There are so many great characters on Parks and Recreation: Leslie, Tom, Donna, Andy, Ben, Chris, Jerry (or Garry or Larry or Terry or whatever you want to call him). But it is certainly arguable that the greatest character on the show is the meat-loving mustachioed libertarian that is Ron Swanson. Thanks to both the terrific writing and the brilliantly deadpan performance by Nick Offerman, every word that comes out of Ron’s mouth is a stitch. There are so many memorable moments that were immortalized by this lovable character (mostly involving an inordinate amount of bacon and eggs) – here are the 10 greatest Ron Swanson moments from Parks and Rec!
10. When he pulled out his tooth
In Parks and Rec, Ron Swanson would often test his friends’ boundaries and keep them in line with creative methods. For example, he pretended not to know Ann’s name on the one occasion when they were finally starting to grow close to one another – because despite the fact that he even does like her, he doesn’t want her to think that they’re friends. There’s another moment in the show like this where Ron wants to remind all of his co-workers of the fact that he’s a tough dude. He complains during a meeting with the rest of the parks department staff about his tooth being in pain and then takes out a pair of pliers and rips the tooth out of his mouth. As Ron himself explains his ploy to the camera after we’ve seen everybody’s horrified reactions to the graphic tooth pull, “The dentist pulled the tooth out yesterday, but it’s always a good idea to demonstrate to your co-workers that you are capable of withstanding a tremendous amount of pain.” That has to be the most Ron Swanson way to rationalize doing something that is completely insane. He also adds, “Plus, it’s always fun to see Tom faint.”
9. When he gave his take on the “Teach a man to fish” philosophy
Ron Swanson is certainly a man with a lot of opinions, and sticks to those opinions, no matter what anybody else tries to tell him – even if one of those opinions is that the country does not need a government, while he continues to work for that government. It helps that most of the time, he is absolutely right. There’s a famous and well known philosophy that tells us that if we give a man a fish, then we feed him for a day, but if we teach that same man to fish, then we will feed him for a lifetime. The idea is actually supposed to be more symbolic and metaphoric that Ron Swanson believes it to be, because he has his own take on this philosophy that takes it rather literally. He says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Don’t teach a man to fish, and you feed yourself. He’s a grown man. Fishing’s not that hard.” He’s right, to be fair. It is a metaphor, and it’s not literally about fishing, but if you take what Ron is saying as a metaphor as well, then you’ll see that he’s basically saying to watch out for your own interests. It’s survival of the fittest.
8. When he met Annabel Porter
Parks and Rec was always really great at satirizing things from real life and taking them to an extreme conclusion. For example, Annabel Porter and her magazine Bloosh are spoofs of Gwyneth Paltrow and her weekly lifestyle newsletter Goop. And Ron has always been proud of the chairs that he makes. When he won an award for one of them, he told the story like this: “Recently, I made a chair. When I was finished, I thought it was a good chair. I submitted it to the Indiana Fine Woodworking Association, who felt it merited consideration for an award. It’s been a real whirlwind.” But when Tom and Donna informed him that his chair would be featured in Bloosh, he had no idea what they meant. “Start over and speak differently,” he said. Ron’s description of Annabel Porter is quite simply, “That woman is my nightmare.” But as a part of the promotion of his chair, he had to meet her at a publicity event, and he couldn’t imagine anything worse than being surrounded by vain, shallow, vegan airheads. At one point, Annabel tells Ron that his chair is “delicious,” and baffled, he just says, “Did that woman call my chair delicious?”
7. When he asked, “Is Star Wars the one with the little wizard boy?”
In a season 7 episode of Parks and Rec called “Gryzzlbox,” our beloved characters are fighting against a big corporation and they find out how the company managed to sneak a revision to their policies under the Pawnee local government’s nose. Ben was in charge of it all, and as Leslie points out upon discovering the cause of the problem, “Look at the revision date. December 18th, 2015. That was the opening day of Episode VII. You were muttering that date in your sleep for months. They knew you’d be distracted. That’s how they slipped it in.” And then they launch into a whole conversation about the hype surrounding all of Disney’s new Star Wars sequels and spin-offs and Ben gets into how he blames himself for everything that’s gone wrong and how it’s “Ice Town all over again.” But Ron, who couldn’t be more clueless when it comes to movies and pop culture, is still confused about the reference, and just naively asks them, “Is Star Wars the one with the little wizard boy?” He’s got Star Wars confused with Harry Potter! How does that even happen? Ron likes to keep off the grid, and he is certainly succeeding.
6. When he won the “prairie drink-off”
All throughout Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson would often be challenged by his ex-wife Tammy and would fall under her spell every time. It would get the point where Leslie would have to step in and save him from his own urges. It became a really great running gag throughout the show’s mythology, and one of the best moments from it came when Leslie had enlisted the help of Ron’s mother, who similarly brainwashed him and wanted him to come home with her. Obviously, Leslie’s plan has backfired and she wants him to stay in Pawnee, so when Ron’s mother challenges all the women who want control over Ron’s life to a “prairie drink-off” with the Swanson family mash liquor and its extremely high alcohol content, Leslie decides to take part. When it gets out of hand and all the women are drunk off their asses, Ron grabs the bottle and necks the rest of it. This was all happening when Ben was looking over the financial disgrace of Entertainment 720 with Tom and Jean Ralphio, and Ann and Chris were trying to make it as friends after breaking up. These were important and very funny storylines, but the Ron/Tammy stories will always be the funniest and most engaging.
5. When he ran pass plays with Andy in the parking lot
Over the course of Parks and Recreation’s seven seasons, Ron Swanson and Andy Dwyer went from perfect strangers to basically father and son. The first time that they bonded was when Andy suggested a new place for Ron to get his lunch from one day and they ended up eating together. Ron was impressed with Andy’s choice. Of the new lunch menu, Ron says, “It’s a whole new meat delivery system. Thank you, son.” That was maybe the first time that Ron called Andy “son” and really meant it. And then Andy tells Ron, “What do you say we go out to the parking lot, run a few pass plays to burn off the calories?” And that’s exactly what they do, and it’s hilarious. Ron tosses the ball to Andy and Andy leaps across the hood of somebody’s car and sets of its alarm, so they have to flee the scene. The glee with which Ron says, “Andy, wait up!” as they run away from the car alarm in the parking lot like a couple of mischievous kids who don’t want to get in trouble and the infectious little giggle that he does are delivered by Nick Offerman oh so perfectly.
4. When he slipped on the grass
In the Parks and Rec season 2 finale episode “Freddy Spaghetti,” Ron is keeping the state auditors (which was all Ben and Chris were known for back then, two episodes into their run) busy and distracted while Leslie secretly puts on a children’s concert that was banned behind their backs. But when they find out about it and start heading down there, Ron rushes down to the park to warn them. He jumps out of his car and starts running down towards the gang telling them, “They’re coming! They’re coming!” And as he runs across the grass, he slips over. The moment is slapstick humor, which doesn’t always work, and it comes completely out of the blue, but in this case, it’s so hilarious. As it turns out, the fall was not in the initial script for the episode – and it wasn’t an accident either. Nick Offerman planned to do it before they came in to shoot the scene, but didn’t tell anybody in order to keep the reactions of the other actors fresh and realistic and genuine. Aziz Ansari, who played Tom Haverford on the show, has described this improvised slapstick moment as “one of my favorite shots in the series.”
3. When he filled in for a hungover Joan Callamezzo on live television
As the series went on, Joan Callamezzo’s life became more and more of a mess. By the end, she was showing up to the studio with such a huge hangover that she couldn’t string a sentence together or keep her eyes open. On that day, her guest on the show happened to be Ron Swanson. So, Ron just stuck around and filled in for her on the show. He fielded calls all day (although he requested that all of the calls be about the topics that he is interested in: woodworking, novels about tall ships, and meat) and provided the residents of Pawnee with some of his sage wisdom. When he tells the viewers about her hangover and they ask if she’s okay, he provides them with an effective hangover treatment. “Is she gonna be okay?” one called asks. Ron replies, “Wouldn’t know. Never been hungover. After I’ve had too much whiskey, I cook myself a large flank steak, pan fried in salted butter. I eat that, put on a pair of wet socks, and go to sleep.” Other gems included: “Any dog under fifty pounds is a cat and cats are useless,” “Your house isn’t haunted – you’re lonely,” and “Whatever happened to, ‘Hey I have some apples, would you like to buy them?’ ‘Yes. Thank you’. That’s as complicated as it should be to open a business in this country.”
2. When he wanted all the bacon and eggs
This moment is often cited among the greatest Ron Swanson moments, and there’s a very good reason for that. It sums up his character perfectly. We know that he loves breakfast food. He even has a framed picture of some breakfast food in his office. We also know that he loves steak, but he only loves good steak. In this episode, he is served a measly little bit of meat that’s passing itself off as a steak and he’s not happy with it. He tells the waiter, “This isn’t a steak. Why would you call it that on your menu?” And then when the waiter clearly isn’t getting it, Ron just sighs and tells him, “Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have.” And then as the waiter walks off, Ron stops him to say, “Wait, wait. I’m worried what you just heard was, ‘Give me a lot of bacon and eggs.’ What I said was, ‘Give me all the bacon and eggs you have.’ Do you understand?” The conviction with which he says this line is what makes it so brilliant. It’s yet another hilarious example of Nick Offerman’s deadpan delivery working wonders for the character.
1. When he got shot in the head
The “Hunting Trip” episode of Parks and Recreation is notable for being the first time that we saw the chemistry shared by Andy and April. Matt Fowler of IGN even wrote, “I could literally watch Andy and April for a full half hour. Their pairing was amazing, and might I add, very naturalistic. It didn’t feel like they were just two quirky characters, I felt like they were really interacting on a sweet and real level.” So, it’s an important one just for that, but it’s the titular hunting trip where the real laughs come from. It’s a great episode for Ron Swanson, because he’s already upset that the women of the office (and Tom) have invaded his manly annual hunting trip – and then he gets shot in the head! As Ann treats him and the painkillers kick in, so do the laughs. He combines his meds with scotch and the hilarious lines come pouring out. And then when Leslie admits to doing it, Ron never stops insulting her for it. “You know, Leslie, the Super Bowl is in a couple months. I usually watch it with my brothers. Maybe you can come by at half time and shoot me in the head.” As it turns out, it was Tom, and Leslie took the fall for him, because he didn’t get his hunting license and she wanted to protect him. What a great episode. So many twists – and laughs!