Neil Patrick Harris hosts four shows in Montreal
Say it’s his favourite city in Canada
Neil Patrick Harris has run off with the circus.
Or at least his “Circus Awesomeus.” The ubiquitous awards show host and former “How I Met Your Mother” star headlined Monday and will tonight at Montreal’s Place des Arts, and will be hosting four shows as closing galas to the 33rd annual Just For Laughs comedy festival.
Harris loves Montreal, saying, “it’s easily my favourite city in Canada.” He’s shot two movies there: “Beastly,” with Vanessa Hudgens, and “Smurfs 2.”
These shows aren’t all comedy, as Harris points out. He was invited to handpick the acts and booked sword-swallowers, magicians and puppets as well as comedians and musicians.
“I’m very pleased to be doing a show that is comedic, yes, but it’s tangential to it, because I intentionally wanted to have something that was more variety based,” he said.
“It’s a physical palate cleanser to constant comedy.”
Makes sense coming from Harris, a multi-faceted performer who can sing and dance on Broadway as well as perform magic tricks in clubs.
His comments come the morning after his first night at Just For Laughs. The festival packs dozens of shows at various venues throughout the city. Harris was “astonished that there were shows happening at 11:59.”
He found out that the after parties - where he ran into Howie Mandel, Norm Macdonald, Jeff Ross and James Corden’s “Late, Late Show” bandleader Reggie Watts - can go on until 4 a.m.
The 42-year-old marvels at how the stand-up comedians adapt to rooms little and big and crowds receptive and indifferent.
“I would be on tilt the whole time,” he says, using a poker expression. “I’d be very insecure - I travel with a Teleprompter.”
He sees these Montreal shows as a something of a dry run for his upcoming NBC/CTV series, “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris,” premiering Sept. 15.
“I’ve never been more legitimately excited about any type of show before,” he says.
To describe the series as a variety show does not convey the genre-busting newness of the concept. It’s closely based on the popular U.K. series “Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.” Check out the original, Harris urges. “It’s very YouTube-able.” Like the British series, “Best Time Ever” will be live, a format the awards show host handles with ease. It will be shot in New York, where Harris lives with husband David Burtka and their four-year-old twins.
He describes it as “like seven or eight different types of shows all happening simultaneously.” There’s a special celebrity guest announcer each week. There are pre-taped segments with a cast of regulars. There are music segments. There are segments that are game-show based.
“It’s a cavalcade of madness,” says Harris.