Neil Patrick Harris is a man of many talents. Actor of stage, TV and the big screen, comedian, activist and perhaps most important, dad to 7-year-old twins Harper and Gideon and husband to actor-chef David Burtka. The diverse characters he plays — from womanizing bro Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother (for which he was nominated for multiple Emmys) to an East German trans rock star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (for which he won a Tony) showcase his incredible acting abilities, raw talent and unbelievable comedic timing.
Harris is lovingly known to most of America as simply “NPH,” and we got to catch up with him recently before he hosted The Struggle is Real…FUNNY, a comedy event for Jif Power Ups. We chatted about his favorite dad joke, his mom’s proudest parent moment and what he would do if either of his twins ever dated someone like Barney Stinson (Hint: It involves a Taser).
SK: It’s so nice to meet you. I am a huge fan. Do you mind if I record this? I have a 2-year-old boy, and my brain is a sieve these days.
NPH: Oh, congratulations! Two is a lot. Two is fun, 4 is way more fun.
SK: I hear it gets progressively better, and then they go to college.
NPH: Well, and it happens progressively faster… Everyone said to us when our kids were 2, and we saying 2 is terrible — I mean, beautiful and horrible, and they said, “Oh, just wait — 3 is even worse,” and that’s fun, and then all of a sudden — boom — there was 3, and then — boom — they were 4, and now they’re 7… When you’re in the weeds, it’s the worst thing to hear, but it really truly does rip by.
SK: Well, you have two of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen.
NPH: Thank you. It’s all the Botox mostly.
SK: Of course. Have they ever done anything that you felt, as a parent, you should chastise them for — but that you secretly thought was hilarious?
NPH: Yeah, that happens a lot, actually, because they have interesting points of view about things, and if they have a true comment about their take on a particular thing and it’s amusing… If it’s wrong but still amusing, you can’t smile even though you think it’s hilarious.
SK: Serious face.
NPH: Yeah, you have to make serious face a lot. And sometimes, they’ll do impressions of people, which isn’t appropriate, [but] as long as they’re not doing it in front of that person… Impressions are cool. I think impressions are funny. But you can’t really let them know that that’s OK. So they’ll leave the room, and then we’ll just burst out laughing.
SK: Speaking of hilarity, do you have a favorite dad joke that you’ve heard?
NPH: Um… Polar bear walks into a bar, and the bartender says, “Hey, polar bear, what can I getcha?” And the polar bear says, “I think I’ll have a… … …scotch and soda.” And the bartender says, “Hey, polar bear, why the big pause?”
SK: [Laughs] Nice. That is definitely a dad joke.
NPH: Thanks. Thanks so much.
SK: I’m sure it’s nearly impossible to pick a “proudest parent moment” of your own kids, but what do you think your mom would say is her proudest parent moment?
NPH: Um, probably our wedding. We had a very small wedding in Italy with just about 40 people, so I think when your parents get to see you stand up in front of the people closest to you and make commitments and express your desires in front of an accountable group of people, that’s kind of an adult thing to do, and they seemed like they were happy to see us take that step.
SK: That’s so nice. So, your twins are 7 now. Are you talking with them about what’s going on in the world right now? Are they asking any hard questions?
NPH: Well, we live in a world now where we don’t all sit as a family anymore and watch the nightly news together, right? So, I’m gaining my up-to-date news cycle information independently, so if there’s anything they have questions about, I want to be as informed as I can be, but I don’t really think it’s my place to fill them with my take on certain things.
That said… I’m pretty intent on them making informed decisions. So I’m not the biggest fan, regardless of how I personally feel about them saying overtly slanderous things about, you know, heads of countries, a lot of people do say that, and it’s understandable why they would parrot that, but I want them to make informed decisions and informed statements. So, while I may not disagree with those statements, I think it’s glib. So, yeah, I sort of leave that up to them.
I’ve said to our kids that I will be as truthful with them about anything that they want to ask me, and that doesn’t mean I will always tell them all the information that they need, but I will certainly not just say, “Because there’s a stork that has a thing that they carry in their mouth.” [Laughs] So, I’ll answer questions if they want to know anything about violence or religion or politics, I’ll answer them, but I’ll try to answer them fact-based and not emotionally based.
SK: Well, that’s admirable of you.
NPH: Well, we’ll see what happens. I’m just going to be biting my lip a lot. [Laughs]
SK: What do you think is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome, being a dad?
NPH: Probably trying to exist with sleep deprivation. It’s hard. Because that doesn’t get any better, and then you’re supposed to be making sound emotional decisions in a very unsound, overly emotional place, right? So that becomes tricky, trying to figure out how to sleep, or more like how to exist without it.
SK: I am with you on that one. What do you think you would do if Harper or Gideon ever dated someone like Barney, your womanizing character on How I Met Your Mother?
NPH: Well, my true, honest answer would be that I would hope before either one of them started dating, that they had asked questions and learned enough about how relationships can work for the positive, that they wouldn’t be swept up into something unarmed. My comedy answer would be that they should always carry a Taser.