UPDATE: The below rumor was put to rest by "Parks and Recreation" showrunner Michael Schur, who posted on Twitter that "Swanson has no real-life referent" in response to Bill Oakley's query for clarification. He added, "Plus, isn't Swartzwelder like a Whig or something?" We recommend all die-hard "Simpsons" and "Parks and Rec" fans check out Schur and Oakley's subsequent tweets for some majorly inside jokes comparing "Parks and Rec" characters to "Simpsons" writers.
PREVIOUSLY: An interesting theory was put forth on a "Simpsons" message board recently: Ron Swanson, the gruff city manager portrayed by Nick Offerman on "Parks and Recreation," may be based on John Swartzwelder, a writer for "The Simpsons" who is largely credited with helping give the show its unique voice. Even if comparisons of the two is based on circumstantial evidence, the similarities are hard to deny.
User BartvstheSpaceMutants on No Homers Club hypothesized that "Parks and Rec" co-creator Greg Daniels, who worked on "The Simpsons" as a writer and producer from 1993-96, based Ron Swanson on his former colleague. Although Swartzwelder is famously reclusive, the few photographs of him that exist show him with a similar build and facial hair as Swanson.
Like Swartzwelder, the "Parks and Rec" character also hangs onto a stubbornly libertarian philosophy and private lifestyle. A famous story about Swartzwelder goes that when his favorite diner banned smoking, he had a booth from the restaurant installed in his own home -- an act that would not be uncharacteristic for Ron Swanson.
Swartzwelder has never done a "Simpsons" DVD commentary, but the closest he ever got was answering a phone call from the writers during the recording session, who asked him what he was up to. His response? The very Swanson-esque, "I'm cooking a steak."
When the comparison was brought to the attention to longtime "Simpsons" writer and producer (and current "Portlandia" consultant) Bill Oakley on Twitter, he seemed to encourage the theory. He responded, "I think there is a very strong possibility this could be true. Ron Swanson is a lot like John Swartzwelder."
Swartzwelder is a unique character in American comedy. Starting off as a writer on "Saturday Night Live" in the mid eighties during the non-Lorne Michaels years, in 1988 he began contributing to the magazine "Army Man," a hugely influential humor periodical founded by George Meyer that only lasted six issues. Based on the underground success of the 'zine, he and many of his "Army Man" cohorts joined the inaugural writing staff of "The Simpsons." Swartzwelder would go on to have 59 episodes of the show credited to his name, more than any other writer. He quit the show in 2003 to write a series of independently-released comic novels.
What do you think? Mere subconscious coincidence on Daniels' part, or intentional homage?
CORRECTION: The original version of this post stated the Swartzwelder founded "Army Man." In fact, it was founded by George Meyer, and Swartzwelder was a contributor.