On the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother , Neil Patrick Harris ' character, Barney Stinson, surrounds himself with a foursome of best friends. But when the cameras stop rolling and Harris steps back into reality, he says there's one standout friend who's stuck by his side since the Doogie Howser days—magician Ed Alonzo.
In the late '80s, Harris was shooting Doogie Howser, M.D., when he met Alonzo, an actor who made guest appearances on the sitcom Saved by the Bell . Fans may remember Alonzo as Max, the goofy-haired owner of The Max restaurant. "We've been great friends through thick and thin," Harris says.

These days, Alonzo is a professional magician who recently wowed audiences alongside Britney Spears during her 2009 circus-themed tour. Harris says Alonzo also created magical elements for Michael Jackson 's comeback tour, which was canceled after the pop superstar's unexpected death.

Harris says patience and understanding can make someone a great friend, but there's also an inexplicable rapport that develops over time. "Sometimes I find with my close friends that I don't see them or talk to them for a healthy chunk of time," he says. "If I'm off in New York for seven months doing something, I won't talk to Eddie—maybe once on the phone that whole time. Then, when you see each other again, there are no hard feelings or awkwardness. We just jump right back into the same friendship conversations we had from before."

No friendship would be complete without laughter, and Harris says he and Alonzo share a similar sense of humor, as well as a love of all things magical. "We talk about double lifts and top changes for hours on end," he says. "And we watch old videos—old VHS tapes of Merv Griffin magicians."

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