Neil Patrick Harris

By: Devin McKinney
June 15, 2013


I never watched Doogie Howser, M.D., the 1989-1993 series about a teenage doctor, and so had no reason to imagine that its star, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS (born 1973), was much more than the means to a gimmicky end in the years when producer Steven Bochco was hatching ambitious, misguided flops like Cop Rock. My main Harris memory is of a post-Doogie guest shot on the David Letterman show, when he bemoaned the unforeseen hassles of equipping his first real house (“You have to buy forks… you have to buy sheets… you have to buy extra sheets…”). But it turns out that for litheness, likability, and genius timing, Harris is the Jack Lemmon of now. As Barney, the hedonistic high-fiver of the beguiling sitcom How I Met Your Mother, Harris plays a bantam cock who fancies himself a rooster, and who by sheer manic devotion to the maintenance of his own “awesomeness” earns the status. Almost every line Barney speaks emerges through multiple layers of TV-baby self-monitoring, origami folds of irony, and douchebaggery so elaborately staged it becomes a form of vocal and physical tap dance.

Why should, how can, this preening sexist, this smug turd, be so goddamned charming? I don’t know; how does a card trickster turn a three of clubs into a king of diamonds? Harris, it says here, is among other things a working magician. We might have guessed that — not merely from his occasional, always endearingly fumbled attempts at magic on Mother, but also because Harris’s particular dazzling skill is very much a matter of smooth handwork and misdirection, the invisibility of seams and the impossibility of sweat, the momentary conjuring of the objectively impossible.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Hugo Pratt, John Wesley Work III, Herbert Simon, Cicely Hamilton.

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Reconstructionist (1964–1973) and Revivalist (1974-82) Generations.


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