Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris, aka Doogie Houser, aka Barney Simpson, aka the de facto host of the Tonys, is a charismatic, funny, magical, entertainer of a man, and his memoir/autobiography was no different.
Rather than write his story in the traditional memoir-style, Harris chose to evoke the style of his favorite childhood books: Choose Your Own Adventure. For those who don’t know, these books offered a simple premise, and the reader followed different paths to create their own story. Some would turn out to be the obviously wrong, resulting in your early demise, whereas others took awhile before the mistake was realized, and you frantically flipped the pages, looking for where you went wrong. The fun part, is that it’s written in second person: YOU are doing this, YOU are doing that, YOU are hosting the Tonys and starring in HIMYM.
I listened to the audiobook of this, as it was narrated by Neil Patrick Harris himself. Because of the format, the Choose Your Own parts of the book were limited and adapted to meet the needs of the listener, so I heard the entire story, untimely demises and all, in a hodgepodge kind of order that still felt right.
The tales go back to Harris’ childhood, where he lived a fairly normal life, idolizing his older brother and loving his supportive parents. He shares his love of magic and how he became the President of the elite Magic Castle in Hollywood. He talks about his start in acting and goes through most of his acting jobs all the way up to Hedwig and the Angry Inch, his 2014 Tony award-winning performance. He also recounts his story of realizing, accepting, and embracing his homosexuality, and his partnership with David Burtka and eventual parenthood via surrogacy.
All the while, Harris remains elegant, classy, and charming. He does share some of his exploits and adventures with men, tame drugs, and certain celebrities, but he does so in a “well, this happened” kind of way, rather than malicious or over-the-top.
Interspersed throughout are magic tricks Harris walks you through (never revealing the secret, of course, in true magician form), as well as drink and food recipes he and David created. It feels like Harris has let you in on a secret, and let you into his life like an old friend.
And that’s how this is. The book is read as YOU, and it helps you appreciate Harris, what he went through, and how he came out on top. It’s a clever premise, and a tricky one, for a celebrity memoir, but Harris makes it work with his charm and sillyness. I loved listening to all the ways YOU (as Harris), inexplicably die, randomly interwoven throughout the narrative.
It’s fun and whimsical, and for fans of Neil Patrick Harris, a treat.