“I wish I had a huge fart saved up to describe our love: silent but deadly,” says actor Nick Offerman. “Love is patient. Love is kind.” He looks over at his wife (the target of his noxious affection), actress and singer Megan Mullally. She shakes her head in mock disapproval before laughing and letting out an “Oh God!”
They are best when they’re like this—together. Offerman is behind the wheel of their silver Lexus SUV. Mullally sits beside him in the passenger seat, applying her makeup in anticipation of this evening’s performance of their two-character play Annapurna at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. He’s wearing a black Bohnhoff Lumber T-shirt, dark jeans and a knit beanie. She’s carefully adjusting her glasses so as not to get makeup on the frames. Underneath her salmon-colored cardigan she wears a long, white tank top and a knee-length skirt, with brown ankle boots and a vintage bag from Australia to match.
“I have a definition of real love,” Offerman, 43, confides, placing his hand on her thigh and laughing.“It’s when she lets me put my mouth on her ‘Pandora’s box.’ One time she even let me do it after I had shaved the top of my head bald and grown a big beard for a play.”
“Besides loving his male parts, I also think he’s a great man,” Mullally, the older woman at 54, retorts seriously (if just barely).
They are as enamored with each other on television as they are in real life. Offerman, the burly Chicago carpenter cum sitcom star, plays Ron Swanson, the burly Pawnee carpenter cum libertarian government administrator, on the hit NBC series Parks and Recreation. Mullally periodically pops up as “Tammy Two,” his evil yet strangely seductive ex-wife whose demented mind games and insatiable sexual appetite turn the typically super-macho Swanson into a whimpering man-child. Their comic chemistry is akin to that of a hypersexualized Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara (but not nearly as gross as it sounds). Mullally and Offerman have appeared together on the Adult Swim live-action comedy series Childrens Hospital and in two recent indie films: Somebody Up There Likes Me, which Offerman co-produced, and the coming-of-age comedy The Kings of Summer.
“People always say, ‘It must be so fun at your house, just the two of you at home alone, cracking each other up.’ And yeah, it’s kind of like that,” Mullally says while applying mascara to her long eyelashes. As we head into a red light, a Domino’s delivery driver cuts us off and Offerman slams on the brakes. “Ahhh! What the fuck!” screeches Mullally. Offerman rolls down the window and yells at the middle-aged deliveryman, “Cool driving!” Both Offerman and Mullally laugh as he rolls up the car window.
“We have very similar tastes,” Mullally continues, “and it’s quite rare we disagree on something. I learned a lot from Nick on how to be a human being. That comes in handy.”
The two first met in 2000 while performing in an L.A. stage production of The Berlin Circle, a witty comedy about the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the time, Mullally was in her second season of playing booze-addled socialite Karen Walker on Will & Grace; Offerman was living on a couch in a friend’s basement trying to get acting gigs. “Megan came in wearing a really cute outfit,” Offerman remembers. “I thought to myself, Nice clothes, TV lady. But she was so funny during the read-through. I went up to her afterward and said, ‘I’m Nick. You’re really funny.”
“He was the only one who made a point to come over, shake my hand and try to have sex with me,” Mullally says.
“I was trying to put your hand on my package. I kept telling you, ‘Hey, check this out!’” Offerman clarifies.
At first, Mullally didn’t want to get involved while they were working together. But after about two weeks, she started making out with Offerman for hours at a time. One time in a car, they didn’t stop until Beck’s “Beautiful Way” had played 38 times in a row. During three different make-out sessions, they noticed coyotes watching them, which they took as a sign that their love had become truly animalistic. Offerman even claims that on one special occasion, a coyote winked at him when he was performing oral sex on Mullally. “It was sort of like a ‘Well played, brother,’” Offerman says.
Soon thereafter, the couple took a trip to Paris. Offerman brought three disposable rings fabricated by Will & Grace’s costume designer in order to joke-propose to Mullally three different times. In succession, he dropped fake rings down a Parisian grate, from the top of the Eiffel Tower and off the Pont Neuf, the city’s oldest standing bridge. “I thought it was hilarious,” says Mullally. “But the rings got progressively bigger, and for a moment I thought the last one might be real.”
The actual ring and proposal arrived in 2002. Back in Europe—London this time—Offerman arranged for a romantic stop at the Queen Mary’s Rose Garden in Regent’s Park. “Until we got there, I was in a heightened sense of agitation,” he says.
“I couldn’t figure out what was up with him,” Mullally remembers. “He was sucking and chewing on his mustache like crazy. I thought to myself, What is going on? He has never chewed on his mustache before!”
As for the proposal itself, Offerman says, “We were heading down this path over a bridge by a Japanese garden, and all the ducks, insects and frogs were furiously copulating around us. I feel like when our coupling is at hand, nature responds with a very positive reverberation. And I was right; she said yes.”
When we arrive at the Odyssey Theatre, Mullally notices a dent on the left side of the SUV. She thinks she hit something recently and inspects the vehicle multiple times. I ask her if it’s hard to have a kissing or sex scene after being married for so long. Her answer is immediate: “I go out of my mind if Nick even has to hold hands with someone else.”
Offerman opens the back entrance of the theater. “This is the glamor of it all!” Mullally announces as we continue down a narrow hallway. “Here, for instance, is the dressing room.” Wet Wipes, Old Spice deodorant, nail-polish remover, makeup, cotton rounds, paper towels, hair products, tape and a half-empty bottle of Talisker single-malt scotch sit atop a wooden desk. “The first two weeks we were drinking scotch every night because the play is so emotionally devastating,” Mullally admits.
“Yeah, we were thinking, Which way to the booze?” Offerman adds.
Shirts, slacks and a dress hang neatly on a rack next to a red-framed mirror in the corner of the dressing room. I glance at the mirror and spy Offerman and Mullally looking at each other. They don’t seem to notice and hold their gazes for a few more moments. Mullally turns to me and asks, “Have you ever had a boyfriend where you thought, I’m literally going to throw myself out of this moving vehicle if he doesn’t immediately stop talking? I’ve never felt like that with Nick. I’m glad he is the guy I married and not one of these other jerk men. He’s just a solid human being.”
Offerman drops his pants to the floor. He’s now standing in the dressing room in polka-dot boxers. “Sorry, I have to change. Can you turn around for a moment?” he asks. I shield my eyes. When I uncover them, he’s in a fuzzy purple robe. He sits on a chair in flip-flops and starts painting his toenails with a light brown liquid to make them look dirty.
Fifteen minutes later the curtain rises and the play begins. It opens with Ulysses (Offerman), clad only in an apron and a portable oxygen backpack, reacting to the arrival of his estranged wife Emma (Mullally), who walks through the door after not seeing or talking to him for 20 years. I actually see Offerman’s bare white ass. As the performance goes on, you understand why the couple chose the play—it’s both heartbreaking and hilarious. “I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else,” Mullally told me earlier. “It’s just so intimate. And the way we talk to each other—we aren’t very nice sometimes. To say those things to someone you only know in a friendly way is awkward.”
After the play, audience members swarm Mullally in the lobby, where she signs autographs and talks to her fans. “Sometimes the lobby can be more overwhelming than the show itself,” she tells me as she takes a seat at a nearby table. Offerman follows closely behind. She leans in toward me and says, almost whispering, “We don’t ever get a chance to do something like this. There aren’t many two-person plays that are naturalistic—that get down to the nitty-gritty. We feel very lucky to do this together.” Offerman lays a hand on her shoulder, which makes her hesitate.
“You ready to get out of here?” Offerman asks us while touching his beard with his right hand. He opens the car door for Mullally and me. “Watch your tootsies!” he directs me. Inside, Offerman reflects on the duration of their relationship. “It’s funny that 10 years is considered a lifetime in this burg,” he says. “People ask, ‘How the hell do you manage to stay married so long?’ I think that’s so sad. I mean, that was the idea when we made the bargain to begin with, right?”
Boxes line the garage of Offerman and Mullally’s 3,800-square-foot Hollywood Hills home. The couple is moving to a new house near the Hollywood Reservoir, only a few miles from here. “We could never get sick of this place, but the neighborhood has turned into a clusterfuck,” Offerman explains. “Developers are coming in and tearing down the old homes to make multimillion-dollar houses that look like the Starship Enterprise.”
“It’s time to move on,” Mullally agrees.
After they purchased the home in 2003, Mullally started decorating it, a hobby of sorts. “She’s got a great eye for collecting art, and I learn from her every day,” Offerman says as he gives me the grand tour. Pen-and-ink drawings hang in the entryway, which leads into a spacious, white-walled living room with an upholstered velvet sofa. A true carpentry junkie, Offerman has added little touches throughout the house, for example, a tiny, short-legged coffee table and a specially constructed latch to open the heavy glass doors that lead to the backyard and pool. Without it, the doors had proved too heavy and difficult for Mullally to open.
But now she easily leads the three of us through them and out into the hazy evening. “If you get into the grass, watch out for the dog bombs!” Offerman warns. The shit barrage is courtesy of their three poodles: Elmo, Clover and Willa. “I was playing guitar for Elmo last night, and he just stared at me,” Offerman says. “He’s the alpha male and sexiest force in the house. He looks at me like, ‘You don’t got shit on me, buddy.’”
Upon hearing his name, Elmo takes a crap on the freshly cut grass. Mullally and Offerman look at each other and laugh. “Nick and I are going to go swimming because it’s warm outside,” Mullally informs me. “It will feel nice on the old bod.” Mullally wraps her hand around Offerman’s. He puts his other hand around her waist, looks at her with his blue eyes and bites his lip. I wonder if he’s secretly holding in a huge fart.
Danielle Bacher is a columnist at Playboy and LA Weekly as well as a contributing writer for Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Interview Mag and LA Times. Follow her on Twitter @DBacherwrites
Photo by Chris McPherson