Sunday, March 27, 2016

Review of "Choose Your Own Autobiography" by Neil Patrick Harris

I listened to the audio version of this book so I didn't have the opportunity to skip around but I heard all the "alternate autobiographies" read by the author. The book takes us from Harris's childhood with a loving, supportive family in New Mexico to his current mega-success in show business and his happy home life.

Harris developed his love of performing as a child and started his acting career at a young age. He also developed an early interest in magic, which he studied seriously, and he includes some nifty card tricks in the book. Harris seems to have had few 'lows' in his career. In addition to two successful TV series ('Doogie Howser, M.D'. and 'How I Met Your Mother'), he starred in theatrical productions, did guest spots on TV series, starred in TV movies, had parts in big-screen films, hosted award shows, starred in popular YouTube series, and is now a successful author.

Harris's stories about his career - and his co-stars, directors, and people he worked with - are generally rendered in an upbeat, positive tone (the book is not a mean-spirited tell-all). While detailing his many successes Harris never comes across as arrogant but rather as a talented, hard-working guy who's had some good luck. Harris is also a keen student of the 'behind the scenes' aspects of show business and likes to go backstage, shadow the director, study how shots are set up, etc.

One of the most detailed stories in the book is about Harris's starring role in the Broadway production of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." It's interesting to see how he got the role, prepared for the part, and was able to do eight shows per week while juggling other responsibilities. Harris also describes how he and the writers prepared musical numbers when he hosted award shows like the Tony Awards and the Oscars - a feat that was very creative and entertaining.

Harris talks openly about his sexuality. As a youngster he had girlfriends, apparently not quite realizing (or admitting to himself) that he was gay. Afterwards Harris was publicly silent about his sexuality until circumstances forced him to come out - which he did in a graceful, carefully crafted statement. Harris's tale about meeting the love of his life - actor/writer David Burtka - is engaging, as is the story of their becoming parents to two children (via egg donor and surrogate).

Another story describes how Harris and Burtka became close friends with Elton John and his husband David Furnish. The lucky Harris/Burka household gets to ride in private planes and visit Elton John's mansion in England - complete with pampering household staff and wonderful food.

The book isn't a text on how to succeed in show business but rather a wide (though not always deep) overview of Harris's life and career. I thought it was well-written and interesting. The 'alternate life stories' (fictional) are humorous, though some are gritty and end badly. Overall, I liked the book. Neil Patrick Harris fans will probably enjoy it.

Rating: 3 stars

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