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Whatever happened to Jerry from Parks and Recreation?

Throughout its seven season run, Parks and Recreation quickly established itself as one of the most optimistic and cheerful shows on television, thanks almost entirely to its charming, personable, and hugely talented cast. The show starred Saturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, the intrepid and extremely intense leader of the Parks and Recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. And the rest of the screwball cast included stars on the rise like Aziz Ansari, Chris Pratt, and Aubrey Plaza, alongside familiar faces like Rob Lowe and Adam Scott.

Another memorable cast member was Jim O'Heir, who played the department scapegoat, Jerry Gergich, for the series' entire run. Despite the fact that everybody in the Parks department despised Jerry, his chipper attitude, rotating door of names, and amazing home life made him an unforgettable sitcom character in his own right. But while everybody knows what happened to Jerry, what happened to O'Heir? Well, here's what the actor was doing before he landed the role of Jerry and what he's been doing since his stint on Parks and Recreation

The actor who played Jerry got his start in Chicago theater

Just like many of his Parks and Recreation peers, including Poehler herself, Jim O'Heir got his start in a familiar place: Chicago's bustling comedy scene. Born in the Windy City, O'Heir trained at the prestigious Second City theater — which has produced incredible comedic talents like Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, and more — where he studied improvisational comedy. Before too long, he'd joined a sketch group called White Noise with some of his classmates.

However, O'Heir also racked up some roles in scripted plays during these early years, trafficking mostly in extremely dark comedies like Stumpy's Gang (an absurdist and grotesque show involving puppets) and Ad Nauseum (where he dressed as a sort of human toilet brush), as well as some well-known plays like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (in a production in Hollywood's theater district). Thanks to his on-stage training and broad comedy background, O'Heir was well positioned to land his big break, and he was already on his way to bigger and better projects.

Jim O'Heir isn't that big on the big screen

O'Heir might be a pretty familiar face on the small screen by this point, but when it comes to film, he mostly shows up in small, supporting roles. His film debut came in 1996 in Ed, the classic story of a chimp who plays baseball, alongside Friends' Matt LeBlanc. After a few short films, his next big screen appearance was in the 2006 Justin Long vehicle Accepted

Since then, O'Heir has mostly worked in smaller films, but he occasionally pops up in bigger projects like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Life After Beth (with his Parks and Recreation co-star Aubrey Plaza). He's also made his mark with some prestigious directors, like in Steven Soderbergh's 2017 comedy Logan Lucky, and he's worked with some incredible casts, like the ensemble of 2018's Bad Times at the El Royale (which also starred Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman). O'Heir might not be the biggest presence on the theater screen, but he's always a welcome addition to the project, no matter how large or small of a part he's playing.

His first leading role in comedy

After appearing on everything from 3rd Rock from the Sun and Malcolm in the Middle to Disney's The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, O'Heir finally landed a starring comedic role in a new series on Comedy Central. In 2000, O'Heir booked a leading part on Strip Mall, a show created by and starring comedian Julie Brown. The series focused on a former child actress in California looking for a rich husband to support her lifestyle. Eventually, she lands on Harvey Krudup — played by O'Heir — who owns Starbrite Cleaners, but as it turns out, he's completely broke. As a result, Tammi (Brown) tries to get out of the marriage throughout the show, even trying to have her husband murdered, but her schemes never work.

Brown, who created the show, made sure every single episode ended on a cliffhanger for the campiest possible effect, but in the end, her efforts didn't pay off. Unfortunately, Strip Mall didn't last particularly long, and after a two-season run, Comedy Central pulled the plug, leaving O'Heir in the lurch after his first leading role.

A memorable guest turn on Friends

Long before O'Heir was infuriating his friends and colleagues on Parks and Recreation, he managed to screw things up for another beloved sitcom couple, which feels like a perfect precursor to his defining role as Jerry Gergich.

Before his time in Pawnee, Indiana, O'Heir showed up in New York City in a small role on Friends, during a pivotal 2004 episode where Monica (Courteney Cox) and Chandler (Matthew Perry) were trying to adopt a child. Unfortunately for them, a particularly inept adoption worker (O'Heir) messed up their application — alongside fellow guest star Anna Faris, playing a potential surrogate — which led to plenty of schemes and hijinks where Monica and Chandler were forced to fake several identities. Even though he wasn't screwing things up in the Parks department just yet, Jim O'Heir cemented himself as a sitcom problem pretty quickly thanks to his turn on Friends.

Playing Jerry in Parks and Recreation

Ultimately, O'Heir's biggest role to date was as a government employee in the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee, Indiana, and during his time there, he was a man of many names. Though he was introduced to audiences as Jerry Gergich, it turned out later that his name was actually Gary, a moniker deliberately misheard by his coworkers. Later, he would become Larry and then Terry before eventually coming back around to Gary, his given name.

Throughout his tenure in the Parks department, Jerry was anointed as the office screw-up. And between the time he claimed that he was mugged to cover up his own buffoonery to his "fart attack," he did kind of deserve it. However, the writers made sure to give Jerry plenty of positive attributes to balance out his poor work performance. From his artistic skills to his extraordinarily beautiful wife, Gayle (played by model Christie Brinkley), Jerry led a perfect life despite constant ridicule from his colleagues, and by the end of the show, he served several consecutive terms as the mayor of Pawnee, proving that he was a standout citizen and public servant throughout his entire career. 

Oh, here's a fun fact. When O'Heir auditioned for the show, he actually read for the part of Ron Swanson, which would later to go Nick Offerman.

Jim O'Heir has showed up on other Schur shows

During his time in Pawnee, O'Heir still found time to work on other projects, showing up in everything from Parenthood (a fellow NBC show) to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but he was fully committed to his role as Jerry. 

However, when O'Heir's regular gig came to an end in 2015, he needed to keep his successful TV streak going, and luckily, he knew just the right guy. In a post-Parks era, O'Heir is still best known for playing Jerry, but fortunately, he was able to continue working with Parks showrunner Michael Schur. Schur has gone on to create several other beloved series, including The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and in 2016, O'Heir appeared on the latter. For two episodes, he played Sheriff Reynolds, a bumbling Florida official who butts heads with NYPD detectives Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) while they hide down south from a vengeful New York mob boss.

He spoofed a real political figure on Jimmy Kimmel

In this political climate, it seems like a comedic rite of passage for an actor to spoof a real-life politician, and in 2013 — during his time on Parks — O'Heir got his chance when a Canadian public official went rogue.

If you don't remember much about Toronto mayor Rob Ford, here's a bit of a refresher. In 2013, the mayor made international headlines for his substance abuse issues when he admitted that he'd smoked crack cocaine while in office, which was even caught on video. (He was subsequently replaced when he left office to seek rehabilitation.) Luckily for O'Heir, Ford's misfortune was his gain, and since he bears a passing resemblance to the fallen mayor, he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! as Ford in a Skype call, where he lampooned the mayor's bombastic attitude and drug problem. O'Heir absolutely nailed the impression, asking important questions like, "How can I be held accountable for something I did in a drunken stupor? Does that sound fair to you?" The result was uproarious laughter. Though he only appeared as Ford that one time, it was certainly a memorable milestone in O'Heir's comedic career. 

He won a Daytime Emmy

Believe it or not, nobody from the cast of Parks and Recreation ever won an Emmy for their Pawnee performances. And sure, Ron Swanson always said that award ceremonies were pointless, but still, these actors definitely deserved some golden trophies for their incredible work. Stranger still, the show itself was perpetually snubbed during its seven-season run. But in 2017, there was a bit of justice for Jim O'Heir when, in a very un-Jerry move, he won an Emmy for a non-Parks project.

O'Heir was nominated for and won an Daytime Emmy for his six episode stint on CBS' The Bold and the Beautiful, a soap opera that has been on the air since 1987. The guest role cast O'Heir as Matt, a particularly nosy and irritating passenger on a flight who keeps interfering with his seatmates' lives. Clearly, it was a success for O'Heir, who Tweeted a selfie after the ceremony with the caption, "I won the f'ing Emmy! What????? Amazing!!!!" 

He's made some hilarious cameos since playing Jerry

In 2019, O'Heir lined up a solid slate of cameos, appearing in everything from an awards show spoof to a "visual album." In February 2019, after two separate documentaries about the failed Fyre Festival were released (by Netflix and Hulu, respectively), O'Heir reunited with his Parks Department coworker Aubrey Plaza who was hosting the 2019 Independent Spirit Awards. During the ceremony, O'Heir and Plaza parodied former Fyre Festival executive Andy King, who infamously made some pretty big promises to get water for an enormous festival. In the segment, O'Heir makes a similar sacrifice to "save" the awards show, in a pitch-perfect parody of King.

Later that year, he teamed up with Andy Samberg for the Lonely Island's original Netflix film The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, which parodied former Major League Baseball stars Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire and their downfall after it was revealed that they both used steroids during their careers. O'Heir only shows up briefly as, inexplicably, a puka shell salesman who McGwire threatens with a switchblade, but it's still a fun Easter egg for Parks fans.

He's friends with his Parks and Recreation castmates

Even though Jerry was definitely the Parks department's favorite punching bag, there was still plenty of love between him and his co-workers, which has translated into real life as well. O'Heir is still close with his Parks castmates. Several of the cast members have confirmed they all still talk in a group text, and O'Heir divulged even more details in 2018, dishing on some of the Parks department's favorite topics. O'Heir revealed that Chris Pratt, who went from playing lovable Pawnee goofball Andy Dwyer to the MCU's strong and stubborn Star-Lord, has been known to spoil some of the MCU's biggest twists and turns for his Parks colleagues, including details from Avengers: Infinity War before the film was even released.

In 2019, the entire cast came back together at PaleyFest to discuss their show's legacy and its tenth anniversary, and of course, O'Heir was there alongside his friends and fellow cast members. There, they discussed a possible return for Parks, and though showrunner Michael Schur said he thinks it's pretty unlikely, he did say every original cast member would need to return. And if a revival was a possibility, it seems pretty certain that O'Heir would step back into Jerry's clumsy shoes.