10 Things You Learn From Reading Neil Patrick Harris’s Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris — or, NPH as I’ll be calling him — has had an enviable life. The 41-year-old actor has starred on two hit TV shows, first as a child star on Doogie Howser, then as lothario Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. He is a Tony Award–winning actor, an Emmy Award–winning host of the Tonys, president of the Magic Castle, and arguably the biggest out gay male celebrity. You ostensibly get to live all of this amazing life through his new autobiography, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, which is written like an adventure book with multiple options. You can hop from page to page or just read it straight through; either way, you will find amusing anecdotes, from the first time he had gay sex to the time Scott Caan tried to get into a “fight” with him.

1. Dustin Diamond is one of the “more unpleasant people” he has had to work with.
NPH had to work with Diamond, a.k.a. Screech, for the kids’ movie Purple People Eater, and he was not impressed: “[Diamond] goes out of his way to offend pretty much every person he comes across.” He also addresses Diamond’s accusation in his book Behind the Bell that NPH and Ed Alonzo (Max on Saved by the Bell) had an affair: “It’s a completely false story that propagates a vicious lie to the grand total of twenty-three people who buy his book, presumably ironically.” (Or, you know, for work.)

2. Scott Caan tried to start a “fight” with him.
In the early ‘90s, sexually confused NPH was out on a date with Eden Sassoon, daughter of Vidal, when Scott Caan tried to start a fight with him. Caan and Sassoon were former paramours, so Caan started bumping his chest against NPH and yelling, “What’s up with the West Side, yo?” Apparently Caan had a ““gang”” (yes, double quotation marks) — a “cadre of young stars who’ve grown up deprived of deprivation trying to transform themselves into street toughs.” So they took it outside, where Caan managed half a swing before his “boys” stopped him.

3. He came out as bisexual at a self-help weekend forum.
In a post–Doogie Howser lull, NPH began listening to Tony Robbins audio lectures and got into self-help. At a session at the Landmark Forum, he announced, “I am bisexual.” He writes, “In retrospect your admission of bisexuality will come to seem like a half-truth. But right now it is the truth … insofar as you are prepared to acknowledge it at that moment.”

4. He had his first gay sexual experiences while he was doing Rent.
The guy was named Andy, and he offered to give NPH a “back massage,” which even then NPH understood was a euphemism for “orgasm.” But rather than become an A-ha! moment for him, he was filled with anxiety: “It’s less an escape from self than a brutal collision with it. The excitement and anxiety of what’s happening drives you into an even more analytic, introspective, meta-angsty place than usual. Any chance of surrendering to and thus enjoying the moment is cut off by the constant internal monologue now set to hyperdrive: No one can know, you can’t tell anyone, this can’t happen again but what if it does …” But of course it happened again. And it was awesome.

5. He finally let himself go while he was in Germany.
Soon after the Rent tour, NPH went on a trip to Germany to visit his bestie, Ed Alonzo, who was doing a magic show in Berlin. It serendipitously coincided with the Love Parade, a “glorious Teutonic rainbow freak show” where he felt “truly anonymous in public.” The next night, when he went to a “punk-industrial gay club,” his “self-monitoring switch turn[ed] itself off.” Out of the spotlight, he was able to actually enjoy himself, and he hooked up with a “superhot” circus performer named Christophe. Ah, Berlin.

6. How he met … David Burtka.
While walking along Eighth Avenue at 47th Street, NPH ran into his fellow Broadway performer Kate Reinders, who was with Burtka, a “rakishly handsome James Dean–like hot dude in a leather jacket and T-shirt.” He found out that he Burtka was in a relationship with a Hollywood publicist, so he just patiently hovered around “like an unusually considerate hawk politely waiting for the opportunity to swoop down and attack.” Then, when Burtka and the publicist broke up, they went on a date. And that, kids, is how he met his husband.

7. He steered the writers toward a Barney-Robin relationship on HIMYM.
NPH adores Cobie Smulders, who played Robin on How I Met Your Mother: “She’s exactly the kind of woman I would want to marry if women weren’t all gross [and] icky.” During seasons one and two, he started giving her “extra-long looks” to see what the writers would do, and sure enough, they hooked up before eventually getting married. “Our chemistry worked well, and I cherished every scene I got with her.”

8. He is very sorry for yelling at Patti LuPone.
Even the consummate professional NPH stumbles once in a while. During the middle of HIMYM, he tried to do a staged reading of Sondheim’s Company at Lincoln Center, which featured Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, and Patti LuPone. But, big network star that he was, he didn’t have time to learn his material beforehand and was shaky at best. After one scene, LuPone told him that he was “getting there,” which made NPH have a mini-meltdown and start yelling at her. “It’s a pure projection of your own current inadequacy. You are flailing and you know it. And not surprisingly, Patti LuPone does not take kindly to your petulant tantrum. ‘Oh, no, this is on you. Don’t put this on me, this is your thing.’”

9. He is not afraid of CBS censors.
When he hosted the 65th Tonys, he worked on the now-famous opening number “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore” with David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger. The line, “Come in and be inspired! There’s no sodomy required!” was originally supposed to be “Come in and be inspired! There’s no same-sex love required!” because CBS didn’t want the word sodomy to be mentioned on television. But NPH decided to “accidentally” say sodomy, because it’s funnier, obviously.

10. His kids, Gideon and Harper, call David Burtka “Daddy” and NPH “Papa.”

10 Tidbits From Neil Patrick Harris’s Memoir