If you can see their shoulders shaking, it’s a good sign that you’re making them laugh.”
Do people still think you’re Ron Swanson?
“Sure. It’s a blessing and a curse. Amy Poehler and I were talking about how it seems like more people are watching Parks and Recreation now than when it was airing on NBC. The rise of social media and streaming services has given the show a much greater impact than it would have had in, say, 1983. So I’m grateful for that. It has given me the opportunity to continue to work in films and TV. Usually when people put your character in a lot of memes, you’re sort of disallowed from going on and playing other roles. But for some reason, I’ve been given permission.”
You’re a skilled carpenter. What niche in your creative life does that fill for you?
“It requires a great deal of repetition, which, if you have your head on straight, can be quite meditative. There’s a religious quality to it. It keeps me humble, working hard, and grateful. And at the end of it, I have a beautiful table or canoe or ukulele. When you make things with your hands, it brings joy on many levels.”
Any spots you like to visit when you’re in Indy?
“I’m a big fan of St. Elmo. The first real film role I ever had was in Going all the Way, which of course was shot in Indianapolis. I discovered St. Elmo then, and to my great delight, we also shot there for Parks and Recreation. It sort of became our place. It’s such an amazing time to be alive if you enjoy beef, beer, and whiskey. Indianapolis is just lousy with incredible examples of those indulgences.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m working on a show called Making It, with Amy Poehler. It’s a reality competition about crafting. I think it’s going to come out in early 2018. Amy and I are the hosts, and we’ve gathered some of the most talented makers in the country. I’m crazy about this show, because I’m really invested in encouraging people to make things with their hands. It doesn’t have to be woodworking. You could make clothing or cowboy boots or lasagna. Anything that you make with your hands is a great way to say ‘I love you’ to somebody. And the less we rely on shopping with one click of a button, the better and stronger our communities will be. The fact that Amy invited me to be her cohost makes me the luckiest boy in town.”