This year's Tony host says he's inspired by Jon Stewart – and advised to have fun

By Brian Orloff
Updated June 05, 2009 12:00 PM
Jewel Samad/Getty, Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

Neil Patrick Harris may be no stranger to the Broadway stage, but how will TV’s How I Met Your Mother star fare as host of Sunday’s Tony Awards?

“I’ll probably be a little more joke-y,” Harris, 35, told PEOPLE Thursday during a break from rehearsing the Great White Way’s annual rite of spring. “I’m going to angle a little bit more towards Jon Stewart in a perfect world.”

As for having to fill shoes impressively worn in years past by the Sexiest Man Alive, Harris says, “Hugh Jackman did the [opening] production number very well, so to try and replicate [that], I worry that it would seem like I’m trying to repeat. I wouldn’t want to be a repeater.”

Jackman’s Advice

This year’s Oscar host Jackman, himself a Tony and Emmy winner (for hosting the 2004 Tonys), serves as more of a mentor than tormentor for Harris, who hopes not to be compared to the admired Aussie.

“[There’s] no competition at all,” Harris says, smiling. “I saw [Hugh] three or four days ago, and he couldn’t have been lovelier.”

Did he offer any words of wisdom?

“I was asking him how to maintain the audience at Radio City [Music Hall]’s attention,” says Harris, “and [Hugh] had some good tips for me. He seemed very confident and said, ‘Make sure you don’t forget to have a lot of fun.’ ”

Neil’s Own Favorites

Though it may seem undiplomatic to play favorites, Harris says that as far as this theatrical season is concerned, he’s been recommending the Tony-nominated Next to Normal, a rock musical about a family affected by its bipolar matriarch. “It’s the show that I bought the album during intermission and have been listening to ever since,” he admits.

Rock of Ages is pretty great too,” Harris says of the ’80s rock musical, starring former American Idol contestant Constantine Maroulis. “Everyone thought it was going to be a sore spot on the Broadway landscape – and it’s great.”

In the straight-play acting categories, stars of TV and screen – including Jane Fonda, James Gandolfini, Allison Janney, Jeff Daniels and Marcia Gay Harden – promise to add glitz to the proceedings.

And the winners will be announced Sunday, June 7, during the three-hour, live CBS telecast from the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall. For a complete list of nominees, click here.
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