Neil Patrick Harris, who may be on track to take over all entertainment in the next 20 years, recently published “Choose Your Own Autobiography.” The format, based on the popular “Choose Your Own Adventure” books recognizable to anyone who grew up in the 1980s (like Harris), allows the reader to jump around within his memoir, crafting an individualized experience within his stories.
decided to tackle our own “Adventure.” Here’s where we all ended up in Harris’ memories:
Kids and family
First pass review of “Choose Your Own Autobiography”: Neil Patrick Harris is easily the only current star who can come across as pompous and self-deprecating at the same time, have the Hollywood clout to publicly diss other actors without seeming mean, and be kitschy and endearing to the point where you’re wondering if he’d have a glass of wine with you while talking over best parenting tactics and how to remove permanent marker from floors.
I wanted to read this as a Choose My Own Adventure. But just like I couldn’t do with the original books, I read it straight, ignoring parts that didn’t make sense, and then I went back a second time, selecting my jump spots as directed. Because I’m a rule breaker like that. But really, isn’t that how someone’s life memories are? Random and interconnected, but flowing from one point to another anyway. Besides, when some passage looked interesting, I’d just, well, read it. When else can you do such a thing in a book?
My favorite parts? Anything about “Doogie Howser M.D”
(since that was on during my high school and college years and still holds a sweet spot for me), the fact that we both loved “Les Miserables” long before it was a movie, and the tenderness with which he speaks of his kids and the transformation becoming a parent made in him. Tracing his happy family life, the selflessness of his parents through to his successful career, and then onward into the steps he had to take to become a “Papa” and re-create that childhood happiness through parenting was moving. It made a relatable celebrity even moreso. Awesome Halloween costumes aside, you’re left believing Gideon and Harper really may be the luckiest, most wanted tiny humans on earth … which is exactly the way Harris wanted you to end his “Adventure.”
— Kiley Thompson
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Theater and awards shows
I am not a rule-breaker. I read the book exactly the way it was designed, only forging ahead at the spots I had chosen from the previous chapter. This method led to me dying in the jungle outside Stephen Sondheim’s house at one point, so I did have to cheat a little and back up to chose a different path to continue reading.
But other than the unfortunate death, I had a whirlwind NPH adventure that was heavily populated by theatrical productions and hosting award shows — which makes sense, since theater is a love of mine.
Those chapters gave great insight into the NPH most people don’t know. Millions of people watched “How I Met Your Mother,” but only a relative few number got to see him on stage in “Proof” or “Rent.” It was also fascinating to read about the backstage workings of the various award shows Harris is famous for hosting.
In my adventure, Harris never “became” gay. He expressed interest in a dude once, but then we were off on another adventure until, several chapters later, husband David Burtka was simply in his life and we were hobnobbing with the likes of Elton John. The appearance of Burtka is kind of a nice metaphor for what a person’s sexual journey should be like — Harris found the right person and he just appeared in his life.
The “ending” to my path turned out to be an endless loop of award shows hosting and Nathan Fillion, which is not a bad way to finish.
— Andrea Reiher
Finding true love
I also followed the rules and was guided through the book by the path I chose. After going through a ridiculously happy childhood, I was very excited to get to a course that would lead to romance.
I loved to learn that NPH’s first real crush was a trumpet player in his middle-school band, that he briefly toyed with the idea of online dating and that his first sexual experience was with someone he met while performing in “Rent,” one of my favorite plays.
The support Harris describes getting from his family during his coming-out process was so touching it brought me to tears. I instantly had to know more. This journey led me to learn a lot of things that surprised me about NPH, one of which is he has never thought of himself as a very sexual person. Being a fan of “How I Met Your Mother” sometimes leads me to forget he is not really Barney in real life.
Then I got to where I had been hoping — meeting David Burtka, NPH’s one true love. The part of the book that ended my journey was quite possibly the most romantic thing on the planet. There has probably never been a more romantic story than the one Harris tells of the scavenger hunt through the United States David set up as a surprise birthday present. I was sad after the story that my journey through love and vacationing with David was ending, until I remembered it was only the beginning. I was filled with love after my journey with NPH and if it was possible, I admire one of my favorite actors even more for opening up and sharing his love story with the world.
— Sarah Huggins
Getting famous and being awesome
I also followed the rules, but less out of a need to be obedient and more because I was focused on finding out how Harris became the awesome entity that he is today. As a hardcore member of Team Barney when it comes to “How I Met Your Mother,” I needed to know how he got there.
NPH may have landed on “Doogie Houser, M.D.” at a young age, but it took me a pretty long while to get there. This may be because I took a detour into NPH’s first inklings that he was gay (which held my favorite quote from the book — “The ‘truth’ about a person’s sexual preference is often revealed through a long journey of tiny steps, and acceptance is one of the last ones”). However, I decided to get famous instead of getting laid, and I don’t regret it.
Hearing about childhood fame from an adult NPH is a really fun experience — and you can really see how crazy Hollywood is. Harris felt like the nerdy kid at the party (and from the pictures, he kind of was) so reading about hanging out with Stephen Dorff with Harris’ candid commentary of that life feels like any “regular” person observing young Hollywood.
I skipped the theater stuff and stuck to television, which after “Doogie” got a little depressing — but was formatted in a humorous list that made it less painful. NPH racked up a ton of made-for-television movies between 1988 and 2001, none of which capitalized on his amazing potential. Then “Harold and Kumar” came along and informed everyone that Neil Patrick Harris is a legend. In a lot of ways, that stoner movie saved him and was the catalyst of NPH returning to the A list. From there it’s “How I Met Your Mother” and the sky becomes the limit.
The best thing about following Harris’ initial rise to fame and then his return to the spotlight after the childhood stardom luster faded is that he handles it with such humor, humility and deprecation. Each milestone in his career comes with a valuable lesson and a genuine sense of gratitude for it leading him to the next thing. He doesn’t lay it out as a step-by-step guide to getting famous, but reveals that to be truly awesome you take each opportunity as it comes and don’t underestimate the importance of meeting anyone. If that gets lost, NPH also included a “Bro Code” chapter for those that want a quick list of pointers.
— Megan Vick