Rand Paul

Rand Paul Cancelled a Parks and Rec Cameo Alongside Ron Swanson

Showrunner says Paul bailed at the last minute.



Mike Schur, co-creator and producer of beloved (and recently departed) TV show Parks and Recreation, told Hitflix that Sen. Rand Paul was set to appear in an episode, but backed out at the last minute:

Having landed both Bill Murray and Werner Herzog, were there any dream guest stars you never managed to get?

Mike Schur: Hillary Clinton, but that became impossible once we jumped to 2017, because we would've had to have answered a question that she probably wouldn't have wanted us to even pose at this point. We also wanted Rand Paul to be in the Washington episode, and he agreed, but then bailed at the eleventh hour. I think he thought we were making fun of him, or something, which we were not, at all. We were in fact flattering him, by linking him to Ron. I get the sense that maybe interpreting writing and humor is not his strong suit.

Notable politicos who did appear on the show at various points include First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Paul's inclusion would have been appropriate, in some sense, given that breakout character Ron Swanson was TV's best-known libertarian. Reason editor Matt Welch celebrated Swanson's appeal in an interview with The Daily Beast:

"[Swanson] has done more to persuade my (French) wife about libertarianism than I have," Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason, told The Daily Beast . "Though in fairness we've only been married 17 years."

Schur claimed that Paul's cameo would have been written in a positive light, a fact the senator did not grasp. Whether that's true or not, who knows.

I enjoyed Parks and Rec throughout its run, and Swanson is indeed an entertaining and frequently fair stand-in for real-life libertarians. Taken as a whole, however, I must agree with Michael Malice's criticisms. On Parks and Rec, the private businesses are always greedy, unscrupulous promoters of unhealthy foods and environmentally ruinous projects. Government bureaucrats, on the other hand, are always justified in going to whatever length necessary to achieve some vague public goal deemed vital by unelected, petty local tyrant Leslie Knope.

Perhaps that's why Paul decided to steer clear, whereas Michelle Obama saw the show as an obvious vehicle for her various crusades.

Watch Reason TV's "5 Best Libertarian TV Shows Ever" below.

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  1. Sad. That would’ve at least been more interesting than seeing Amy poehler fellate a wookiee.

    1. “I can arrange that.”

  2. Am I the only one who finds Parks and Rec to be dull as shit? I watched multiple episodes and found it boring, predictable, and by-the-numbers. It has that SNL feel, like the incredibly shitty 30 Rock, where all the actors are like different variations on Jimmy Fallon. I’m stunned the show doesn’t have a laugh track.

    Maybe part of the reason I felt that way is:

    the private businesses are always greedy, unscrupulous promoters of unhealthy foods and environmentally ruinous projects. Government bureaucrats, on the other hand, are always justified in going to whatever length necessary to achieve some vague public goal deemed vital by unelected, petty local tyrant Leslie Knope.

    Now that’s some boring, predictable, by-the-numbers shit.

    1. How dare you insult Jimmy Fallon like that?

      1. It’s kind of hard not to. I’d like to make fun of Tina Fey but Fallon is more appropriate in this context.

        1. Tina Fey is actually funny though.

    2. I loved the show but oddly enough my least favorite character was Leslie Knope. Even my liberal girlfriend found her pretty obnoxious. Perhaps the writers nor Poehler didn’t mean to do this but Knope is the perfect progressive: self righteous and a petty tyrant.

      Knope even though she has good intentions always interferes with her friend’s lives and always believe that she knows what’s best for everyone. She’s obviously a smart women but a huge pitty that she used that energy to work for a stagnant organization such as the government.

      1. Yep, and Knope’s pettiness cranked into overdrive once she started running for office, and I bailed on the show soon after. It especially annoyed me that Ron Swanson not only tolerated her, he actively helped her campaign, because they’re friends. Even though it had become clear that Knope is a tyrannical busy-body with superhuman endurance (I believe she only sleeps a few hours, is constantly problem-solving, etc.), Ron helps because he loves her. Everyone loves everyone and will help each other out!

        So Knope’s distasteful character, and the suffocating sweetness, turned one of my favorite sitcoms into a boring slog over the course of a few months.

        I think it’s also that so much of the humor came from Knope’s superhuman competence is relegated to petty park issues. Once they took her aspirations seriously, the show lost a lot of its charm.

        1. The best part was when she lost the recall election. She honestly thought she was doing some good by out lawing huge beverages but instead was immediately rejected by the town and voted out of office. I think the show creators wanted to show the voters as being boorish but it made me incredibly happy and sort of hopeful.

          1. Agreed. The writers, rather unintentionally, made quite a good story arc about her being a self-righteous, holier-than-thou, I’m-smarter-than-the-plebs-who-elected me liberal and then getting recalled for it.

            It’s devastating for her personally, but it seems rather obvious that after a season of self-righteous statist bullying, cutting backroom deals to push unwanted bills through, having a controversy every single week, and so on of COURSE she got recalled.

            Damn pity the final episode was basically just a lot of fantasy wish fulfillment that rapidly stopped making sense (SPOILER WARNING: Jerry lived to like, over a hundred, and served as mayor of Pawnee for a ridiculous amount of terms; Leslie becomes the governor of Indiana and it’s implied she moved up from there if the secret service detail at Jerry’s funeral is any indication)

        2. I’m a big fan of the show and watched it to the end, but I agree that the early seasons were better: the misadventures a plucky bureaucrat trying the navigate the trivialities of local government and butting heads with all the incompetent people involved.

          I think the writers became so fond of the character that they felt better showing more successes than failures and so Leslie just kept moving up in the world. It would have been funnier had she been constantly thwarted in her efforts but still had to maintain her optimistic attitude; but then it would have felt a bit… British.

          On the plus side, most of the secondary stories of the other characters had nothing to do with government.

          1. Too enamored of Knope is exactly right. I thought the show had made it clear from the beginning that Knope is similar to Michael Scott, and is only capable in the confines of a small town parks department. Equating herself with Clinton and Pelosi was supposed to be delusional. At some point, the writers bought into it and decided she really was a force to be reckoned with. They even hint that she or Ben becomes POTUS?

            Everyone becomes accomplished and leads a great life. Maybe that is comforting and uplifting for some viewers, but it turned me off. I’d rather the characters find happiness in their more modest lives.

            Bah humbug! I’m going to watch some Veep episodes tonight.

        3. Agreed. It jumped the shark as soon as Leslie got elected to city council and I lost interest in it partway through the next season as it became obvious that the show’s tone was going to promote the shit out of whatever causes the Leslie Knope character was plugging that week.

          The seasons before that were pretty good, when it was pretty obvious that the reason Knope was such a busybody was that her personal life was a disappointing trainwreck and most of her plans were really designed to make her feel good about herself. I just pretend that everything that occurred after she got elected never happened…not just because it was preachy but because it was boring.

          1. To be fair (and if you stopped watching maybe you’re not aware) she DID decisively lose a recall vote because of it.

            1. I quit watching it before then. But I heard about the recall election storyline, and my suspicion on it (and correct me if I’m wrong) was that they probably portrayed her as the poor, put-upon victim of a bunch of irrational voters who just didn’t understand the brilliance of her ideas.

              That was the general tone of the show in the first few episodes of that season before I quit watching. I stopped after the episode (or maybe one after it) where she pushed for the soda ban because people were just too dumb to know what was good for them…the episode where Ron Swanson sat and watched her give her speech and just kept his mouth shut. At that point, Parks and Rec was dead to me. I might have watched an episode or two after that, but that’s the point at which I thought it became nothing but propaganda and lost its humorous edge.

              1. Yep, that was definitely their tone. People just don’t understand that she wants what was best! Soda Tax was one of the lowest points in the show for me. I remember quite clearly how they had to make Paunch Burger’s argument ridiculous in order to make them look bad because they ultimately had a quite reasonable point.

                But still, it was a nice “reality ensues” bit when a candidate who got into office on literally twenty-one votes and then pushed through a bunch of unpopular legislation suddenly lost a recall vote by a landslide. I have no doubt the writers just wanted to show the populace as lazy, ignorant, and spiteful, but even if unintentionally they ended up making a good point.

      2. I’ve watched the show maybe 3 times.

        Poehler isn’t supposed to be playing a progressive petty tyrant waste of taxpayer money? Really? She makes me grind my teeth.

    3. I’m not a fan of a lot of characters on the show. But April Ludgate and Ron Swanson made it with watching.

      1. So did Andy. I find Chris Pratt hilarious, and the fact that he more or less played the exact same character in Guardians of the Galaxy made that movie one of the best in the last few years.

    4. The real unanswered question about Park and Rec is, who is more annoying, Leslie or Anne?

      1. Did you know that Rashida Jones (Anne) is Qunicy Jones’ and Peggy Lipton’s daughter?

        1. I did, actually.

          1. I can’t even give you some new information. You really are the worst.

      2. At one time I would have said Ann, but I read an interview with Rashida Jones recently and she came across as an uptight prude. What a turn-off…

        1. Hmmm…guess I misunderstood the question. I thought you asked who was hotter. But I found them equally annoying…

      3. Leslie Knope by a mile.

      4. Leslie. Anne’s a bit of a wet blanket, but she has boundaries. Leslie will get up in your business, insist that you do and like what she does and likes, etc.

    5. The first few seasons were good and actually pretty funny. The series took a nosedive for me once Leslie ran for, and won elected office. I didn’t even realize they just finished the final season.

      1. The best epsiode was when the auditors told Leslie and Ron that they would have to close the parks down as a result of the shutdown and Ron was happy with glee.

        I use that gif everytime someone goes nuts about the government shut down.

      2. That’s when I checked out, too.

        That, and her incredibly gamma boyfriend, who to me was the perfect symbol for the death of masculinity. I’d call him a pussy, but if he had a pussy he’d probably lop off the clitoris and sew up the labia.

        1. Jesus fuck, R C. Don’t do that. You don’t have Sugarfree’s gift for elegance.

        2. I was disappointed that they treated MRAs like such a low-hanging fruit, but damn if the seventh-season episode where MRAs come out of nowhere for a “Free Ben Wyatt!” protest didn’t catch me off guard in a good way.

    6. Parks and Rec was funny as hell in the first few seasons when Ron Swanson was an actual A/C. But then later they made him into someone who supported Leslie Knope running for office, when such a character would have told her “Hey, I love you Leslie, and I will do my damndest to kept a damned socialist like you far away from elected office.”

      1. There was one epsidode during Season 4 when Leslie wanted to turn a movie store that sold and showed old movies into a Pawnee Historical Landmark because it was losing money but her plan backfired when the owner decided to make it into adult movies store to make money. Leslie was upset and tried to shut the store down but Ron opposed her and ended up winning. His message was that the government has it’s place but so does free market enterprise and when a business fails, it’s not the government’s place to help them.

        1. Her plans backfired pretty often. That was the center of the show’s humor. Yes, Knope was usually portrayed as being good-hearted, but also a moral busybody that got push back when she butted too far into people’s lives. At which point everyone had their learning moment, Ron usually imparted some quality wisdom, and there were hugs all around.

      2. His character does a complete 180 over the seasons. He gives Leslie a speech on how government is a thankless job and government officials need to do what they think is right regardless of what the public may say in season six. Yes, RON SWANSON says that.

        In season 7, he goes on to work for the federal government.

    7. Ron Swanson is a fun enough character, but every single other thing about the show is unbearable. Well, other than Aubrey Plaza.

      1. Love the Trader Joe’s in Aubrey Plaza. It’s right next to Coldstone Creamery…

      2. Not Jerry. Who is both the schlemiel and the schlemazel. 🙂

      3. No love for Chris Pratt?

    8. Knope could be really obnoxious, but the jokes were still funny, and the other characters were almost all awesome. Ron Swanson was a pretty decent ambassador for libertarians, all things considered.

      My biggest complaint is that it didn’t evolve. None of the characters grew over the course of the series, and a few of them (April, Andy, Anne…hmm, all A names, never noticed that) never really seemed to have a purpose within the plot. That was OK because with the exception of Anne, all the characters were good enough that you just rolled with it. But the show hit a natural end in the second to last season and they should have stopped it there. I didn’t even bother with the final season.

      1. Honestly, the final season was a marked improvement over seasons five and six. If you enjoyed the show before it’s worth watching. The fact that they went into it knowing for sure it was the final season seemed to help “open up” the show to some character development, at least bringing their arcs to a conclusion.

        The finale is basically just wish fulfillment fanservice for the show’s fans, though.

    9. No, you’re not the only one–I’ll just repeat what I posted in the Farewell, Ron article:

      He was the only character, other than Rob Lowe’s, that didn’t irritate the holy piss out of me. I’ve tried watching Parks several times, but I just can’t stick with it because Ron was basically like Eddie Murphy on early 80s Saturday Night Live–someone who single-handedly kept the show alive through his sheer awesomeness. If he hadn’t been on there, it wouldn’t have lasted past the second season

    10. Everybody’s a little bit evil on Parks & Recreation, except Leslie Knopes. They rag on the city librarian staff way more than they do on the local candy factory.

  3. I’m only nearing the end of season three of this show, but I can almost always count on Ron to say something that sounds like it came out of my mouth.

    1. Feel free to stop. Go out on the high note.

      1. Oh no… How long do I have before it starts going downhill?

        1. Well it all depends, you may still enjoy it; plenty of other people did. I think there’s a significant drop in season 4. The characters feel a lot more like caricatures in the first stretch of season 4 episodes, and the plotting after that is pretty lazy, IMO.

          It may be more enjoyable when you binge it compared to watching it week-to-week.

    2. “Any dog under 50lbs is a cat. And cats are pointless.”

  4. Loved Ron Swanson. But I was disappointed to see him take that Federal Park Ranger job in the final episode. I get that he loves the outdoors, but couldn’t they have put him in charge of a privately-funded preserve. But I suppose the progressives running the show would have never allowed that…

  5. I honestly don’t understand Aziz Ansari’s character. Nobody in my life acts like that. If they did, they wouldn’t be in my life for very long.

    1. “Character.” Right.

  6. Never watched it. Don’t plan to. Don’t care.

  7. My guess is that Swanson, a hyper-masculine libertarian was intended by the writers to be the butt of the shows humor. He then captured a cultural zeitgeist they hadn’t anticipated.

    Really, aside from Swanson, I can’t really think of much reason to watch the show.

    1. It was a huge letdown when i heard Nick Offerman sprout some liberal nonsense on a late night talk show.

    2. If you read quotes, he was intended as a satire of small government people who take public office.

      The joke was, “Why would some someone take an office they don’t believe should exist?”

      But you’re right. Ron spoke a truth that people agreed with.

      1. If the writers had a second chance, they probably would have made Ron more dispacably evil.

        By making him a self-confident, hard working but gentle man, it made him much more sympathetic than he was originally intended.

        1. The odd part is that a lot of libertarians that I have came across are like that to the tee. Why do you think the media and other Progresives try to make Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney into libertarians when they don’t even agree with 90 percent of our ideology?

          1. Because they don’t fn UNDERSTAND what a libertarian is. I briefly dated a lefty woman who thought libertarians were just super uber conservatives. Thinks went sour quickly when I pointed out her unquestioning support of Obama made her a neocon on foreign policy, and that her Dear Leader was, IMO, a clinical sociopath.

            1. I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend watching som program about the droning program and they talked about the Obama Administration use of it. I looked at her and said, ” You voted for that sort of stuff two times.”

              She was not amused.

            2. Thinks went sour quickly when I pointed out her unquestioning support of Obama made her a neocon on foreign policy, and that her Dear Leader was, IMO, a clinical sociopath.

              DAMN. Here I thought I was hardcore because I told my GF her hairdo was blase.

            3. Yep. It’s rather clear through some of Swanson’s episodic plots that the writers didn’t really understand what a libertarian was versus a conservative. Or my personal pet theory, one of the writers DID ‘get’ libertarians, but left the show sometime after season three.

              In one season six episode, Ron is shown gruffly disapproving of someone who mentions composting and personal (not government) recycling. Really? A survivalist who lives in a cabin in the woods opposes composting? Why? In the same episode, Ron opposes someone who mentions using marijuana.

        2. Except, like a lot of these sorts of characters (Archie Bunker and Alex Keaton come to mind), it was the Swanson character that was holding up the show. Really, who’s going to tune in weekly to watch a bunch of idealistic busy-bodies congratulate themselves about how awesome they are?

      2. “Why would some someone take an office they don’t believe should exist?”

        Why would someone who believes an office shouldn’t exist allow it to be occupied by someone who wants the power of the office to grow?

        1. Totally this.^

        2. Yup.

          Ron Swanson highlights for me…1) everything he did during the government shutdown of Pawnee, 2) Ron explaining to a 4th grader how government really works and converting her to libertarianism. 🙂

          1. Mike Hihn agrees with both of you.

            1. He probably hated Ron Swanson for being a mean-spirited bully. 🙂

              Man, that dude was completely off his rocker. Of course, me baiting him into enough of a rage where he started randomly bolding text probably didn’t help. 🙂

    3. +1 libertarian moment

  8. I’ve seen every episode, and I’m fairly certain he would have been shown in a positive light.

    1. Not so sure about that. The writers of the show appear to be all socialists who tried to make Swanson into an over the top parody of a libertarian nut, and who appear to have been surprised when that turned out to resonate with people.

      So Rand had reason to be wary, plus they might have tried to associate him as being just like Ron Swanson, which is something Rand is very much backing away from.

      It might have turned out well, or been an fn disaster. Hard to say.

      1. I would have liked to see Rand on the show but understand why he didn’t go. it’s time for the GOP especially the libertarian leaning ones to stop playing the media’s game and begin to tell them to go an fuck themselves. Perhaps Rand had the foresight to see that they were going to do him in and mock him.

        1. “Perhaps Rand had the foresight to see that they were going to do him in and mock him.”

          Gee, why would you think that? Just because the producer said this?
          I get the sense that maybe interpreting writing and humor is not his strong suit.

          1. Of course the leftoid propaganda producer is going to flip it around and try to psychologize against Paul, claiming he bailed because he was unintelligent, butthurt, whatever. The truth is, they lost a chance to attempt to discredit him and libertarianism–after what they did to Peter Schiff, and the constant stream of anti-libertarian hyperbole (not to mention the absurdity of the Swanson character), I cannot believe they invited him with any other purpose in mind.

            1. Were we watching the same show? All the characters were absurd on some level, but Ron was almost uniformly portrayed in a positive light and was the show’s most popular character. He was a moral compass for every other character.. If that’s anti-libertarian hyperbole, I’ll take *lots* more of that.

              I agree with Fist — I think Rand would have been treated respectfully, and it probably would have been good for him. He would have made a 30 second cameo and probably gotten the approval of Ron Swanson, which would probably be a more valuable endorsement than any other he is likely to pick up. Instead he comes off as being insecure.

              1. I think Rand Paul would have been treated respectfully, but I also don’t think that it would have helped him very much politically.

                Most of the cameos by politicians were kind of fake self-deprecation where they all sort of laugh at their public images and try and show how everyone’s really just the same in politics. I don’t think Paul wanted to be part of the clique and that he wanted his message to be taken seriously and seen as something different.

                Going and yukking it up with Ron Swanson, even if it wasn’t meant to be insulting to him, had a lot of potential to turn him into a parody…so it’s understandable that he passed. He’s not hanging around in politics to be lumped in with people like Pelosi, Feinstein, and McCain.

      2. It was probably a good idea to stay away. Honestly, I wish all politicians would stay out of “entertainment.”

      3. It was probably a good idea to stay away. Honestly, I wish all politicians would stay out of “entertainment.”

      4. I don’t disagree that the producers, including Poehler, lean far left. However, they knew enough not to make Swanson into a villain and had writers who could make him not even as much of an outrageous parody that was pretty much every other character on the show.

        But more than that, NBC likes to have cameos on their shows and you don’t do that by making a mockery of them. Also, there are a lot of young people who love Ron Paul and the hipsters on the show’s writing staff have to be aware of it, if not even tapped into it.

        But even more than that, they’ve had guests on before (e.g. McCain on (I believe) the penultimate episode) and they always treat them pretty respectfully. They walked the line fairly well.

        1. McCain shows up in the episode where Leslie first goes to Washington, too, and his cameo was pretty unobtrusive. He finds Leslie crying in the coat room and asks her if she’s okay. That’s it.

          Newt Gingrich’s was probably one of the funniest because he immediately joins the show’s tradition of bullying Jerry.

          1. Haha…I probably would have enjoyed Newt on that one. 🙂

            Picking on Jerry was the best. Although the reveals that he had a supermodel wife and a monster dong were a nice counter-balance to keep it from getting too mean. 🙂

          2. The doctor’s delivery about Jerry was hilarious. 🙂


  9. “Notable politicos who did appear on the show at various points include First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.”

    WOW! How did they ever convince those three to get in front of a camera?

    1. I suppose “politico” isn’t exactly a term that has a hard and fast definition, but I’m still not sure that the “First Lady” counts.

  10. If it was in the last season, he made the right call. Otherwise, he may have just lost my vote.

  11. …ThoughtCatalog is really terrible. You’re not helping, Mr. Malice.

  12. Watch Reason TV’s “5 Best Libertarian TV Shows Ever” below.

    Firefly is on that list, right?

    1. No. You totally need to flame him on it.

      I mean, he practically begged us to.

    2. The A-Team wasn’t on the list either.

      The list was full of “this particular government/bureaucracy sucks because the wrong people are in charge” shows, which is not really a libertarian message.

  13. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WhDHui1BZYA

    Some of Ron’s best moments.

  14. Yeah, because being on SNL did wonders for Sarah Palin.

    1. Yup. Liberals love going on these shows because their appeal is more about charisma and likeability. Conservatives’ and libertarians’ appeal is more about the ideas. Doing sitcoms does a great job at masking the weaknesses of the former and does a poor job of selling the benefits of the latter.

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  16. Good move on Rand’s part. That had “trap” written all over it.


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  18. Enjoyed the show. Was glad Paul didn’t do a cameo. Aside from the luddite leanings of Swanson’s character (anathema to every libertarian I’ve known in real life/online), the political cameos of the last few seasons (McCain’s first one preceded this season) were especially grating. Glad he stayed away.

    1. I dunno if Ron being a luddite was necessarily related to Ron being a libertarian. He never ranted on how iPhones were pushed by the government, he just thought they were pointless. It’s possible for a character to have more than one attribute that defines what they believe.

  19. The post-apocalyptic drama Jericho should also be on the list:


    It included a very strong defense of the Second Amendment (as a means to fight tyranny, not just hunt animals) as well as a very critical attitude against KBR/Blackwater style government/corporate alliances.

    1. Jericho wasn’t always well-written but the theme was quite good.

  20. for the longest time, i dismissed the show…not sure why, but ultimately came to give it a chance and now i’m hooked. i think rand missed a really good opportunity politically, even if it did come across as a joke at his expense, which i doubt it would’ve. the way obama used alternative forms of media -the view, etc- to get his message out there was brilliant politics, even if it didn’t inform us very much because they’re not very good at the news concept.

  21. I’ve certainly never seem him exhibit the slightest sense of humor.

    1. Humor is for intelligent beings, so I would expect you have never experienced such a thing.

      I am sure you have mistaken for laughter the panting you and your fellow species exhibit when engaged in play behavior, but there are several evolutionary distinctions between the two activities.

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