Every successful sitcom has a breakout character, the one-note comic sidekick who inevitably steals the spotlight away from the leads. For Friends, it was Joey, for Seinfeld, it was Kramer, and for How I Met Your Mother, it was Barney Stinson.
How I Met Your Mother stands out more than most other contemporary sitcoms because of the warm friendship and crackling chemistry shared between Marshall, Lily, Ted, Robin, and Barney. Although it seemed to be just another Friends knockoff albeit with a unique narrative framing device at first it was, it later found its own place with its well-developed inside jokes (the kind of inside jokes that friends have in the real world, not Hollywood inside jokes). Fans will even talk about Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall, and Lily as if they are people they know in real life.
While Ted and Robin, and Marshall and Lily, would be saddled with traditional rom-com stories, Barney Stinson – the impossibly charismatic lothario played to perfection by Neil Patrick Harris – was given the wackiest scenarios. He became the mascot of the show, with his penchant for finding even the slightest pleasing things “awesome.” He was the necessary spice to prevent things from getting a bit too dull.
With that said, here are the 20 Things That Make No Sense About Barney In How I Met Your Mother.
20 The Time Barney Sold A Person
One problem with Barney Stinson is that he’s scarily manipulative person who is impossible to dislike because Neil Patrick Harris is a charm factory. In the episode “The Bracket”, Barney is directly confronted with the consequences of his misogynistic actions. It marked a turning point for Barney's character. He confesses with a tinge of guilt, “At one point, I’m pretty sure I sold a woman. I didn’t speak the language, but I shook the guy’s hand and took the keys to the Mercedes and left her there.”
Whether someone finds this funny or not is one thing, but it’s undeniably uncharacteristically crass and callous -- even for Barney. There might be a way to make human trafficking funny, but this sure as heck wasn’t it.
19 Barney’s Regression After He and Robin Divorced
The How I Met Your Mother finale was divisive. This was perhaps because it made the mistake of setting the entire final season over the course of a weekend, despite the fact that the finale contained a season worth of stories. To call it rushed would be an undue kindness.
The weekend in question was about Barney and Robin’s wedding. How I Met Your Mother dragged its feet in order to get Barney and Robin into this position, only to divorce them after about five minutes of screen time. Post divorce, Barney went back to his womanizing ways with gusto. It might’ve been realistic, but within the context of Barney’s newfound maturity, which had been developed over years, it was completely unsatisfying and unfunny nonsense.
18 Barney Becoming A Devoted Father, Just Like That
In the finale, Barney’s womanizing days are done when he discovers that he’s a father – one of his many one-night stands gave birth to a girl. This is enough for Barney to stop treating women as objects.
The messaging from the show is confusing, however. This is not only because Barney makes such an abrupt turn, but also because the mother of his child remained nameless. It could be justified as something that was saved for a spinoff, but this doesn’t make it great within the context of the episode. Also, Barney’s immediately emotional abrupt turn was a cheap bit of manipulation on the writers’ part, which was something worthy of one of Barney’s many harebrained one night stand schemes.
17 Barney’s Playbook
This one’s easy to overlook because in matters of comedy, humour should be prioritized above all else -- and humour is often about contradictions and illogic. For instance, Barney’s playbook contains an impossible number of convoluted and absurd schemes to sleep with women. It’s a frequent source of the show’s humour and playfulness, perhaps to the point that it became a crutch at times.
The reason why it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense is not only because these plays would never be successful in the real world, but also because Barney wouldn’t ever need these plays in the first place; he’s a funny, good-looking charmer and is clearly very confident.
16 The Fact That Barney Can't Take A Bad Picture Is Contradicted In Every Episode
One of the funniest recurring gags on How I Met Your Mother is that, no matter what compromising position or pose he is in, Barney cannot take a bad photograph. Unlike Ted, the hapless romantic, or the schlubby Marshall, the rules of reality often seem to include Barney, as he always looks as awesome as possible.
However, the opening credits depict a series of photographs of the cast celebrating before the filming of the pilot episode. While the sepia toned photographs do indeed serve to enhance the closeness of the show, the fact that Barney couldn’t take a bad photo was clearly not on the writers’ brains yet, because there is one photo of Neil Patrick Harris that is, while not awkward, not unnaturally flattering either.
15 Despite Being An Over-sharer, Barney Never Reveals What He Does For A Living
Usually, the fact that Barney Stinson overshares is something that can be counted on, in spite of his somewhat unpredictable nature. This is why it’s odd that Barney is so tight-lipped about his money and job. The source of his seemingly immense wealth – his apartment, wardrobe, and gadgets, which are all entirely fabulous and spiffy – is never really explained by Barney himself, though there is some innuendo here and there. Barney dismisses at questions about his job with a scoff and a “please.”
However, it is eventually revealed that his job is to sign legal forms for Goliath National Bank without looking them over, it’s also eventually revealed that he’s working undercover with the FBI as part of an elaborate revenge scheme against his boss. This still makes little sense, though.
14 The Targets of Barney’s Playbook
Barney’s second most famous catchphrases is a hearty and earnest “Challenge accepted!” Usually “Challenge accepted!” will be a response to something impossible – or something likely to harm him-- and something that absolutely nobody was daring him to do anyway.
However, this says something about Barney’s character, too, specifically about his unhealthily competitive nature and the bottomless well of need that he harbours behind the flashy suits and quips. Because of this, it's weird that he uses the playbook on women. It can’t provide much of a challenge for him, really, which is the only reason to use it in the first place. It produces some tremendously funny scenes for us, at the very least.
13 The Fact That Barney’s Deceptions Often Work
Though How I Met Your Mother doesn't always take itself seriously, it can sometimes be sincere and earnest with relationships and casual get togethers. It’s not HBO levels of candid, of course, but it’s believable enough; it’s not a cartoon in the vein of, say, Two and a Half Men.
However, Barney often demonstrates his uncanny knack for warping the emotional reality and fabric of the show – it’s one of the qualities that make him such a standout character. However, the fact that his ridiculous ploys to sleep with women usually have a good success rate should rankle a lot more, and it certainly is a part of Barney’s character that doesn't make much sense.
12 Ted and Marshall Would Never Remain Friends with Barney
How I Met Your Mother is only just self-aware enough of Barney’s antics and comical self-absorption to the point that Marshall and Ted often regard Barney with an eye roll, albeit an affectionate one. However, let’s face it: Ted and Marshall wouldn’t be friends with a guy like Barney for very long.
For example,Barney constantly hits on Marshall’s wife, Lilly, right in front of him. Sure, Marshall rightfully doesn’t view Barney as a romantic rival for Lilly’s affections, but it’s doubtful that even Mother Teresa could stomach this kind of buffoonery as long as Marshall does. Also, if one were to take a shot every time Barney emotionally disregards a sensitive guy like Ted, they would surely pass away from alcohol poisoning.
11 Barney Becoming The Focus In Season 4 and Onwards
Not only is Neil Patrick Harris immensely talented in many ways, but his character’s popularity on How I Met Your Mother even spawned a miniature merchandising empire. However, this wasn’t the best thing for the overall story for several reasons.
For one, the conceit of a father telling the story to his kids about his 20s made less and less sense when much of the focus shifted to the father's friend and his crazy antics. Secondly, there had to be some adjustments made to Barney’s character to get him to better fit with the tone of the show. This included giving him a relationship with another member of the group, Robin. Unfortunately, this didn't lead to HIMYM’s most beloved period.
10 10 When Barney Began Dating Patrice
In a season 7 episode “The Over-Correction”, Barney makes one last play to win over Robin’s affections by dating her overweight co-worker, Patrice. If Barney has one consistent character trait, it’s his distaste for overweight women. For example, it was said in “The Perfect Week” that despite his myriad one night stands (spanning 17 nationalities and six continents), Barney hasn’t been with a single overweight woman.
This makes his play in “The Over-Correction” immediately obvious to even casual fans of the show, much less to the actual characters who have a history with Barney. Confusingly, it’s played straight, as if our minds are meant to be blown when we discover that it was all an elaborate con to confess his true feelings to Robin. As silly as they often are, Barney’s plays are usually more creative than this.
9 Barney’s Consequence-Free Get Togethers
Not many people could list the exact number of women Barney has slept with, since compiling such a list would be a hefty task of such monumental proportions that not even Barney would accept that challenge (probably).
Because of this, it’s quite amazing that Barney has only ever had one child in all nine seasons of How I Met Your Mother. This is also right around the time when it’s most convenient and the writers wouldn’t have to explore the real ramifications of such a life altering event. Statistically speaking, considering the sheer amount of women Barney has been with, it’s very plausible that there would more little Stinsons running around. Also, that's to say nothing of diseases.
8 Barney’s Redemption
Although we can accept the fact that Barney’s womanizing ways were over after the birth of his daughter, it’s harder to believe that he has matured in any real way. Instead, it seems like he simply channels his misogyny differently. Instead of targeting vulnerable young women to sleep with, he tells random women how to dress and when they should go home.
How I Met Your Mother treats Barney's patronizing behavior as a joke this moment as a funny, using it to argue that Barney has "matured." The irony that he’s progressed sideways and not forwards doesn't seem to be acknowledged in any way and is instead just played for a quick laugh. Why even give him the child, complete with a sappy scene of him crying with happiness, if it never moved his character forward in any particular direction?
7 His Naivety About His Father
One of the recurring gags on HIMYM is the fact that despite Barney’s outward sophistication and preoccupation with suits, scotch, and cigars, he’s staggeringly naïve in other areas, specifically regarding the father he never knew.
When he was a child, Barney asked his mother who his father was. She pointed at The Price is Right and said “that guy,” and from that day forward, Barney hoped that Bob Barker was really his father. This obsession with Barker eventually gets out of hand – to the point that Barney actually appears on his gameshow and is seconds away from spilling everything to Barker. He doesn’t, of course, and instead brushes the whole thing off with a “I knew deep down he wasn’t my father." However, he still appeared on the gameshow to get closer to barker.
6 Can Barney Drive... or Can’t He?
This one can be chalked up to run-of-the-mill continuity errors more than anything else. It happens often, especially with long-running shows. Despite Barney’s considerable skill in the art of alluring the opposite gender and wearing suits, he hasn’t yet mastered the ability to drive a car. This was first made a plot point in season 2. The episode ended with a resigned-sounding future Ted lamenting the fact that Barney never did learn how to drive.
However, this is contradicted a few seasons later when Barney complains about getting a speeding fine. There are other implied or explicit scenarios of Barney driving, too.
5 Barney’s Birth Date
The fact that there’s only a handful of continuity errors when it comes to Barney means that the writers and showrunners of How I Met Your Mother did a pretty good job of keeping the facts straight, especially with a sitcom as unusually heavy with character details as HIMY.
Nevertheless, though, it must be pointed out that Barney’s true birth date is contradicted several times on the show. Ted mentions that Barney was born “seven years” after the moon landing, which means that Barney would have been born in 1976. However, before this, it was was mentioned that he was born in 1975. Though the margin of error is only a one-year difference, this is a pretty glaring error if you’re a rabid HIMYM aficionado.
4 The Destruction & Reappearance of the Playbook
Actions speak louder than words, right? When Barney burned the playbook in front of Robin, he wordlessly promised to leave behind his manipulative and promiscuous ways, which meant that he was ready for a life of commitment and honesty. Despit the fact that he got Robin there with the most manipulative play marred the whole thing, it was undoubtedly a huge gesture for Barney. It was significant, heralding the end of an era.
Yet, the playbook appears again in How I Met Your Mother, only to be destroyed by Ted’s last girlfriend before Tracy, Jeanette -- crazy, scary Jeanette. This is the classic case of a show going back to its previous emotional well, only this time the well was bone dry. Burning the playbook should have only been done once, and it was done well the first time.
3 The Ducky Tie Returns
Barney’s blue-tie adorned with yellow duck is a famous object on HIMYM, despite the fact that Barney wore it for a time with great reluctance. Beyond making Barney look adorably goofy, the tie represented the rare bit of a karmic payback that Barney was forced to endure.
The tie was initially Marshall's and was the target of Barney’s relentless mockery. After losing a bet against Marshall and Lily, Barney, much to his chagrin, was forced to wear the tie for a period of time. While the show’s commitment to this gag was impressive, there are a few instances during which the tie disappears and reappears without explanation.
2 The Inconsistency of the Slaps
The eight slaps is another bit of HIMYM comedy that could only be entertaining to long-time fans of the sitcom. It’s the kind of dumb but funny thing that friends do, and it encapsulates both HIMYM’s warmth and good humour.
Although the show was generally very good about keeping track of the slaps that Marshall owed Barney, there were issues with it. For example, in the final season, the penultimate slap was called “the fourth slap” despite the fact that Barney was well and truly not on his fourth slap. This mistake could be chalked up to the fact that the gang psychologically tormented Barney further, but it’s highly doubtful that they were that mean.
1 Barney Marrying Robin In The First Place
Marriage just isn’t for some people, and that’s okay. Not everybody is meant to get married. Robin and Barney getting together and committing to one another made some sense, despite how messy it was. After all, Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris do share some incredible chemistry, so the writers were smart to take advantage of it.
However, taking it one step further and letting them get married never worked for the show. The two never clicked as a married couple. It was a bad idea from the beginning and it's no wonder why the writers decided to end their marriage almost as soon as it had begun.
Are there any other things about How I Met Your Mother's Barney that don’t make any sense? Let us know in the comments!