15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘How I Met Your Mother’

David Letterman looms larger here than you’d ever imagine possible
15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘How I Met Your Mother’

For nine long years, How I Met Your Mother viewers followed Ted Mosby on the journey toward his future wife and witnessed all the bumps in the road for him and his friends along the way. We laughed, we cried, we complained endlessly about the finale. But there was a lot going on that we didn’t see outside the handful of locations where we mostly stayed (bar, apartment, laser tag arena), and even more that we just plain missed.

How They Met Each Other

How I Met Your Mother was based on a period in the late 1990s when creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were writers on The Late Show with David Letterman, and the single Bays spent a lot of time moping around the apartment shared by Thomas and his now-wife. Like the golden trio, they all met at Wesleyan University.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Is Swarley)

McLaren’s Pub is also based on a real pub called McGee’s where Bays and Thomas used to hang out and their boss often introduced women to Bays by asking, “Have you met Carter?” McGee’s is still fully leaning into their claim to fame, offering HIMYM-inspired cocktails like the Pineapple Incident and the Naked Man.

The Laugh Track Was Real

Given the show’s unique format, constantly flashing back-and-forth between time and space, you might assume the laughter that typically comes from a studio audience was canned, but it’s not a track from a foley artist’s library or a live audience. Shooting live was indeed impractical, but episodes were then screened for an audience, and their laughter was recorded.

Britney Spears Saved the Show

It took a while for HIMYM to really find its audience, so ratings were iffy until Britney Spears’s cameo in Season Three, after which Bays said they never had to worry about getting canceled again. He admitted that initially, when they heard which episode she wanted to be in, it “sent a chill down our spines, because that’s the one where we meet Stella,” but Spears, ever the realist, settled for her secretary instead.

Victoria Was the Backup Mother

In fact, the show was in such a precarious position in those first few seasons that Bays and Thomas had a plan in case they didn’t get to take us on the entire winding road to Ted’s eventual beloved. If the show had been canceled during the first two seasons, they would have explained via voiceover that Victoria was the mother, though all the scenes with Ted’s kids had already been filmed so the teenage actors wouldn’t visibly age. (Though who could blame them, listening to Ted that long?)

Why Marshall and Lily Don’t Kiss

Considering that they were together for the show’s entire nine-year run (well, almost — we all like to pretend San Francisco never happened), it’s pretty weird that they don’t kiss all that often. That’s because Alyson Hannigan was totally repelled by Jason Segel’s smoking habit. Even through monetary extortion, she never got him to quit for longer than a year.

Why Lily Doesn’t Sing

Over the course of the show, the writers found an excuse to give every main character except Lily a ridiculous musical number, and she was only spared because she “begged them not to make” her sing, comparing it to a phobia. It’s presumably the same reason her character has few lines in the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though working with Joss Whedon would traumatize anyone.

How the Cast Met Each Other

Many of the cast and crew members already knew each other before they were hired for the show, some under eyebrow-raising circumstances. The year before, Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris played lovers in a play called The Paris Letter that required them to get naked together, and Hannigan used to babysit Bob Saget’s kids.

There Was a Real Proposal

The ring that mistakenly wound up in Robin’s champagne glass on a date with Ted, kicking off their Lily-orchestrated breakup, actually belonged to the actor whose character it was meant for. He wasn’t even an actor, just a dude who had friends of friends on the writing staff, who (along with his girlfriend) was a superfan. He convinced her to come to L.A. to be an extra for a day and then, with the help of the crew, popped the question for real during the scene. You can even see Cobie Smulders reacting happily for a second before she remembers she’s supposed to be miserable.

Natalie Can’t Catch a Break

Remember Natalie? The woman Ted kept breaking up with on her birthday? The actress who played her, Anne Dudek, also appeared on a 2003 episode of Friends… as a character who gets dumped on her birthday. Poor Natalie. Man, Ted really is the worst.

What Happened to Robin’s Dogs?

Fans have long found the plotline that conveniently got rid of Robin’s five dogs sus, and indeed, there was an extra-canonical reason for it. Radnor has a severe dog allergy, which he previously managed with “Claritin and some thorough vacuuming,” but a scene that required him to “rub my hands all over a dalmatian's face, a face that was mere inches from my own” gave him such a bad reaction that paramedics showed up. After that, it was to the pound for the puppies.

The Pineapple Incident Has Been Explained

We never got an explanation for the pineapple that mysteriously appeared on Ted’s nightstand after a regrettably drunken night, except we totally did. In a deleted scene released six months after the series finale, we see that Ted stole the pineapple outside of what he didn’t realize was the Captain’s Manhattan townhouse, the display of which he claims is an “old sea captain’s tradition.” It was apparently deleted just to fuck with us.

We Knew the Mother’s Name All Along

We never should have been questioning whether Victoria, Stella or Zoey was The Mother because in a Season One episode, Ted describes to his kids a visit to the Lusty Leopard in which a stripper introduces herself to him by her real name, Tracy, after which he jokes, “And that, kids, is the true story of how I met your mother,” which horrifies them. Obviously, the uniquely dad prank couldn’t have worked if their mom’s name wasn’t Tracy.

We Knew the Mother Was Dead All Along

There were tons of clues, even before we met Tracy, that she was going to die. She’s never around in the flash-forward sequences, and there’s a headstone in the cemetery where Marshall’s dad is buried that says “Mother.” Even the book that Ted is frequently seen reading — Love in the Time of Cholera, about an on-again, off-again couple who finally reunite after the death of one of their spouses — is pretty on the nose.

There’s an Alternate Ending

The final episode of How I Met Your Mother is also its lowest rated, so you could say some people were a little put out by how things ended, all the more so because there’s an official alternate ending in which everyone remains alive and happy. They knew what the people wanted, and they rubbed their evil little hands together and kept it locked away in the desolate realm of DVD extras. 

Oh, what could have been.

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