Neil Patrick Harris chats ‘Best Time Ever,’ from the new time slot to the fun of being live

The host dishes on the season so far.

Since debuting last month, “Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris” has gotten celebs like Reese Witherspoon, Britney Spears, Alec Baldwin, Shaquille O’Neal and Gloria Estefan to play along with its variety show games and segments, from “American Ninja Warrior”-esque stunts to live sing-alongs with audience members watching at home to an epic finale called “End of the Show Show.”

We checked in with host Neil Patrick Harris as he prepared for this Tuesday’s episode, which airs at the show’s new time of 8 p.m. on NBC.

What can you tell us about Tuesday’s show?

It’s our big move to 8 o’ clock. This will be episode 5, so we just finished the halfway point. So we’re using this move to 8 as a nice way to look at the last four episodes that we’ve done and really start refining what worked and trying to address what didn’t. And I think it will be an easy thing to accomplish with Jack Black on board. With him comes super-fun energy, amusement and that gung-ho, I’ll-do-anything attitude, which is pretty appropriate for our show. And the B-52s are going to sing, which I’m super excited about.

What has worked so far?

I love the segments. I love the audiences’ reaction to stuff. It seems like this crazy, fast-moving, roller coaster show, where you strap in and it’s loops and curves and dips and then you get off, and you’re not quite sure you remember what happened, but you had a good time while it was happening. So that energy I like, it seems like a legitimate party atmosphere, and I’m loving that it’s live. We have acquired already in just four episodes small clips of awesomeness, from backflips on pogo sticks to Reese [Witherspoon] on the top of a skyscraper building to Zach Levi and I in a laser maze electrocuting each other.

Why was it important to be live?

I think the fire, the kindling of live makes everyone a little bit on edge with anticipation. Because if something goes wrong, we don’t just stop and redo it until it’s right. So therefore when you’re watching it at home, hopefully you’re watching it with that same excited trepidation. And I think if we pre-taped it, you probably wouldn’t have that because it would be clean and everything would just be too seamless. Award shows are not dissimilar. You want to see the naked streaker run across the stage in an awards show. You want to see Kanye West get up and take the mic from Taylor Swift. So expect naked streakers and as many Wests as we can find.

What is your favorite segment?

The “End of the Show Show” pieces. It’s like I’m doing a little variety show performance. I would always go to every Cirque du Soleil opening and wish I could join their team, and so now I kind of get to in my own way.

Is it hard to convince talent to come on? Are they like, “I don’t want you to strap me to the top of a skyscraper”?

Once we can get people here, they seem to have a really fun time. It’s been more of a struggle than I realized not to convince the talent to come and join, but to try and persuade the irritating publicist that is deciding for the talent that they’re backing out. That is less fun for me.

Has there been a segment so far that you can’t believe you were able to do live?

Those “Singalong Live” segments, I think they’re very impressive as a general conceit, to have a very impressive musical performer come and sing a song that everyone knows. And at the same time have three segment producers hidden in people’s houses with hidden cameras. And then while it’s live to be throwing from one house back to the studio back to another house back to the studio, that takes a lot of technological preproduction. And those people’s reactions I think are really great, when you cut to them and they see themselves on TV for the first time and had no idea that this was coming, because they legitimately don’t have any idea at all, and their jaws are to the floor. That’s always good to watch.

Do you have a go-to song that you do personally for karaoke?

I do love “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” which was one of the reasons we had Bonnie Tyler on the show. I think it’s a great song. I’m partial to Billy Joel because I grew up listening to him. And so “Piano Man,” “Captain Jack,” “The Entertainer,” all good karaoke standards for me. He’d be cool on the show.

One thing people are wondering is if you’re going to have your family on the show.

I’m not sure what would be the proper context for them. It’s a live show, so if we set up some idea that the kids are going to be involved in some way, and then they decided they didn’t want to, if it was live, my only options would be to force them to participate or have to change things at the last minute, and both of those are bad options in my brain. So I can’t imagine. Plus, it’s past their bedtime.

What can you tease for the rest of the season?

We have something big planned for the last episode for sure, a big “End of the Show Show” that is sort of a nice finale to the season. We have some swell guest announcers that I’m not allowed to discuss because they like to slow-play them. There’s another “Voices in Your Head” that we’re doing with Jesse Tyler Ferguson that’s really funny, we’ll air in a couple of weeks. And then we’re filming another one [this] week with two people that I know well and have been championing them to be on the show. And we have a Halloween episode, so there’ll be some spooky trickery there, there’ll be maybe a puppet or two. Who knows.

AMNY Newsletter

Eat it. Drink it. Do it. Tackle the city, with our help.