‘HIMYM’ actor Josh Radnor discusses academia, success

“How I Met Your Mother” actor Josh Radnor shares a story with the sold-out crowd on Thursday night. Radnor was this year’s annual Hillel speaker.

Melody Song/Daily Senior Staffer

“How I Met Your Mother” actor Josh Radnor shares a story with the sold-out crowd on Thursday night. Radnor was this year’s annual Hillel speaker.

Jeanne Kuang, Assistant Campus Editor

Actor, writer and director Josh Radnor drew laughter and cheers from Northwestern students Thursday night when he came to campus as Fiedler Hillel Center’s spring speaker.

Radnor is best known for his lead role as Ted Mosby on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” He also writes, directs and stars in his own films.

Communication sophomore Aimee Hechler opened the night in Ryan Auditorium with a stand-up comedy act. Afterwards, Radnor spoke to interviewer Lindsay Barnett, a Communication junior, and a packed audience of mostly undergraduate and graduate students about his childhood and college years, his experiences on the set of “How I Met Your Mother” and his latest film, “Liberal Arts.”

“I’m legitimately from Ohio, and I didn’t know anyone in show business,” he said, explaining his proudest accomplishment of breaking into the film industry after having lived an ordinary childhood. “I just cared about this thing a great deal, and I loved it and felt like I was good at it, and I worked my ass off to do it. I’ve been able to forge a life out of it.”

The audience laughed as Radnor told stories of his childhood bar mitzvah romance and onscreen kisses, but the night was not without its serious moments.

He shared his changing views on higher education and discussed “Liberal Arts,” which is about a 35-year-old man who falls in love with a college student. Radnor described the film as a “critique of academia.”

“There’s this kind of lie at the heart of this motivational thing that we’re all on,” he said, adding that many college students are looking forward to the future. “I’ve never gotten to the future.”

He emphasized money might not make people happy, and when asked by an audience member about the secret to success, answered that maybe “there’s no such thing.”

“I think it’s about being able to tell your story somehow,” he said. “I look at my movies, or even the show, as saying like, ‘This is a campfire I’m building, I’m telling a story around it.’ … I’m still really hungry to tell stories.”

Aside from taking questions, Radnor interacted by tossing candy into the crowd, juggling on request and conversing with a graduate student about their shared alma mater, Kenyon College. He also accepted from an audience member a drawing of a blue French horn, a reference to one of his “How I Met Your Mother” character’s grand romantic gestures.

Audience members said they enjoyed Radnor’s mix of charisma, intelligence and humor.

“I really enjoyed that he was hilarious but also really philosophical, which I wasn’t expecting,” Medill freshman Daniele Marx said.

Weinberg freshman Ariella Hoffman-Peterson said she appreciated Radnor’s patience in answering questions and willingness to discuss his life.

“He was just so intellectual and interesting and interested,” she said.

Scott Hollander, a student at Northwestern Law School, also attended the event and said he liked Radnor’s easy-going personality.

“You could tell he didn’t have any canned responses for anything,” he said. “He wasn’t trying to seem really cool or really knowledgeable. He really just wanted to be in a conversation with the audience.”