How Jigsaw puzzles keep Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally together

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They’ve been married for 18 years, and have written a new book called  “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.”

The couple talked to Press Play about growing up in the Midwest, falling in love, and why puzzles keep their marriage going. Below are highlights from the conversation. 

Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at KCRW. Photo by Amy Ta. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Offerman’s childhood: a Norman Rockwell painting; Mullally’s: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Offerman and Mullally both grew up in the Midwest, but that’s about all they had in common then.  Offerman says his parents were “just honest decent hardworking Midwesterners.”

However, Mullally had much tougher childhood. She says she hasn’t talked much about her father, who was an alcoholic, and cheated on his wife, her mother.

“He was really a womanizer. And that was like a big thing around our house. Because I would be recruited to be the assistant detective sometimes, because my mom was upset… I had to help her figure out who he was talking to on the phone, and like go through the glove box in the car, and find letters to and from different people.”

She also says her father was a volatile figure in her life.

“It was a little scary because… I couldn’t really seem to do anything right. But I feel like I’ve triumphed over a lot of things but … it wasn’t a good role model for a marriage. So I got really lucky because Nick’s parents are just the opposite.”

On falling in love

I didn’t consider us two equal human beings. I mean, I really felt well beneath Megan. I mean, I was a broke jerk living in somebody’s basement,” Offerman says.

“When she walked into the first day of rehearsal… she had this incredibly curated, cute outfit, and then she proceeded to render the first read-through of the play with the brilliance that we’ve come to know that she has. I was gobsmacked,” he says.

Offerman and Mullally then became friends — mainly by making each other laugh.

Mullally says it took her some time to think of Nick as anything other than a friend.

“I think it was one day when we were rehearsing a scene… and he just did something that made me laugh so hard, and I thought wait a minute — is he sexy and cute?”

She says she also never dated someone who was “so manly.”  I was like ‘what is this?’ I didn’t even know, I had no no guidelines. I mean I’d seen Tarzan, but that’s about it.”

On puzzles

“We try to pick the dumbest puzzles we can find… and then once we’ve finished, I run up into my closet… and I’ll bring a bunch of stuff down, and then I’ll dress Nick up.”

They take photos of themselves with their completed jigsaws — sometimes dressed as the characters in the puzzles.

“We did a whole series of fantasy puzzles of like ladies with long black hair riding on a stallion in a long red dress. So we did a whole series of those, where Nick had to be dressed like the lady, and he got progressively more ladylike as it went along. And I got progressively more disconcerted.”

But what is the secret to their happy marriage?

Offerman points to “benign normalcy” as the key to keeping them together.

“People make a big deal because we’re visible on TV about our relationship. And we say — well we actually are just very boring and we communicate well, and that seems to be the key.”