You know how friends and co-workers are always sending you "LOL" responses to your e-mails, text messages, and Facebook updates, even though you know they're not really laughing out loud? Because whatever you just wrote really wasn't that funny, certainly not funny enough to prompt even a giggle out of a half-drunk audience at a "Rules of Engagement" taping, but they'll toss you a courtesy LOL.
So it means something when I say "How I Met Your Mother" made me, dare I say it, laugh out loud Monday night. It's not the first episode where Barney Stinson has broken into song, but the sight of Neil Patrick Harris interrupting Wayne Brady and Ben Vereen's father-son reunion with a goofy sing-along of "Stand By Me," suggests this show may have some life left in it.
For the second week in a row, HIMYM went light on Barney's sexploits and mined laughs out of more thoughtful storylines. In Monday night's case, it was Barney coming to terms with the news that, spoiler alert, "The Price is Right" deity Bob Barker is not his father.
(And if you needed a side-order of sex jokes along with the gang's trip to Staten Island to help Barney's mother Loretta (Frances Conroy) pack up her house, Robin had you covered with her "overselling" of Ted as a blind date candidate for her morning show's makeup assistant. In a series of text messages to Ted's potential date, Robin goes from attributing, to Ted's prowess, orgasms "so intense you just black out" to describing him as "clean, open to criticism and not into anything weird.")
As they're sorting through some old papers in their mother's house, Barney and his half-brother James (Wayne Brady) come across a childhood picture of them that their mom meant to send to a man named Sam Gibbs, with an inscription indicating that one of the boys in the photo is his son.
Just as Loretta avoided Barney's paternity questions by convincing him that Barker is his absentee dad, she told James that his dad was either Bill Cosby, Flip Wilson or Meadowlark Lemon, depending on the day he asked.
But instead it's Gibbs, a Long Island retiree (or Ben Vereen, if you prefer). When the gang shows up at Gibbs' door, Barney masks his disappointment that Gibbs is James' dad, and not his, under a heavy cloak of denial.
This leads to Barney announcing to his friends that he is black and running sprints across the lawn to catch his "dad's" attention.
"Daddy, look how fast I can run!" Barney screams, prompting Laugh Out Loud moment one.
Marshall tries to convince Lily, Robin and Ted that they should let Barney be black for a day before making him confront the truth. Instead, Lily dispenses with some tough love, repeatedly pulling Barney away from the piano as Barney tries to chime in on Gibbs and James' "Stand by Me" singalong.
Count that as Laugh Out Loud moment two, mainly because Neil Patrick Harris fully commits to the scene, unleashing some silly song-and-dance man antics behind Brady and Vereen. Without Barney's manic attempts to join the father-and-son reunion, the scene would have suffered from an overdose of cheesy father-son emotion, and no one wants that.
Viewers who stick through the credits, get one last treat: Brady and Vereen stomping away from the piano as Harris breaks out the Auto-Tune in one last attempt to harmonize with them. (Laugh Out Loud moment three)
After Barney demands the truth from his mother about his father, we see him tear up the piece of paper she gives him with his true father's name. Barney decides that Loretta is dad enough for him, and we presume that puts to bed any mention of his "daddy" issues this season.
Here's a thought: what if HIMYM were to handle the question of how Ted meets the mother of his future kids the same way, with Ted tearing up a slip of paper identifying the love of his life and offering a "who cares? " shrug to his pals. Anyone on board?
NOTE: Here's a hilarious deleted take of Barney intruding on the Wayne Brady-Ben Vereen duet.