Who's the best How I Met Your Mother character? Barney. No, never. Lily? I mean, I could see it, but nah. Ted? Oh god, the only person who thinks the best character on How I Met Your Mother is Ted Mosby is Ted Mosby. Robin? Close, but eh. Marshall? Probably the most solid case for everyone I've listed so far, but still not the correct answer. No, the best character on HIMYM is Stuart.
You might be thinking, "Wait, who is Stuart? He's not in the opening credits." No, he isn't. Heck, he only appears seven times over the course of 208 episodes. But I find his story to be perhaps the most fascinating of all because, when it comes down to it, Stuart is the Bizarro version of Ted Mosby. Let me explain.
Ted spends all nine seasons (eight years of his character's life) searching for love. All he wants to do from the first episode is to get married, have kids, and then presumably tell his wife and kids the story of how he met them. No bigger goal looms for him. But in the first season of the show, Stuart has already met his fiance and gets married to her. And so How I Met Your Mother becomes the story of his marriage ... and it's not going well.
Every time Stuart appears, he gets sadder and sadder. At Marshall's bachelor party in Season 2, he continually references the emotional disaster that is his relationship. In Season 4, the core characters host an intervention to deal with Stuart's drinking problem.
In Season 6, Stuart and his wife can't agree on a name for their daughter, only deciding when the poor girl can't be legally admitted to the hospital without one. In Season 8, Stuart tells Barney that he can't believe that Ted thought someone could "get laid" wearing red cowboy boots, implying that Stuart's sex-life might not be what he desires.
Finally, in Season 9, Stuart's at the hotel for Barney and Robin's wedding. It's revealed that years earlier, he stole Ted's wedding gift to Marshall and Lily and passed it off as his own to impress his wife, and now he's at the hotel with someone else, very likely having an affair. That's happy ending ... esque.
So ends the ballad of Stuart, who experiences the exact opposite journey of Ted. It probably wouldn't have been very entertaining to watch his life play out if he was a main character, as it likely would've consisted of a lot of fighting, mutual hatred, and even more drinking than the leading cast already does. But I appreciate the writers' dedication to keeping us up to date with what was happening in his life. Going from new husband to jaded adulterer is quite the journey.
"And that, kids, is how I left your mother."
Daniel Dockery is a writer for the internet. You can follow him on Twitter!