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Neil Patrick Harris Is Under Fire for This Resurfaced Joke

The actor just apologized for an offensive 2011 Halloween party decoration.

A choice made a Halloween party 11 years ago has actor Neil Patrick Harris in hot water right now. As reported by BuzzFeed News, a tweet that called out an Amy Winehouse joke that Harris and his husband, David Burtka, made at a Halloween party not long after Winehouse's death in 2011 recently went viral. People took to social media to voice their disappointment and disgust over the old joke, which led to the How I Met Your Mother issuing a statement of apology. Read on to find out what happened and what Harris had to say in his defense.

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Harris and Burtka served a distasteful meat platter.

David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris at Food Bank for New York City Can-Do Awards in 2019
lev radin / Shutterstock

At a Halloween party thrown by Harris and Burtka in 2011, one of the decorations featured was a meat platter served in a fake corpse meant to look like Winehouse, the late singer. The platter, which was made to look gruesome and bloody, had the artist's signature beehive hairstyle and a sign next to it that read, "The Corpse of Amy Winehouse," plus a list of the meats served.

A photo of the insensitive decoration was posted to Twitter by Justin Mikita, who is the husband of Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson. BuzzFeed News reported that this tweet was quickly deleted.

Winehouse had died only three months earlier.

Amy Winehouse at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Winehouse died in July 2011, only three months before Harris and Burtka's Halloween party. The Grammy-winning singer died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27. She had struggled with drug and alcohol addiction during her short life, something that she was open about, including through the lyrics of her hit song, "Rehab."

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The resurfaced decoration made the rounds online.

Amy Winehouse performing at the launch party of City Burlesque in 2010
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

As reported by BuzzFeed News, the situation went viral online recently when someone tweeted, "I cannot believe how many very online people over the age of 25 are just now finding out about Neil Patrick Harris's disgusting Amy Winehouse cake…" (Some of the posts incorrectly refer to the corpse as a cake, rather than a meat platter.) Other Twitter users have spoken out, expressing outrage and disappointment.

The joke didn't go unremarked upon back in 2011, either. The blog Oh No They Didn't posted about the situation at the time and asked readers to share their thoughts. Commenters described the gag as "tacky," "gross," and "tasteless."

Harris just issued an apology.

Neil Patrick Harris at RiseNY's grand opening celebration in March 2022
Ron Adar / Shutterstock

In a statement to Entertainment Weekly on May 16, Harris apologized for the display.

"A photo recently resurfaced from a Halloween-themed party my husband and I hosted 11 years ago," Harris said. "It was regrettable then, and it remains regrettable now. Amy Winehouse was a once-in-a-generation talent, and I'm sorry for any hurt this image caused."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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