In his first chat since announcing he's gay, the actor talks everything from Doogie to Broadway to ''Kumar'' to bringing the focus back to the funny on ''How I Met Your Mother''

Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Credit: Monty Brinton

He may play a spazzed-out womanizer on How I Met Your Mother, but in real life, Neil Patrick Harris makes a warm, funny, and in no way lecherous lunchtime companion. While neglecting to eat his chicken club sandwich, he chatted about his sitcom, life in the theater, and the decision to announce his homosexuality last fall — a difficult choice he handled with grace.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you’re making this resurgence after a number of years doing Broadway theater — roles like Lee Harvey Oswald in Assassins and the emcee in Cabaret. Were you looking to do a sitcom like How I Met Your Mother?
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: No, not at all. In fact, I had said that would be the thing I would not want to do. I’m a sort of stickler for authenticity. I found that the conventional sitcom conceit belies authenticity. You’ve got a room of writers that are all wanting their jokes to make it, and laughing really hard at their own jokes, and then when it comes to tape day it’s like a pressure cooker, and the audience is there, and they’re all caffeinated up and they’re told to laugh at everything, so you take the third pass at a scene and it’s all jokes that they’ve heard, but they laugh really loudly because they’ve been told by some guy with a microphone to do so.

So then what makes How I Met Your Mother, or as I’ve taken to calling it, HIMYiM
HIMYiM! Nice!

— different?
We don’t have a live audience. So we film on Friday just for the crew and ourselves. It’s sort of a hybrid. I think we’re the Prius of sitcoms.

I think I’m coming to your set on Thursday.
Thursday’s gonna be a hoot. Strippers.

What is it with you and strippers?
I think [my character] Barney likes to put people in a situation with strippers and then sit back and laugh while things unfold.

But it’s not just Barney. Apparently there are some strippers in the new Harold and Kumar
Mad strippers! They’re straight up prostitutes. Women of ill repute. On How I Met Your Mother, I think I refer to her as an ”insertionist.” But I’m not sure that’ll make it into the next draft. Just based on your reaction.

So when can we start calling this a Friends for the next generation?
[Laughs] If only.

You feel pretty secure about the show’s existence, though?
Well, in so much as we haven’t heard anything bad. You never know if CBS will have a big shakeup in the summer and bring in all new people that only want romantic reality-based shows. I wish more people were watching, you know?

What do you think needs to happen for that to occur?
We need Howie Mandel to have another one of his famous meltdowns. For Howie Mandel to pull a Dave Chappelle. That would be awesome.

NEXT PAGE: Doogie Howser and the ”Teen Beat years”