Ron Swanson's staunchly anti-government government official was based on a real city planner whom the show's producers met and interviewed when doing research. The planner was a Libertarian who admitted to them, "I don't believe in the mission of my job."
Chris Pratt (Andy) was such a good physical comedian that frequently the writers would just write "Andy does something physical" into the script, trusting he would come up with something in the moment.
In reality, the cast and crew all loved working with Jim O'Heir (Jerry, the office scapegoat). The writers felt so bad about constantly being so mean to his character, and by extension, him, that they gave Jerry the picture perfect home life: three beautiful daughters, a beautiful house, and a happy marriage to his wife Gayle (played by former supermodel Christie Brinkley).
In season six, episode one, "London parts 1 & 2", Ben (Adam Scott) asked Andy (Chris Pratt), "So all you did is stop drinking beer?", and Andy replied, "Yeah, I lost like fifty pounds in a month." This is a reference to Pratt's real-life weight loss for his role in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). He lost sixty pounds (27.2 kilograms).
Jay Jackson (Perd Hapley) was for many years an actual print and broadcast journalist and anchor at news outlets in San Diego, California and Los Angeles, California. After he retired from journalism in the mid 2000s, through a friend's manager, he got a small role as a reporter on a 2007 episode of Dexter (2006). He agreed to allow the manager to send him on other auditions, but only as long as they only were for reporter roles, since that was his professional background, so he ended up also playing reporters on television shows such as Scandal (2012), Revenge (2011), The Closer (2005), The Mentalist (2008), Body of Proof (2011), and BrainDead (2016), as well as in movies such as Battleship (2012) and Fast Five (2011).
Mayfair Games, makers of Settlers of Catan, were contracted to make Ben Wyatt's Cones of Dunshire look like a professional board game. Instead, Mayfair Games made a playable game with a full set of rules. However, it's complex and dense, so it has not been produced for the market. It was played at Gen Con 2014 in Indiana, where thirty-three people paid one hundred dollars each for a ticket to play, and the Ledgerman position (the scorekeeper who doesn't play) was auctioned off. The event made more than twenty thousand dollars for an Indiana food bank.
In an interview with the cast, Amy Poehler (Leslie Knope) said she wished Bill Murray would play the Mayor of Pawnee. Bill Murray made an appearance as the Mayor in season seven, episode eleven, "Two Funerals".
The character Tom Haverford changed his name from Darwish Sabir Ismael Gani. Aziz Ansari chose that as Tom's original name, because it is his cousin's name. Ansari also shares with Tom the biographical fact that although his parents were originally from India, he was born and raised in a small town in South Carolina.
The series was originally planned as a direct spin-off of The Office (2005). It was later re-designed to be an original workplace story that would keep the "mockumentary" format used for the other series, which this show's Executive Producers Greg Daniels and Michael Schur had worked on (Daniels as Creator, Schur as a Writer and Producer).
Six of the sixteen episodes of season three were filmed along with the twenty-four episodes of season two, because Amy Poehler was pregnant, so when the show was moved to mid season, the network ordered ten more to have a complete season to air.
In Amy Poehler's book, "Yes Please" (2014), Amy Poehler writes about her castmates in a way that Aubrey Plaza describes in an interview as something Leslie Knope would do. Poehler sat them down in a meeting to read about her favorite memories with her castmates when the show was about to wrap up for its final season.
The show correctly predicted the winner of the 2016 world series. In season seven, episode two, "Ron & Jammy", taking place in early 2017, Lucy tells Tom and Andy that everyone in Chicago is in a good mood because the Cubs won the series. This episode aired in January 2015.
While a guest on "The Diane Rehm Show", Rob Lowe said that when he first interviewed for the role of Chris Traeger, this show's writers told him that they had based their show on Lowe's previous series, The West Wing (1999). He said that they told him, "we're comedy writers. We're going to write a comedy, but what would the comedy version of The West Wing look like? And the answer to them was, it wouldn't be the White House. It would be Parks and Recreation."
For a few episodes in season two, Leslie Knope dates a lawyer played by Justin Theroux. In episode sixteen, "Galentine's Day", co-starring Justin, Leslie discusses soul mates in a talking head, and says to the camera "Oh Jen(nifer Aniston), I really want you to be happy." Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux were married five years after this episode aired. Sadly they divorced 2 years later. So Leslie's remark still applies.
Amy Poehler, afraid they were going to turn Leslie Knope into a "female Michael Scott," requested that starting in season 2, they show her character to be talented and successful at her job, with the humor coming from her quirky behavior and eager enthusiasm. The writers listened and went that route starting in season 2.
In season two, episode fifteen, "Sweetums", Nick Newport, Jr. is shown. He is not mentioned again throughout the remainder of the series. When Nick Newport, Sr.'s son runs for city council against Leslie, his name is Bobby Newport. Nick, Sr. and his wife also are in the show several times with no mention of Nick, Jr.
The two statues featured in the opening credits are two landmarks on State Highway 18 in Montpelier, Indiana, a town located in the East-Central region of the state. The first is the Ice Cream Giant at Tin Lizzy, an ice cream shop just outside the town, and the second is the Muffler Man Indian in the center of town.
Two out of the three Lonely Island members have had guest apperances in the show (Andy Samberg as a Park Ranger in season two, and Jorma Taccone as a Gryzzle employee in season seven). Jorma has also directed multiple episodes of the show.
In the two part series finale, "One Last Ride", during the flash-forward scene with Andy and April; when Andy answers the door for the trick-or-treaters, the child on Andy's left is dressed as Marvel's Star-Lord, a character Chris Pratt plays in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Pawnee was founded in 1817, which is likely a reference to the founding of the University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, the home town of one of Series Creator Michael Schur. There are also several other references to Ann Arbor throughout the show.
Dr. Saperstein (Henry Winkler), the father of Jean-Ralphio and Mona-Lisa Saperstein, is also Ann's OB/GYN. His name (Dr. Saperstein) and profession (Obstetrician/Gynecologist) are references to Dr. Sapirstein (played by Ralph Bellamy) in Rosemary's Baby (1968), who helped trick Rosemary into giving birth to the devil's child.
On this show and its predecessor The Office (2005), the main characters date someone played by their real-life spouses. On The Office (2005), the woman Michael Scott (Steve Carell) dates (played by his wife Nancy) breaks up with him because she thinks he is creepy. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) dated a man (played by her husband at the time, Will Arnett) that she thinks is creepy and breaks up with him.
In season four, episode nineteen, "Live Ammo", there's an Easter Egg in the office of Councilman Pillner (Bradley Whitford). To begin the scene, the camera holds on a framed napkin, with "Pillner for Pawnee" written on it. It was a reference to The West Wing (1999), which starred Whitford. One of the recurring props on the show was a framed napkin that read "Bartlet for America".
In the season six finale, "Moving Up", Joan Calamezzo shows up at Tom's Bistro for the Unity Concert after-party and tells Tom that she would like a "Joan", which consists of "a tumbler of gin with crushed aspirin sprinkled around the rim." Seconds later, she can be seen standing in the restaurant with a glass that has a small, white, and rocky substance around the rim, which can only be assumed to be the aspirin she's talking about.
In 2010, the show was nominated for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music at the Emmys. However, the nomination was revoked, as this was the show's second season, and the nominated theme was the same as the one used in season one. Emmy rules dictate that a show's main title theme is only elegible for its first season unless it changes (such is the case of Monk (2002), which won this award twice for season one, and then again for season two, but only because the theme changed). The producers submitted the song for season one when the show got zero nominations and decided to try again the following year and succeeded. Once it was brought to the Academy by a user of awards site Goldderby, they revoked the nomination and replaced it with Legend of the Seeker (2008).
All three hosts of the podcast "How Did This Get Made?" have appeared in different episodes. Paul Scheer plays Kaboom founder Keef Slertner, Jason Mantzoukas plays obnoxious cologne creator Dennis Feinstein, and June Diane Raphael plays Eagleton employee Tynnyfer.
Andy mentions his love of Pearl Jam throughout the entire series. Two members of the band, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard, were apart of a band called Mother Love Bone before Pearl Jam in the last 80s. Their front man was also named Andy. After Andy passed away in 1990, Jeff and Stone teamed up with Mike McCready to form what would become Pearl Jam.
Paul Schneider said Mark Brendanawicz was rewritten in season 2 due to his unpopularity with fans in season 1, in particular his sleazy, womanizing behavior. He said the writers didn't know what to do with the character, which is why it was dropped after season 2.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Leslie's (Amy Poehler) pregnancy with triplets was foreshadowed in season two, episode thirteen, titled "The Set Up", when she goes on a date with the M.R.I. Technician (Will Arnett). He comments on how she has "a great oven" and said "If you wanted to, you could go triplets right off the bat."
Rob Lowe and Rashida Jones left the show on good terms. The decision was mutual amongst them and the showrunners, as their departure made sense for the characters, and allowed them to move on to other projects. Jones, in particular, wanted to focus more on writing.
Originally, Series Creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur were going to have Leslie date a lot of different men through the course of the show. However, after Leslie and Ben became a couple, they felt so guilty about the prospect of breaking them up, that they had them get married instead.
In season two, episode twenty-three, the show inadvertently foreshadows the final relationships of four main characters: April (Aubrey Plaza) decides to tell Andy (Chris Pratt) how she feels at her twenty-first birthday party, Tom (Aziz Ansari) meets Lucy (Natalie Morales) when he settles his bar tab and asks her out after they hit it off, and the episode introduces Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe), who each share moments with Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ann (Rashida Jones), respectively, that eventually lead to their marriages.
In a season seven episode, Tom's future wife Lucy, made a comment about how the people in Chicago are friendlier now that the Cubs had won the series. Though the episode aired in 2014, it had the three-year time jump, correctly predicting the Cubs 2016 series win.
If you watch the Pilot episode and season four, episode twenty, "The Debate", the camera angle and the way it follows Leslie as she walks out on stage are exactly alike, ingeniously tying together the critically emotional moments of her first Town Hall meeting and her growth, maturing, and confidence as a woman and politician, as she gets ready to debate Bobby Newport for her soon-to-be-but-almost-not-but-then-yes-again City Council seat.
None of the main female characters fully took their husband's last name when they got married. But April had her name legally hyphenated to Ludgate-Dwyer after their wedding. In turn, all of their children had hyphenated names.
In season two, Leslie goes on a date with an M.R.I. Technician. He gives her an M.R.I. and tells her she has a nice uterus and could "go triplets right off the bat." That's what happens when Ben and Leslie finally have children.
At the end of season 6 episode 3, Dopplegangers, Leslie and Ann sit down on a double lawn chair in her office to have "the talk" about Ann leaving Pawnee. This chair is the same one from The Pit next to Ann's house that brought them together. It can be clearly seen at the end of Season 1 episode 6 while Leslie and Mark Brandanowitz sit and talk about building a park...before he falls in The Pit.
In the season four opener, "I'm Leslie Knope", Leslie is wary of running for city council so Ben gives her a rectangular box containing a "Knope 2012" button telling her to follow her dream. This is the same as in the season four finale, "Win, Lose, or Draw", when Ben is wary of going to Washington, D.C. and Leslie gives him a rectangular box with the Washington Monument inside telling him to go. This is tying together their individual times in the spotlight.
In season two, episode seventeen, "Woman of the Year", Ron is made "Woman of the Year" by a women's equality publication, giving him credit for Leslie Knope's success with the "Athena Project". Ron mistakenly calls the project the "Xena Project". In season five, episode three, "How a Bill Becomes a Law", Ron meets a Pawnee resident, Diane, while fixing a pothole in front of her house. They will date and eventually marry. Diane is played by Lucy Lawless, famous for her role as Xena: Warrior Princess (1995).