It's hard to believe that Neil Patrick Harris has spent more than three decades basking in the wonderment of the entertainment world. During that time, he has been cascaded from television to film to Broadway to emcee extraordinaire, via hosting the Oscars, Emmys, and Tonys. He's been there and done that so many times that he's already created a verifiable lifetime of memories.
It's always been his dream to capture all that he's discovered and experienced and share it somehow with his legions of fans and followers, and there are many. So, like everyone else through the pandemic, Harris was on a mission to move an idea to reality.
In between his hectic schedule of shooting several films during 2021, last fall he launched Wondercade, which he describes in his typical waggish fashion as a "weekly missive of random things worth yammering about. The goal was to make it creative and authentic."
Wondercade is a marvelous, trendy, hip, and entertaining cacophony of missives about art, travel, food, drink, entertainment, and just about everything else that tickles Harris's fancy.
When I asked him if this was his "baby," outside of his two adorable children, of course, Harris agreed: "I just thought at 48, it was time to pass on knowledge and create an eclectic experience that might allow people to take a moment of joy out of their stressful day."
Wondercade appears in email boxes on Wednesdays. And as draining as my day might have been, around 3 p.m., in comes the newsletter, lighting up my inbox. I immediately feel its calming presence, cease what I'm doing, and dive right in.
In one of his latest tomes, during this uncomfortable month of January, Harris offered three comfort food recipes that are personal to three top chefs. He asked them to submit something that they wouldn't do for a media appearance -- something creative and authentic to them.
What Wondercade featured were tantalizing recipes for braised baby potatoes with pancetta, comte cheese and sage, chicken chili, and classic Bolognese, with personal stories from the famed chefs about what the dishes meant to them. In between the recipes, Harris paid homage to a favored boxed wine. True to his comedic form, Harris introduced the trove of these tasty treasures with the following:
Below, you'll find three recipes that are delicious and executable for experts and novices alike. (I clearly fall into the latter category: once, while in Williams Sonoma with my husband, he remarked, "nice pan!"; I looked around for an actor in a green costume surrounded by Lost Boys.)
Finally, his communiques end with a quirky aphorism barked by late-night bartenders called Last Call, which is usually a brain food riddle or puzzle. It's more confounding than the New York Times crossword puzzle, more compelling than Sudoku, and much more enjoyable than checkers.
There's no question that Harris is one of television, film, and Broadway's most successful stars, and one of the most versatile actors on the planet. He's also a magician, so there seems to be no bounds to his creativity. I wondered what provided him the motivation to add Wondercade to his list of creative successes.
"For a long time, I've gone out of my way to crow about my love of entertainment and everything that is adjacent to it, particularly on my social media accounts. And I realize that most of us receive more and more information through impersonal algorithms. I thought a newsletter provided a personal and simple way to put all that I crow about in one place," Harris crowed.
"You don't have to be on social media to get it. All you need to do is subscribe to it, and Wondercade arrives in your inbox on Wednesdays. And because it's not on social media, I can write in complete sentences. And it covers all things new and exciting while simultaneously discovering those items that are hidden in a proverbial chest in the attic. The color scheme is beige, and the content is meant to feel old and new at the same time. Once people read them, they understand what I'm talking about."
Harris said Wondercade is a world of gratitude for all the things he's studied and lived through in his 35 years in show business and counting. "For me, I love Disney, theme parks, P.T. Barnum and circuses, places and things that spark imagination, and the machinations of those things that make them come alive. At the same time, I love VR adventures, games, art, and theater that is unique and interactive, and mixology and experimenting with different flavors. It's a way to provide a different perspective about the fascinating world we live in."
I asked Harris if he thought Wondercade was almost like a trend piece for people to know what's hot and cool. "Yes, I suppose it is. For example, I love immersive theater and interactive theater, and while we're living in a pandemic, which limits that one-to-one interaction between an audience member and an actor, at some point we'll be able to resume, and I think immersive theater will become all the rage not only in theaters but parks and other public places where crowds can gather and become part of the story."
"The same goes with art, like Banksy using public spaces for art that prompts conversations and livens us otherwise drab areas," he added.
I wondered what trends might be ahead in 2022 for him to explore and explain. "That's a great question," he said. "I think you'll see a furthering of farm to table, and the concept will become more solidified and more accessible. Also, new ways to concoct spirit beverages, with new mixes and ingredients and new alcohols that try out new flavors. By the way, these signature drinks can also be nonalcoholic, so I do point that out when providing ideas for cocktails."
"In terms of travel, our family vacationed in Croatia last year, and I think that country still remains relatively undiscovered and certainly is on trend. It's absolutely beautiful, on the breathtaking Adriatic Sea. The food is out of this world, and the people couldn't be nicer. We also traveled to Puerto Rico, and we were impressed with all it had to offer as well," he added.
Harris explained that his goal is to finally travel to Asia and embark on a safari in Africa. "Now that the kids are older, we can start to take them to places like Asia and Africa as well as northern Italy, Copenhagen, and Ireland. All of these destinations are on our must-see list, and if we go, I'm sure I'll talk about all of the amazement of these places in Wondercade," he said.
I asked Harris what plans he had for Wondercade in 2022, and if he had anything planned for Pride Month or LGBTQ-specific editions. "That's a great idea about Pride Month. Yes, we will do something, I love Pride Month, and we have so much to talk about, and I'll give you credit for bringing it up." (Side note: I asked for 15 percent for the idea, but Wondercade is free -- that's right, it's free! So, there'll be no finder's fee for the Pride idea.)
During our conversation, I brought up the fact that I've seen Wondercade compared to Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop. Did Harris feel that the assessment was correct? "Let's put it this way, Goop is sort of the role model on how I'd like to expand Wondercade. It would be great to give it a web presence at some point that would allow us to provide greater detail and content since in its newsletter form, we're only limited to about five articles. People don't like emails that go on forever. Whatever we end up doing, it needs to stay true to the goal of making it creative and authentic and focused on things I like to talk about."
Harris also talked about partnering with brands and emerging companies. "The bottom line is that I don't care if there is a bottom line. I'm not looking to make a profit on this. Wondercade is truly a labor of love."
Finally, the Harris-Burtka family is well-known for diving into projects together. I asked Harris if his husband, David, and their twins were helping him on this project. "Yes, they are. David is an active contributor, and not just because he's my husband, but because he's so talented and is great at doing so many things. And the kids are always offering suggestions since they are our eyes and ears to what games are hot and what is trending on social media."
If this were a "stream it" or "skip it" review, I would say stream it. Wondercade does provide some really cool ideas, and it's written in a warm, fun, and engaging way. All you need to do is subscribe, by clicking this link. It's free, it's fun, and it's fantastical. And it will markedly brighten those dreary Wednesdays.