Ron Swanson and Tracy Jordan: A Character Study

A lot of people would agree that Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation) and Tracy Jordan (30 Rock) are two of the funniest characters of TV right now. However, most of those people would say that is the end of the comparison. Who could blame them? After all, one is a government worker in the small town of Pawnee, while the other is a international celebrity who has an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award to his credit. While all of that is true, if you dive a little deeper, you can find that there are many similarities between the two.

(Also, I recognize this is my second article in a row featuring Ron Swanson. What can I say, Ron inspires me.)

Their Childhood

ron swanson

While admittedly vastly different, each man had a rather difficult childhood. Tracy’s childhood is littered with tales of horrible things happening around him. These horrible happenings would eventually be the impetus for his Oscar-winning performance in Hard to Watch. (My personal favorite: “I watched a baby give another baby a tattoo. They were very drunk!”)

On the other hand, Swanson’s childhood was just hard. He may not have had the craziness of a Bronx ghetto, but it’s safe to say that working in a steel mill and tannery before leaving middle school qualifies as a violation of child labor laws. Still, both men emerged from those tough times to be successful adults. Granted, Swanson’s success is on a much smaller scale, but nobody can approach his level with breakfast foods or government inefficiency.

Extreme Behaviors

Again, it’s done in different ways, but both men are capable of extreme behavior on occasion. Tracy Jordan’s behavior is so erratic, that he has to see a doctor (the incomparable Leo Spaceman) to keep him semi-regulated. Still, the medication doesn’t stop him from buying a all-giraffe basketball team (the New York Necks) or organizing a protest group to defend idiots everywhere. Most of the time, Tracy means well. He’s simply a man with too much money laying around. Crazy people with money do crazy things (I’m looking at you, Tom Cruise).

Swanson’s extremes are a little different. They typically center around either eating as much food as possible (“I want all the bacon and eggs you have.“) or doing his best to ensure that the Parks Department does absolutely nothing. While he is far more understated than Tracy, he is often just as misunderstood by his colleagues because of his occasionally extreme behavior. However, those who come to understand Ron Swanson learn many things about life, government, success, and bacon. This serves as a nice segue-way to our final point.


We’ve documented Ron Swanson’s wisdom throughout this post and last week’s post. His wisdom is obvious for all of those who are willing to pay attention. Sometimes you have to weed through a childhood story or two, but the wisdom is always there.

Tracy Jordan’s wisdom comes less frequently and with far more distracting insanity. The lesson can be as simple as a grammar fix or as deep as profound relationship advice. The other great thing about Tracy’s advice: He doles it out to many different animal species, not just humans. Tracy Jordan always just wants to help.

Rather you agree with the basic premise of this article or not, one thing that we can agree on is that these two men have a lot to offer society. We would all be wise to listen a little closer when they are on the screen. You never know, they may just change your life.

The TV Czar

(Follow me on Twitter @TVCzar.)