Neil Patrick Harris Up For Sketchfest Challenge

From The San Francisco Chronicle

January 11, 2010
By Peter Hartlaub


Neil Patrick Harris seems to like an eclectic challenge, tackling everything from hosting the Emmy Awards to narrating Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins books to appearing as a rowdier straighter version of himself in the “Harold and Kumar” movies.

That makes him perfect for SF Sketchfest, the edgy comedy celebration that starts Friday and ends Feb. 2. Harris, who contributed a memorable performance as a monologuist last year, will be appearing in Celebrity Autobiography, co-presented with Litquake, on Jan. 30 at 8 p.m. and Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco. Rachel Dratch, Fred Willard, Steve Schirripa and others will be reading from the unintentionally funny autobiographies of other stars.

We talked to Harris, a former child actor and current Golden Globe nominee, by phone last week during a break from shooting “How I Met Your Mother.”

Q: How did you get recruited into this?

A: I’m a good friend of Janet Varney, who is one of the three founders and producers of Sketchfest. … This is one of her passion things, so I’m well on board when she asks me to attend. Last year I was a monologuist for a show that some of those ASSSSCAT (improv) guys did.

Q: That performance is online, you know.

A: I was so nerve-racked, man. That was the hardest job ever. Someone throws a word out at you, and it’s your job to come up with clever material for improvisers. It turned out well, but I was about to wet myself, I was so nervous.

Q: Last year, you told that tragicomic story about your childhood dog Lester, who died and was bagged and kept in a freezer through winter. How are you possibly going to top that this year?

A: I think I’m simply reading from a book for “Celebrity Autobiography.” So I’m really hoping that Mario Lopez has some good stanzas.

Q: You’ve picked your book?

A: Not really. I’m still deciding. Didn’t Hasselhoff come out with a book this year? That would be good. That would be awesome. (Voice gets sinister) And then there’s always Palin … Janet had two options for me, both of which I was dying to do. She also wanted me to be a guest on “Match Game” – and I will always be a guest on “Match Game” – but the Golden Globes are that weekend. Neither one required a lot of homework on my part. In fact, with “Celebrity Autobiography” I think the less you try to make it a comedy bit, the funnier it is. Q: Are you going to hang around for other shows?

A: We’re going to hang out for the second weekend, so I think we’ll get to see some stuff. I’m actually looking at the Web site right now. (Harris scans the schedule.) Guest monologuist Moon Zappa. That will be funny … Edie McClurg? … ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic … Dick Cavett’s doing a Marx Brothers thing. That’s fantastic! I may have to skip out on Moon Zappa for Dick Cavett.

Q: What else do you do while you’re up here?

A: We have some friends there, and David, my better half, is a chef, so we’re going to take in a lot of great food and probably head up to Napa for a couple of days and relax, as one does.

Q: If you had a time machine and could make your reservation last year, you could go to the French Laundry.

A: It’s OK, we were there last time. I think we’re going to a place called Ad Hoc.

Q: Who would you want reading your celebrity autobiography?

A: (Laughs somewhat maniacally) Either Sir Ian McKellen or LeVar Burton.

Q: Elaborate, please.

A: I really think it speaks for itself. Or what about Gwen Verdon? That would be fun. (Goes into Gwen Verdon voice) She – would – say – all – of – the – words – like – this … Or maybe Abigail Breslin. She would be good, too. She’s a wunderkind.

SF Sketchfest: Fri.-Feb. 2. Various venues.

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