'Parks & Recreation': 15 Behind-The-Scenes Facts
Welcome to ComedyNerd, Cracked's daily comedy Superstation. For more ComedyNerd content, and ongoing coverage of the Iran/Contra Affair, please sign up for the ComedyNerd newsletter below.
If you thought being a part of the whole Parks & Rec experience would be a total blast, turns out it really was.
With that mockumentary style, that lovable bunch of government employees, and a popular little horse with a not-so-little pixelation problem, we thought you’d wanna delve a little deeper into Pawnee.
The show's original title was Public Service.
When The New York Times asked NBC’s co-chairman Ben Silverman why the creators changed the title to Parks and Recreation, he explained, "Can't make fun of public service! We didn't want to seem mean about it.”
Plus, the words “parks” and “recreation” do sound a whole lot more fun than “public” and “service”.
Chris Pratt was cast because of his work on The O.C.
The actor played rich-boy activist Che on the teen drama The O.C. Co-creator Michael Schur's wife, J.J. Philbin, wrote on The O.C at the time, and recommended Pratt for the role of Andy Dwyer.
Seems like people recognized his talent early on.
Ron Swanson is based on a real government official.
Nick Offerman threw in the woodworking, scotch-loving, and sax-playing, but Ron Swanson’s stance on government was based on an anonymous Burbank official.
"We were talking to one official about wanting to make Leslie's boss opposed to government. Like, 'Wouldn't it be funny if she's trying so hard to get stuff accomplished but her boss doesn't believe in the mission of the branch of government he's supposed to be overseeing?' And she looks at us and goes, 'Well, I'm a libertarian, so I don't really believe in the mission of my job’. And she goes, 'Yes, I'm aware of the irony.' “
Nick Offerman and Adam Scott both auditioned for Ann's love interest.
We’re glad they landed where they did.
Adam Scott told GQ, “I actually auditioned for the show before it was even on the air. I really wanted it, but I actually kind of blew it, and so I was obviously pretty upset. When the opportunity popped up again a couple years later, I was really excited. I had a meeting with Mike Schur, and then it all just kind of fell into place from there.”
When Nick Offerman auditioned, reading lines opposite Rashida Jones, he knew he was screwed. "I thought, 'Oh great. Me and Adam Scott up for the guy who gets to kiss Rashida. He's devilishly handsome and charming and funny. ... Even my mom would cast him over me.” But he didn’t get it either, Nick.
Joe Biden was a natural.
From The Groundlings to the White House.
In season 5, Leslie Knope meets her ultimate crush, then-Vice President Joe Biden.
After filming the scene in Biden's ceremonial office, Poehler said, "He was charming and funny and a true pro. He didn't even flinch when Leslie slightly leaned in for a kiss. That's some old-school improv commitment right there.”
Two and a half days’ worth of footage was shot for each episode.
Take 16… Action!
For every 22-minute episode, they shot roughly 60 hours of bloopers, improv, and scenes that were written but would later need to be cut.
To put that into perspective, Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is mostly improvised from a loose outline, shoots about 10 hours per episode.
Aubrey Plaza based April Ludgate on her sister.
Hey sis, you mind if I use your entire personality for seven seasons?
That dark, uninterested delivery of April was heavily inspired by her younger sister, Natalie (who ends up playing April’s younger sister on the show).
Casting director Allison Jones told Michael Schur, “I just met the weirdest girl I’ve ever met in my life. You have to meet her and put her on your show.”
The theme song came from a contest.
Most contests are just for some concert tickets!
Some shows use existing songs, and some use new compositions, but back in 2008, BMI sent a mass email to all of its composers, giving them five days to submit a potential theme song for the new mockumentary sitcom.
That tune we all know and love was composed by Gaby Moreno and Vincent Jones, and they won $7,500 for it.
It’s one of King Of The Hill’s many grandchildren.
Thanks Mike Judge!
Many creators and writers of modern TV comedies got their start on King of the Hill.
The list includes Parks & Rec’s co-creator Gregory Martin Daniels, along with people who went on to create Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Silicon Valley, Modern Family, The Good Place, American Dad!, and Rick and Morty.
Characters hadn't been fleshed out during the audition process.
Just be yourself.
Creating characters, then casting actors to play them is just how it’s done! The producers of Parks & Rec went a different route, and chose the actors they thought were funny or unique, then build characters around them.
Tom Haverford shares a lot of his backstory (like his childhood in South Carolina) with Aziz Ansari.
Leslie and Ron make out every season.
Another take, just for fun this time.
Co-creator Michael Schur said, “They were not romantic options for each other. We took that off the table.” But Amy Poehler told fans, “But I will say every year there’s a scene, just for the gag reel, where Leslie and Ron make out.”
“And it never makes the gag reel because it’s super disgusting to watch,” Schur added.
It was almost cancelled after season 1.
Give comedy a chance!
After being unfavorably compared to The Office, the first season received such negative reviews, that it was almost cancelled.
In an interview, Michael Shur explained that comedies like The Office, Parks & Rec, Community, and 30 Rock had slow starts because they are character comedies. Until you know who the characters are, you just won’t find them that funny. Now, people say to me, “I went back and watched those first six episodes, and they’re a lot funnier than I remember.
Big ol' Sebastian.
As Jim O'Heir (Jerry) explained to Seth Myers, the horse who played L'il Sebastian was almost constantly erect, making him very difficult to work with. They ended up blurring out his very large penis for a joke, and out of necessity.
He also told Seth that he shared that same problem on set, which was pretty funny.
It correctly predicted the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.
Seems like they borrowed the The Simpsons’ time machine.
Because season seven aired in 2015 but was set in 2017, the writers made a series of predictions about how the next few years would unfold.
In episode two, Tom visits his ex-girlfriend Lucy in Chicago. She makes a throwaway comment about how Chicagoans have been friendlier since the Cubs won the World Series.
It seemed unlikely because they hadn't won in over a hundred years, but sure enough, the Cubs won that year's World Series.
Jim O'Heir originally auditioned for Ron Swanson.
This one’s hard to imagine, because Ron is so Ron, and Jerry is so… Jerry.
Obviously Nick Offerman was given the role, but the producers liked O’Heir so much they brought him in for Jerry, and began molding the character around him.
Top Image: Deedle-Dee Productions & Universal Media Studios