What’s the point of living in LA if you’re not going to be friends with celebrities? In this series, The Avocado provides tips for approaching the sort-of famous person you see at shul without coming off like a total kibitzer.

Celebrity: David Wain

What You Know Him From? David Wain is a comedy legend known by many Jews in their 30s and 40s for The State, Wainy Days, Stella, and Wet Hot American Summer.

What Does Your Mom Know Him From? Probably nothing, right? Ma, you haven’t seen Wet Hot, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Um, well he has a new show called Medical Police that just came out on Netflix, but you probably haven’t seen that either. You have? Already? Netflix recommended it because you watched New Girl? You know, I think he directed a few episodes of that so I guess that makes sense.

Where You Will Meet: Beit Shecter Conservative Temple in Valley Village on the Purim, the 14th day of Adar. He’ll be at a breakfast spread casually listening to Rabbi Greenville read the story of a botched genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia from the Megillah. Fun!

Wait, Are You Sure That’s David Wain?: One of the difficulties of running into David Wain in public is being absolutely sure it’s him. I mean, why would he be at a Purim service anyway? Is he that religious? Maybe it’s just a different balding Jew listening to the Rabbi’s lecture by the buffet and taking more than his fair share of the whitefish?

How To Figure Out Whether That’s David Wain: In most circumstances, there is literally no way of determining whether someone is David Wain or not. But lucky for you, you’ve run into him at a temple which provides you a good opening and the necessary time to confirm his identity.

Walk up to the spread of food he is standing by and casually say “this is pretty good whitefish,” almost as if talking to yourself. He’ll smile, but will say defensively “I wouldn’t really know, I haven’t had too much of it,” which is a lie. At this point, say “I want to dip my balls in it!” quoting that famous catchphrase from The State to gauge his reaction. He’ll again smile politely and say something like “it’s not that good,” which is a pretty funny line but doesn’t really confirm that this is David Wain.

Still unsure of whether you are talking to your comedic hero, you decide to just ask:

“Your name is David, right?” He’ll say it is, but does so as a dozen other slight-framed balding men gathered around the whitefish also volunteer that their names are David too. 

“You went to summer camp growing up, right?” you’ll ask, but the same dozen Davids also confirm that they went to summer camps too. After several minutes of you and the Davids running through the various Alan Cohens and Ben Golds you knew at Camp Ramah and what they are up to now, you turn back to who you think might be David Wain to ask if he went to NYU. He says yes, but then the other Davids all also say that they went to NYU too, except for one who went to Columbia and thinks he is better than everyone because of it. As you ponder your next move and contemplate whether there is a subtle way of confirming David Wain’s existence, he turns to you.

“Look, I know what you’re doing,” he says.

“You do?”

“Yeah, but let’s not do this here. Meet me in the teen room after the Parsha and we can get into this,” he said and walks away. For the next 15 minutes, you listen as Rabbi Greenville talks passionately about the lessons to be learned from anti-semitism and how generations of Judaic resilience should give us confidence in our own survival as a people in what can feel like a fractured and hateful world. “It is often said that because the Jews are the chosen people, we are granted an exalted position in the eyes of Hashem. But God’s choice to bestow onto us a great nation means we have the responsibility to make the world a better place through Tikkun Olam. That is the lesson of Purim, that even in the face of anti-semitism and destruction we must still act with love in our hearts and choose to rebuild the world out rather than accept its destruction.”

As the Rabbi’s words settled in, you wonder whether you have lived with love in your heart. “Did I even know how to love?” you question as you use the bottom half of a bagel chip to scoop up the last of the whitefish. “Fuck it,” you say. “I’m going to go talk to David Wain.”

You make your way out of the temple’s main room and into the BBYO teen room where you’ll find David Wain waiting for you.

“So, you wanted to talk to me?” he asks, casually leaning against a foosball table set up for the teens who meet here after school. “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to meet you,” you say, walking up to him slowly.

“How long have you known about me?” he asks.

“Oh, I don’t even remember the first time I heard about you. It feels like forever.” By this point, you are staring directly into his eyes. He breaths heavy himself, almost as if he were nervous to meet you for some reason. You can smell the whitefish off his breath; it’s sort of gross.

“Is there anything you want to say?” he asks. The directness of the question throws you off. You had thought about what it would be like to meet David Wain since you were a teenager and want to tell him how much he meant to you, but for whatever reason, the admiration manifests itself in you leaning in and kissing David Wain squarely on his lips. You are overwhelmed by the taste of white fish and honestly don’t know what came over you. You’ve never been so embarrassed.

“I’m married,” you’ll say to a shocked David Wain.

“Obviously. So am I” he says back. “So this is what you want? You’ll leave me alone if we do this?”

You don’t understand the question, but before you could figure out what was happening, he grabs you and kisses you. The whole episode takes you off guard and you’re wholly unsure what is going on or how to navigate this situation which felt so alien and gay. “Is this what I want?” you ask yourself. “Is this what Rabbi Greenville meant by letting love into your heart and living life with Tikkun olam?”

“What are we doing here?” you interrupt as David Wain’s hands make their way down the front of your dress pants.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I’ll do whatever you want just let’s get this over with and please don’t tell my wife about Sarah.”

“What do you mean?” you ask. “Sarah is my wife.”

“Yeah, I know, obviously,” he says, his hands starting to explore beneath your tallis. As you continue to be felt up in the youth room of the temple, you struggle to make sense of what is happening. How did David Wain know your wife and what about her did he want to keep from his wife?

“Stop!” you say, pulling back. He is confused and as he waits for you to explain your sudden change of mind, you looked deeply into his eyes and scan his face in a way you had not previously done: This wasn’t David Wain at all, but just a run of the mill Jewish man covered in whitefish.

“You and Sarah had an affair?” you ask the man, whom you later discover is a wedding photographer who sells pre-paid cell phones to Americans traveling to Israel on the side named David Werksman. “Yes. I’m sorry. But please don’t tell my wife about it,” he says. You tell him you won’t and leave David with the voyeuristic teens who watched the entire scene in the BBYO room.

How To Deal With The Discovery That Your Wife Had An Affair With Someone From Temple And, If Possible, How To Relate That Betrayal to The Struggles Of The Jewish People Following The Destruction Of The Second Temple:

After leaving David, you find your wife Sarah with the kids, Menasha and Yael. “Where did you go, we were looking all over for you?” Sarah asks.

“I was…just catching up with someone,” you tell her. As your family and you leave the temple, you watch Sarah and wonder what drove her to have an affair and how, after 15-years together, she could put all you had built at risk. Had you not been there for her? Should you tell her you know? These questions race through your mind as you leave the shul and make your way to your favorite post-shul diner, a place called Art’s in Studio City.

“Someone ate all the whitefish at the Temple,” Sarah complains. “Yeah, I saw the guy who did it. He didn’t seem to mind taking what isn’t his,” you say.

As you sit at the restaurant, you listen to your kids laugh and make jokes with each other and think about how they would be impacted by the divorce. “Penny for your thoughts?” Sarah asks, seeing that something is on your mind. You started to feel anger at what she did to you. “You know, Sarah, it’s not okay–” you began, but are interrupted.

“Holy shit, is that David Wain?” Sarah asks, pointing to a table in the corner of the restaurant. “Honey, you have to go over to him,” she tells you. “He’s your hero.”

As you walk over to the table, you can feel your heart palpitate. Was this some sort of sign? A rainbow in a delicatessen from Hashem that you shouldn’t destroy your marriage? Is it silly to think this is merely a coincidence, or foolish to think that it isn’t?

“Um, excuse me,” you say to David Wain, the real David Wain. 

“Yes?”

“I just wanted to say I’m a big fan,” you tell him.

“Oh, thank you so much,” he smiles before returning to his sandwich.

As you walk back to your table, you lock eyes with Sarah. Maybe there were underlying reasons for her infidelity and it’s possible that the discovery of her betrayal will initiate the beginning of a rough patch in your relationship that you may not be able to weather. But you think it’s worth trying to make it work because, recent revelations notwithstanding, it mostly does work. It’s like Rabbi Greenville told you: It is our duty as the chosen people to build up our world with love in our hearts and to not give in to the impulse, even during the most trying of times, to destroy what we have created. As Jews, we rebuild. That is the meaning of Tikkun Olam. And you want to dip your balls in it.

“How was he? What did he say?” Sarah asks you about finally getting to meet your hero David Wain.

“He was nice,” you tell her. “He was eating a Reuben. I think I’m gonna get one too.”

Nick Offerman does not “believe” in refunds, a fact I learned shortly after handing him an $8,000 check for what was advertised as a “practical acting class” that turned out to be a course on canoe building. Known primarily for his role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation, what most people don’t realize is that Nick is also an accomplished woodworker and once showed his penis in an episode of Dead Wood. “This is my shop,” he said proudly as he walked me around the space and described its tools and the mechanics of its complex dust collection system that he designed himself. “We’re going to be thinking a lot about dust as we build this canoe together.” I was confused.

“I’m sorry, did you say we are going to be building a canoe? I thought this was an acting class.”

“Son, there isn’t much you can’t learn about life by building a canoe,” he told me before getting back to a surprisingly long conversation about dust and letting me know about his strict no refund philosophy. “A transaction shouldn’t linger. It’s effete,” he said before getting back to dust management which he believes is essential.

“How will building a canoe help me develop practical acting skills?” I asked, to which the Dead Wood penis actor told me that finding success in Hollywood was unlikely given my height and face and that learning a craft such as canoe building would allow me to earn an honest living while my more grandiose dreams fail. “What could be more practical advice for an actor with your build and hairline than that?”

I wasn’t convinced and had no use for a canoe, but I had already paid and didn’t have much else going on in my life, so for the next 8-weeks I spent every evening in Nick’s workshop honing the skills I would need to become a great thespian and intermediate wood craftsmen.

“The first question one must ask when building a canoe is what type of wood to use,” Nick told me during our first lesson. In thinking about the question, I felt I understood how acting and woodworking complimented each other and figured Nick was laying the framework for an eventual Karate Kid style revelation where the incremental skills I develop through woodworking come together into a full repertoire of the talents necessary to make it in Hollywood.

“So, picking out the right wood is sort of like deciding on the right part to take as an actor?” I asked, but was told not to read too much into what he was saying.

“No. The best wood to use for a canoe is red cedar. And the best part for you to take at this point in your acting career is anything you are offered, even if they ask you to show your penis. It’s only after you have developed your craft that you can experiment with mahogany and other hardwoods or can turn down roles that require an uncomfortable amount of nudity. Remember, you’re desperate, and red cedar is a desperate wood for desperate people.”

During our first week together I learned the basics of canoe building and that I shouldn’t ask Nick Offerman about his personal or professional life while in his shop. “A woodshop is not a place for casual conversation,” he told me before pivoting into an explanation on the differences between a jointer and a planer. “A jointer is used to flatten the face of a piece of wood and square up one edge and a planer is used to make the second face flat and parallel to the first,” he’d tell me over and over but I still didn’t understand the difference.

“What’s not to understand?” Nick would yell, letting me know that he was disappointed in my progress and that normally such incompetence in a woodshop would be punished by requiring me to sweep the dust from the floor, but that since his dust collection system was so efficient and there was nothing to sweep I should just stand in the corner as he demonstrates the proper way to shape the canoe’s inner stem. “Just go hand me my spokeshave,” he told me but I didn’t know what that was. “And you expect to make it as an actor?” he scoffed. 

Over the next several weeks I tried to make myself useful and for the most part, stayed out of Nick’s way as he silently measured out and cut the planks for the canoe. The only bright spot during this period was when Nick’s wife, Megan Mullally would come into the shop on occasion. I had read that Megan had discovered Bill Hader and, being impressed by his impressions, recommended him to Lorne Michaels for Saturday Night Live. Since I didn’t feel like Nick’s lessons would lead me to succeed as an actor, I decided to greet Megan in a variety of accents (cockney, racist Indian, John Malkovich) to demonstrate that I was also ready for Saturday Night Live and an introduction to Lorne. But she would just politely smiled at me before leaving. “I know what you’re doing and it won’t work,” Nick finally told me after I told Megan to “Kiss My Grits” in my best southern accent. I fucking hate woodworking.

Nick was on edge during our last week together and feeling stressed by what would be an intensive two-days of laminating the wood for the boat’s hull. I was in charge of managing and attaching the staples and clamps. As I worked through the evening securing the glued wood into its frame Nick finally paid me a compliment. 

“That’s a nice amount of pressure you got there,” he said of my clamp work. “When you’re in a woodshop you’re going to sometimes want to tighten the clamp as much as possible, but you shouldn’t because it could damage the face of the wood. Just let the glue do the work and be patient,” he said.

“Thanks.” It was the first nice thing he said to me in weeks.

“The same is true when going out on an audition. You’re going to want to give the reading your all, but sometimes the best reading requires a little less. It’s more important to give an even performance and let the words do the work,” he said as he scraped away the glue squeeze.

“Holy shit, it’s happening. He’s relating acting to canoe building. He’s Miyagi and I’m LaRusso,” I thought to myself, fully prepared to discover all of the fine acting skills I had subconsciously learned over the last six weeks, but it never came. Our last week together mostly involved the two of us silently planing and sanding the canoe and applying several coats of varnish to the piece. On our last day together we installed the canoe’s seat and yoke and built a pair of paddles.

“Well, I think this is a fine canoe. You should be proud,” Nick told me as we admired the boat we built.

“Thanks, Dad,” I said, horrified that I called him Dad, but to be honest a bit surprised I hadn’t done so sooner. “I’m sorry–” I said, but he told me not to worry about it. “It happens in a woodshop.”

As I packed up my things and prepared to leave Nick’s shop for the last time I felt a level of self-satisfaction that I had never experienced before. I know I wouldn’t be able to build a canoe of this quality on my own, but was happy I could now appreciate the energy and skill that goes into building something from the ground up. I thanked Nick for the experience and shook his hand.

“I hope you feel like you learned something,” he said. I told him that I did and that while the exact relationship between canoe building and comedic acting felt somewhat attenuated and that I believed his advertisement could have been less misleading, that I felt I had gotten my money’s worth.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Nick said. “You know, acting is just like any skill. You need to take it seriously if you want to do it professionally. Are you sure you’re ready to dedicate yourself to it?” he asked. I told him I was.

“Good. Well, I think I know of a part for you, if you want it.” It was happening, I couldn’t believe it. “Yeah, of course, I’ll take anything,” I told him, eager to hear about the role. “I’m red cedar.”

“I’m glad to hear that, son,” said Nick. “Because the part does require you to show an awful lot of your penis.”  

Nick Offerman’s Woodshop is located in Los Angeles. Acting classes are available to aspiring woodworkers who are comfortable with gratuitous on-camera nudity.