While 1,400 people is a relatively small number of Ohio State students, when that was roughly the turnout to listen to “How I Met Your Mother’s” Josh Radnor speak at OSU, he was taken aback.
“There are a lot of people here, jeez,” Radnor said to the audience Monday evening. “This would be my whole college… plus a few hundred more.”
The Ohio Union Activities Board-sponsored event, “An Evening With Josh Radnor,” was held in the Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom and gave students a look into Radnor’s life as an actor, writer and director.
Radnor, who has starred in CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother” since the show’s premiere in 2005 and appeared in movies like “Liberal Arts” and “Happythankyoumoreplease,” which he also directed, took the stage about 7 p.m. to a standing ovation from the crowd.
He unbuttoned his flannel to reveal an OSU T-shirt, while seeming surprised by the crowd’s roaring applause.
“I do a lot of college speaking, but this is the best one,” Radnor said as the audience returned to their seats.
The Columbus-native, who grew up in nearby Bexley, said in an interview with The Lantern before his lecture that he comes home to Ohio often and it’s a “cool” feeling to be back.
“It’s really nice to see how Columbus changes every time I come home. I think it’s much more dynamic and the arts scene is better now; it feels like there’s better restaurants,” he said in the interview. “It feels like the whole city has really come into its own in a really nice way. So, I really love being from Columbus and I’m always happy to come back.”
Radnor said growing up in Columbus has molded his personality in some ways.
“I love being from the Midwest — and I think that’s shaped my perspective in that I care about being friendly and open and I value that,” he said. “I don’t think that being cool or aloof is cool. I think that it’s nicer to be nice. That’s like pure Midwest to me.”
The actor’s lecture coincided with the premiere of the ninth and final season of “HIMYM,” which drew in about 9.40 million viewers, according to Nielsen TV Ratings. The show was streamed during the event because Radnor said he didn’t want fans to feel as though they had to choose between the two.
“You get to see it commercial-free and I’m here,” Radnor said when audience members expressed their sadness that he couldn’t stream it until 8 p.m., when the rest of the world would be able to watch the show as well.
And although Radnor is most well-known as his character, Ted Mosby, he said the show doesn’t consume his life like fans might expect.
“If I think about my life, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ is probably the fifth thing I think about. And sometimes the fans are so invested in it, more than we are as a cast,” Radnor said in the one-on-one interview. “So it’s a little unnerving to meet fans sometimes and they just know the show so well and assume that you’re that character living in that life.”
There might be some similarities Radnor shares with Ted, but he said there are also an immense number of differences.
“The Ted thing is funny, because it’s not me. I don’t tell people I love them on the first date. I don’t wear red cowboy boots. I’m not an architect. My life is so different than his. But at the same time, you’re lending so much of yourself, I lend my physicality — he looks so much like me,” he joked. “I’m playing a character. So, I tend to look at Ted as my annoying younger brother, I see some of myself in him but also I’m like, ‘Why is he doing that?’”
The event was set up to be a type of Q-and-A session, with questions taken from the audience as well as from Twitter, but Radnor was adamant that the night would feel like more of a conversation with the fans.
“What’s up? How’s OSU? Do you like it?” he asked the attendees toward the beginning of the night.
Radnor also noticed comments that were shouted and subtle movements from the crowd.
“You’re leaving? Where are you going?” he asked a female student as she got up to leave the room about halfway through the lecture.
When she replied saying she had an exam to go to, Radnor asked everyone to wish her good luck, telling her “you got this” before she exited.
Other topics Radnor discussed ranged from how his parents met, to how he got into acting, to his experience as a director.
About halfway through the lecture, while reading through questions on Twitter, Radnor stopped to request something from the audience.
“Can I ask a favor of you guys? I’m gonna keep making movies, but I’m not making movies in like a studio system so you’re not gonna see them on huge billboards all the time, because that stuff costs a lot of money,” he said. “But if you enjoy tonight, will you seek out my movies? Will you tell your friends about my movies? And when I have a new one coming out, will you somehow find out about it and go see it and let me know?”
Acknowledging that most of his fan base came from playing Ted, Radnor informed his fans that his movies aren’t quite the same as the show.
“I’m trying to find my audience, and I know I have this huge audience for ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and my films are different than that — but I don’t think that if you like ‘How I Met Your Mother’ that you won’t like my movies,” he said. “But (‘HIMYM’ characters) Marshall and Barney — they’re not gonna be there. I’m sometimes there in a beard, but I’m not gonna be in my next one.”
Samantha Provenzano, a first-year in business, said she attended the sold-out event, which ended around 10 p.m., because she’s a “HIMYM” fan, but ended up getting more than she anticipated.
“It was great because he was so much more than you would think of a Hollywood actor,” she said. “He was really deep and philosophical and I really enjoyed it.”
Other students attended for different reasons.
“This kid right here, his birthday is in two days,” said second-year political science major, Jack Fogle, explaining that he brought his younger, teenage brother, Ben Fogle, to the event as a birthday gift. “He’s watched every episode of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ at least five times so I wanted to give him the ultimate birthday present.”
Most of the lecture centered around Radnor’s television and film career, but he didn’t leave without giving the audience some advice for the “real world.”
“You’re gonna get crushed, but just prepare yourself for that initial feeling of ‘Oh my God, I miss college and I miss my friends and I miss the meal plan. This is horrible,’” he said. “But it levels out, you get through it. You find your balance again then things become extra exciting because you’re actually making something of yourself.”
OUAB declined to disclose costs of the event and photography was not permitted during the night.