Q&A: Neil Patrick Harris discusses Best Time Ever, Barney Stinson and his idea of the perfect day
Since its debut in September, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris has attracted top celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal, Britney Spears and Alec Baldwin. As the program moves to a new time slot (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC), SI.com's Andy Gray sat down with Harris to discuss the show, sports and every How I Met Your Mother question I could sneak in.
SI.com: Your new show Best Time Ever is now four episodes in. On a scale of 1–100, how’s it going so far?
Neil Patrick Harris: I’d say a solid 87. I would say 88 because eight is my favorite number. But I don’t want to jinx it.
SI.com: Shaquille O'Neal was the guest announcer last week. How was he?
NPH: He was great. What we don’t know about guest announcers is how much they’ll want to play along or how much they prepared. He played along with everything and I think the stuff he did comedically was on point.
SI.com: Is he the biggest person you’ve ever been in a room with?
NPH: Yeah. I never got to meet Andre the Giant.
SI.com: Did you watch pro wrestling growing up?
NPH: I did. I was a closet pro wrestling fan. For some reason I thought it was shameful to like it.
SI.com: It has a huge audience now though. It's a lot more socially acceptable.
NPH: I know, right? Jon Stewart just did a run with those guys. It’s a giant market. But I’m more fascinated with mixed martial arts.
SI.com: Do you have a favorite sport to play?
SI.com: How about to watch?
NPH: Pro football.
SI.com: Who's your favorite athlete?
NPH: Talent-wise, it's Andy Roddick or Rafael Nadal. Looks-wise, it's Cristiano Ronaldo.
SI.com: NFL Concussions are in the news. Would you let your son play football?
NPH: If he was very into playing football, I would. I wouldn’t push him towards it as a rite of passage. But I think the team sports mentality when you’re an adolescent is a good skill set to learn. But it would be a bummer if he came home with a broken spine.
SI.com: Hope you don't mind a few How I Met Your Mother questions. I notice the show repeats every now and then.
NPH: It’s on a fair amount, yeah
SI.com: So when you’re flipping through the channels and pass it, do you ever stop and be like, “I gotta check this episode out?”
NPH: I don’t watch the whole episode but I’ll check out a singular scene. It’s less to watch the content and more to watch what was going on in our social world while filming.
SI.com: So you can remember a specific event per episode?
NPH: I have a great recall for that. Even old movies from when I was way younger. I can remember where we shot that scene, what it was like around the area.
SI.com: Is it annoying when people come up to you with a Barney Stinson quote?
NPH: No, not annoying at all. It’s very flattering. Barney was filled with catch phrases and imbibed good times. So, yeah, it’s usually at bars and and 'it’s the stuff of legend.'
SI.com: How much of Barney was you doing improv and how much was written on the page?
NPH: There was very little improv. From the very first episode of the show, he was filled with the nations of laser tags and legendary and awesome and straight razor shaves. That was all the writing team.
SI.com: Does NPH play laser tag in real life?
NPH: I’ve only played a couple times. I always feel that I’m playing against people—and this may just be paranoia—but I feel like I’m playing against people who have been playing twice daily in that course for a year or more and know every nook and cranny. That’s also why I’ve never played paint ball. I’m afraid of welts.
SI.com: Do you have a favorite HIMYM episode?
NPH: I loved the one where Barney proposed to Robin. I thought that was a great episode. I liked the musical version where we sang about suits—"Girls vs. Suits" it was called. I sang it out at the 20th Century Fox lot. We also did one that was all in rhyme with Lin-Manuel Miranda. I got to play five different characters around a table. That was a lot of fun to film.
SI.com: What’s been your favorite segment so far on Best Time Ever?
NPH: I love "Neil Versus," where I’m being challenged by someone for bragging rights. Come to think of it, we really should make a trophy for that. A Stanley Cup type of trophy that I can just put my name on every time I win.
SI.com: Speaking on trophies, there's been some debate in sports about kids receiving Participation Trophies so they don't feel left out. Some athletes have spoken out against it.
NPH: It's a valid point. When I was growing up, there was the yearly dog show where you brought your pets and everyone won something. There was Most Adorable Dog, Craziest Looking Dog, Largest Dog, Weakest Dog. So it didn’t feel very special when you went home with a ribbon.
SI.com: Do you have dogs yourself?
NPH: I have two. Fred and Watson.
SI.com: Who came up with those names?
NPH: Fred was named after my husband’s ability to dance, as in Fred Astaire. And Watson was just a good sidekick name. Like in Sherlock Holmes.
SI.com: Let me throw you a hypothetical. You have the day off. Your kids and husband are out of town. It’s just you and no responsibility. How do you spend that 24 hours?
NPH: What a great idea this question is. I would sleep more than five or six hours. I’ll go nine hours of sleep. I’d exercise at the gym for a good two hours. A slow, long workout and then a massage … a two hour massage. I want to slow everything down. So for every minute I work out, I tack on a minute of massage. Then I’d meet friends for some day drinking outside at a table with tequila and nachos until it gets to be early evening. Then I’d go home and nest in my office, reorganize books while I binge watch Survivor. When I’m alone I like to go through personal stuff and kind of unpack.
SI.com: Solid answer. Let's wrap-up with some rapid fire questions. Your Favorite meal in world?
NPH: Omakase sushi.
SI.com: Your go-to magic trick?
NPH: Appearing aces.
SI.com: Rough estimate: How many times have you discussed the How I Met Your Mother finale in interviews such as this?
NPH: I’d say about 20. I noticed you didn’t ask about it though.
SI.com: I don’t want to be No. 21. What's one thing that always makes you laugh?
NPH: When either of my children tell a joke.
SI.com: Your favorite Beatles song?
NPH: "Let it Be."
SI.com: The one t-shirt you refuse to throw away?
NPH: We have an orange ripped up authentic Harley Davidson T-shirt that’s super rad.
SI.com: How many ties would you say you wore during the entire run of How I Met Your Mother?
NPH: Somewhere between 350 and 9,000.
SI.com: Favorite room in your house?
NPH: My secret magic office. I changed my mind on that. We have a screening room. It’s super fun.
SI.com: Favorite Seinfeld character?
SI.com: Do you read Page Six and gossip sites?
NPH: I don’t seek them out but I don’t intentionally avoid them on principle.
SI.com: Favorite sports memory?
NPH: My father and I sang the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium when I was 16 or 17. It was a dream of my dad’s and it was cool that I got to stand there with him and hear it sung back to us on an eight-second delay.