(Oh fuck me this guy is funny. He makes that show. I am currently binging my way through every episode of Parks and Recreation, and Ron Swanson is the King of that show. Here’s what the interweb says about the seriously hilarious character played by Nick Offerman.)
Ronald Ulysses “Ron” Swanson is a fictional character portrayed by Nick Offerman from the situation comedy television series Parks and Recreation on NBC, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur. In the series, Ron is the director of the parks and recreation department of Pawnee, Indiana and the immediate superior of series protagonist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) until Knope’s election to the Pawnee City Council at the end of Season 4. In demeanor, political philosophy and work ethic Knope and Swanson’s are very nearly polar opposites: where Knope is sunny and outgoing, decidedly liberal and constantly working, Swanson is distant, and as a staunch libertarian, is a strong advocate for small government and therefore believes that the parks department should not even exist.
Ron, who has an extremely deadpan and masculine personality, actively works to make city hall less effective and despises interacting with the public. He loves meat, hunting, whisky, and breakfast foods. He hates and fears his two ex-wives, both named Tammy, one of whom is played by Offerman’s real-life wife, Megan Mullally. Ron claims not to be interested in the personal lives of those around him but actually cares a great deal about his colleagues, and has a particularly strong respect for Leslie.
Conceived by series creators Michael Schur and Greg Daniels, Ron has been a central character since the pilot episode of Parks and Recreation. Offerman had some input into the character’s creation, and some aspects of Ron’s personality were inspired by the actor, like his affinity for woodworking and 16 year old Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch. The traits of the character were also partially inspired by a real-life Libertarian elected official in Burbank, California.
Offerman’s portrayal of Ron Swanson has received critical acclaim. The character has developed a cult following and is widely considered the breakout character of the series. Schur has called Ron “our cast MVP.” He has been described by some critics as one of the best characters in a situation comedy in decades, and has been called the best comedic character on television since Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld. Ron’s platonic relationship with Leslie has been compared to that of Mary Richards and Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Offerman has received several award nominations for the role, and won the TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy, tying with Ty Burrell of Modern Family.
Ron Swanson is the director of the parks and recreation department of the fictional city of Pawnee in the state of Indiana, a job he has held for six years at the time Parks and Recreation began. A staunch libertarian, with a distinctive mustache, Ron is an extremely strong advocate for small government; despite working in a city hall job, he believes all government is a waste of taxpayer money. Ron believes the park system should be privatized and run entirely by corporations for profit, as exemplified by the business model of the Chuck E. Cheese’s chain of family entertainment centers. He advocates for program cuts wherever possible, and purposely tries to hire people who are bad at their jobs so they will slow down the government. Ron puts almost no effort into his job, and lets his deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) do the vast majority of the work at the parks department.
Despite differing personalities and ideologies, Ron and his deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler, pictured) have a deep respect for each other.
Ron particularly despises talking to members of the public, which is why he deliberately designed his office to be uninviting to visitors, in part by mounting a double-barreled, sawed-off shotgun on a swivel atop his desk aimed at the guest chair, so it will be pointed at anyone who wants to speak to him, a claymore mine (front-pointed toward enemy), and a Czech hedgehog. Despite his lack of interest in the job, Ron occasionally demonstrates he is a good manager who recognizes the abilities of his co-workers. He claims not to be interested in the personal lives of those around him, and that his best friend was a co-worker he knew for three years without ever learning his name. However, Ron cares more about his colleagues than he lets on and often helps them in spite of himself. Despite sharing a nearly opposite view on the role of government, Ron gets along well with deputy parks and recreation director, Leslie Knope, and the two share a strong mutual respect. Although Leslie had considered a job offer in the neighboring town of Eagleton, she stays based on advice from Ron that, no matter how many job offers she gets, Pawnee will always be her hometown. Ron has also developed a grudging, avuncular affection for April’s husband, Andy Dwyer, and has even decided to give him the “Ron Swanson Scholarship” ($940) so Andy can attend one college course: Women’s Studies, after Andy and April couldn’t afford to pay it. In the voiceover while Ron drops Andy off for his first day of class, he recalls his own first day of college when his father dropped him off… at the steel mill. His father thought he shouldn’t bother with college, but Ron hitched a ride to the school and went anyway.
Ron speaks in a very deadpan tone of voice and seldom expresses any kind of emotion. He adheres to many stereotypically masculine traits. He claims to have only cried twice: once when he was hit by a bus at age seven; secondly when Lil Sebastian died. Ron is an outdoor enthusiast who loves hunting, fishing, camping, and woodworking. For years, Ron has used a park ranger station in the woods as a lodge for private hunting trips with his male colleagues at city hall. He describes fishing as “like yoga, except I still get to kill something”. He is particularly attracted to brunettes and what he describes as “strong, self-possessed women at the top of their fields,” with professional athletes Steffi Graf and Sheryl Swoopes among his ideal women. He loves breakfast foods and red meats; among the types of food he enjoys are bacon-wrapped shrimp, fried turkey legs inside a grilled hamburger, and bacon-wrapped turkey legs, which are known in Pawnee as “The Swanson”. He also drinks heavily but seldom feels the effects of alcohol or gets hung over. He primarily drinks scotch whisky, claiming that “Clear alcohols are for rich women on diets”. He is an extremely private person, going so far as to redact his birthday from government documents to keep others from holding parties for him (though he did reluctantly provide it as “springtime” on a hospital admission form). Ron knows almost nothing about popular culture; he recognizes the name Julia Roberts only as the “toothy gal from Mystic Pizza”. Ron is extremely concerned with the image people have of him and once refused to seek treatment for a hernia, as he instead chose to remain immobile at his desk all day and night; until April offered to take him to the hospital.
Before the start of Parks and Recreation, Ron has two ex-wives, both of whom are named Tammy, which is also the name of Ron’s mother. Ron despises and fears both of his ex-wives, and they are among the few individuals in the world who can break Ron’s usually unwavering stoicism. Nevertheless, Ron shares an extremely passionate sexual connection with his second ex-wife; he compared having sex with her to “doing peyote and sneezing, slowly, for six hours”, and added, “That woman really knows her way around a penis.” Ron is so susceptible to Tammy’s sexual temptations that he made a video-tape warning himself about her to play in case he ever got back together with her. Ron plays the saxophone, and secretly performs at out-of-town jazz clubs under the name Duke Silver, which he keeps secret from his colleagues in Pawnee. He wears a trilby hat and suit jacket while playing, fronts a band called the Duke Silver Trio, and has released such albums as Memories of Now, Smooth as Silver, and Hi Ho, Duke. His music is especially popular with older women (among them being April’s mother), who find Duke Silver extremely attractive.