Yes, Neil Patrick Harris Was Offered ‘The Late Show,’ And No, He Doesn’t Like Being Called ‘Doogie’

I hit play on Howard Stern’s fascinating hour-long interview with Neil Patrick Harris this morning only planning on listening to a minute or two of it. But the guy is so charismatic and compelling, before I knew it, I’d listened to the entire hour. In the interview, NPH talked everything from Doogie to Elton John to How I Met Your Mother, and even provided details about being approached to replace David Letterman on The Late Show.

To that point, yes: Les Moonves approached Neil Patrick Harris way before Letterman announced his retirement about possibly replacing him. They had a lunch date and discussed that future possibility, but NPH ultimately declined for a couple of reasons. Foremost was the fact that it was a very demanding job, and he wasn’t keen on putting in the number of hours it takes to be a successful late night host, especially now that he has two kids. He was also concerned about the competition: With Kimmel, Fallon, Seth Meyers, and Jon Stewart — among others — he thought it would be very difficult to break through. Likewise, he’s not interested in replacing Craig Ferguson for the same reasons. He did say, however, that he was more interested in a weekly variety show, similar to the old Ed Sullivan program, and that is still a possibility with CBS down the road.

More interesting to me was how he got his start on Doogie Howser, M.D.. Before he landed the role, his parents were mostly set against NPH doing a TV show because they didn’t want to uproot their family from New Mexico. Basically, they said that — unless he landed a Steven Bochco-like show (they were huge fans of L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues — that they wouldn’t pursue TV. Sure enough, NPH was offered that role in a Bochco series, and his parents — both attorneys licensed to practice in New Mexico — quit their jobs (with immense hesitation) and took their family to California. And yes, they did live off of NPH’s money because, as he explained, they had no other source of income because they were only licensed to practice in New Mexico (I’m not sure why they didn’t take the California bar, but whatever …)

He also said that after Doogie, he had enough money to live on for a very long time, and he spent most of his post-Doogie years smoking weed with friends and going to bars with his fake ID (he declined to attend college, something he now regrets). He also moved back to New Mexico for a while to get away from the industry. Oh, and yes, he also hated that people called him “Doogie,” not because of the association with the show, but because it was such a terrible, silly name. He’d have preferred his character have been called “Thunderbolt,” so that he’d be referred to as that, instead.

He also talked at length about contract negotiations a few years ago on How I Met Your Mother and why he decided not to initially negotiate with the entire cast. He thought he could probably get more money than the rest of the them, and he felt he owed it to his manager and agent to try and do so (in other words, he was “the asshole” who was holding up negotiations). He did, however, eventually agree to join the rest of the cast, and they ended up with a nice $250,000 per episode contract.

Oh, and on last year’s Emmys, which were not well received, Neil Patrick Harris says that part of the problem with that show is that they made the mistake of sprinkling In Memoriams throughout the show (James Gandolfini, Corey Montieth, etc.), which ended up making it a somber occasion. He was unable to gain any comedic momentum because after a series of jokes or a musical number, they’d go back to a weepy In Memoriam segment and the show would stall out.

It’s a really great interview, if you have an hour. He also talks at length about his magic, about David Blaine, about who is best friends are (Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, Mary McCormick) and his fascinating friendship with Elton John.