Super Hungry Podcast: An Evening With Jim O'Heir

By Vallen Driggers on October 6, 2016

If you don’t watch Parks and Recreation, then you might not care as much about this article as others. But, being the massive success of a show that it was, I’m willing to bet more than a few of you have seen the show. And if you know the show, then you know Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry/Lenny/Barry/Gerry Gergich because in Park’s world of unbelievably amazing characters, Jerry (as I will subsequently refer to him for simplicity’s sake) stands out and wraps your heart in the most lovable form of awful goofiness.

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So when I heard that the man, the legend, the man who once had a fart attack, was coming to Florida State, obviously I had to be there.

Jim O’Heir, the one who brought Jerry to life, came to FSU on Wednesday, October 5 to do a live recording for Super Hungry: Conversations with Not-so Starving Artists podcast. Virginia Anzengruber is the host of the show, which is all about talking with artists of all kinds that have worked hard to make it to where they are and still have a hunger for their work.

I will be honest in saying that I knew nothing about O’Heir other than the fact that he played a man who could not Photoshop his life with better decisions. I really just wanted to be in the same room as Jerry. But, come to find out, O’Heir is a great guy all on his own.

Disclaimer: O’Heir warned us pretty straight away that he is “incredibly sarcastic … sometimes they believe me … but believe nothing I say.” So if something seems too ridiculous to not be a joke, it is.

O’Heir enters the stage with a phony call to Chris Pratt (or he could’ve actually been on the phone with him because HE KNOWS CHRIS PRATT). So, yeah, he dropped Pratt and Retta (who plays Donna on Parks & Rec) within five minutes of entering the building. I could never blame him for this as I would consistently be pointing out that I know CHRIS. PRATT.

Vallen Driggers

But he wasn’t always at a point where he could name drop household name celebrities. O’Heir started out in Chicago where he attended Loyola University and worked as a radio DJ. (“I had no idea what I was doing,”). Eventually though, he began to notice that his fellow radio personnel were moving on. Everyone was moving on except him. One day he was offered a cigarette by a co-worker that he “[didn’t] think were real cigarettes.” That was the moment that really inspired him to get up and go.

From there, O’Heir went to the Midwest Broadcasting Academy where he made a demo reel. He got a job on a set where he was working for 120 hours a week for as many dollars. Not exactly ideal conditions.

However, one day in a performance, he got his first laugh. From that moment on, he knew he had to do that for the rest of his life, be it part-time or a full-time job.

There came a time when he was doing what would become a cult show with his friends, a comedy group called White Noise (Everyone thought “we were just huge racists … but only two of us were racists, so it was crazy”). The show gained some acclaim and they ended up taking it to Los Angeles for six months. He fully intended to go back to his hometown, but his friends later told him, “we knew you were never coming back.” He was just too good.

He was pretty lucky in finding jobs in LA initially. O’Heir booked two jobs right after finishing his friends’ TV show. One was on a show for Jeff Foxworthy on which immediately almost everyone was fired. O’Heir stated that Foxworthy never learned that to be funny, you need to surround yourself with funny people. Apparently he didn’t want anyone to be funnier than he was. Needless to say, the show never took off.

He was next called up for a movie with Matt LeBlanc in the height of the Friends fame. It was a kids movie called Ed. A large takeaway for O’Heir seemed to be the fact that two small people were playing a monkey in a suit with an animatronic head. LeBlanc commented to him: “I think we got a winner.” O’Heir was less certain.

Soon enough, we got to the topic everyone in the crowd really wanted to discuss: Parks and Recreation.

O’Heir had nothing but glowing compliments to give to everyone remotely involved in the show. He said that he “never heard a raised voice in 125 episodes.” It’s more than just onscreen chemistry. The entire cast and crew truly was one big family, on and off set. Even the extras and stand-ins, who are recurring throughout the show’s run, were treated only with love.

The city of Pawnee itself was built to feel like a real city, and, to everyone involved, it was. The set never even came down between seasons. Looking back, O’Heir states that it really was a “dream job for seven seasons” and thinks that “it will go down as one of the all-time great shows.”

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In regards to his start on the show, O’Heir remembers how every man auditioning was required to also try out for the part of Ron Swanson. That’s right, y’all. Jerry auditioned for Ron. Needless to say, Nick Offerman won the part, and it is now unimaginable as anyone else. In fact, even O’Heir mixed up Offerman and Swanson’s names when speaking of them.

But O’Heir was offered the part of Jerry, and the rest is history.

In reminiscing on working with Amy Poehler, the show’s lead and all around amazing performer and woman, he recalls how he was asked to do improvisation with her on an episode and how intimidating that was “because Amy, she’s the queen of it.” To which Anzengruber interjects: “Of the world, you mean?”

O’Heir expressed his love for some of the other beautiful women on set, stating that Rashida Jones was pretty from sun up to sun down, and, naturally, “she was all over me.” And he notes that he “feel in love with [Aubrey Plaza] in 10 minutes.” He continues: “Aubrey is odd, and yet you love her with all your heart … some of her improv is terrifying … but she’s a hugger.”

But probably his favorite lady on set was Retta. If someone was looking for them, they knew that either she was in his trailer or he was in hers. And, in response to a question from the audience, he put her as the winner of a Parks versus The Office gladiator fight as the last one alive.

However, during the cast’s appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers where they were set to sing “Bye, Bye, Lil’ Sebastian,” it was Plaza that leaned to O’Heir and asked if he wanted to make out during the song, to which O’Heir replied, “uh … yeah.” He said that Aubrey is so smart in the ways of comedy. She knew it wouldn’t be funny if she were to kiss Pratt (he’s her husband in Parks) or Adam Scott or any of the other young men. But these two making out? Gold. (“Within two seconds, Aubrey’s tongue was down my throat.”) Check it out here.

And while I’m kind of on the topic of Lil’ Sebastian, we have confirmation that, despite the show’s end result, “Lil’ Sebastian … is still alive and well!”

But, above everyone else, O’Heir simply could not stop talking about Chris Pratt. There is “nobody kinder,” he raves, “with a bigger heart than Chris Pratt.” Anzengruber (who was once an extra on the show) and O’Heir both testified to how he thanks all the extras on the set all the time. And, in the episode where the guys of the show visit the stadium of the Indianapolis Colts, Pratt was the only one who could catch a pass from Quarterback Andrew Luck and kick a legitimate field goal. Although, O’Heir jokes that Pratt hasn’t had such good luck since Parks. “Let’s hope something happens for [Pratt].”

BUT THEN.

Then, in mentioning Pratt’s three franchises, he essentially CONFIRMS A FOURTH ONE?! “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say anything.” TOO LATE, JIM. Now we can only wait.

Anyway, it’s needless to say that O’Heir loves his Parks family and is ridiculously thankful for the show. The entire cast still texts constantly, and he cites all 125 episodes as his favorite. “To be in a show like Parks, you’ve really crushed the odds. I don’t need to pick up a ticket because Parks was my lottery.”

C’mon, guys. How cute is that?

Vallen Driggers

But O’Heir was quick to mention that he doesn’t just do Jerry. He recently filmed a movie, Middle Man, written by a close friend, in which he plays the lead. It’s a darker film, quite a step in the opposite direction of Jerry. But O’Heir says that the switch between the two is easy and fun for him.

He said he “would love to do a TV drama.” However, when he recently guest starred on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, he said it “brought [him] back to that feeling of family,” so maybe another sitcom is in his future. Currently, he’s working on a comedy film, titled Logan Lucky, to be released in 2017 with an all-star cast including Channing Tatum (“[He] was so thrilled to get to work with me.”)

Now. As much as I’ve said about Jim O’Heir, I have only scratched the surface. For all this and so much more, keep an eye out for this episode of the Super Hungry podcast, coming soon to iTunes and various other places on the web. O’Heir gives advice to aspiring actors (“If it’s in your gut, if this is what you have to do, you have no choice”), reveals his actual favorite episodes, and talks more about his movies.

If all this about Jim O’Heir sounds too good to be true, remember everyone has their difficulties: “I’m too good looking and that has been my curse.”

Read. Fandom. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. It's a simple life, but I like it.

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