Jason Segel's Joke About How I Met Your Mother That Made It Into The Show

"How I Met Your Mother" was not a groundbreaking or redefining sitcom, but it was one of the most entertaining sitcoms of the '00s, a show with a fantastic attention to plotting and detail, memorable characters, and some really cool songs (the only thing missing from "How I Met Your Father," really).

But it is also a show that got progressively worse as it went along, ran so long that the last season literally spent a full 24 episodes on a single weeding weekend (which is only acceptable to do if it's 10 episodes, revolving around a single volleyball match, and it's "Haikyu!!"), and culminated on a highly disappointing and divisive ending.

Indeed, the relatively simple premise of a guy recounting how he met his future wife was extended way beyond what it should have ran for. In traditional sitcom fashion, the writing for the characters started to focus on the one-dimensional things they were known for and became caricatures of themselves.

This was a problem with at least one member of the core cast, who even mocked how "How I Met Your Mother" was running out of ideas during an interview three years before the show ended. That was Jason Segel, who played Marshall Eriksen, and the joke was adapted into the show itself.

The joke

In 2010, GQ ran a profile of Jason Segel where he discussed his his highs and lows as an actor, and how "How I Met Your Mother" came right at the time Segel needed it:

"I was just happy to be out of my cave of depression. I'd been writing really, really bizarre scripts. Weird kids' movies about talking horses. I was slowly descending into madness."

Indeed, it was an actual job, a steady one that could at go on for a few years. Nicolas Cage recently compared working as an actor to being freelance in an interview with IGN, saying "you don't have a steady day job" as an actor. According to Segel, "How I Met Your Mother" started to become a day job for him. He said to GQ:

"But when you become an actor, part of it, the secret part of it, is that you don't want to work a regular 9-to-5 job. And the secret part of a TV show is that it's a 9-to-5 job. ... When your idol is Peter Sellers, playing one character for eight years isn't what you're trying to do. I don't really feel like I have that much more to offer with this character."

He then mocked the conventions of the show, saying the only new thing he could do at the time would be "some iteration of, like, my TV wife opens the fridge, and she's like, 'What happened to the birthday cake?' And I walk in with a little frosting here [points to corner of mouth] like, 'What birthday cake?'"

The response

Although there doesn't seem to have been any retaliation from CBS about Jason Segel's comments, the last season of "How I Met Your Mother" did incorporate the joke into an episode. In episode 9 of the final season, titled "Vesuvius," the characters decide to watch the in-universe film "Wedding Bride Too," the sequel to a movie based on Ted Mosby's life and his almost-marriage to a woman named Stella. 

In the fictional movie scene, the character Jed Mosely realizes the chocolate cake he had set aside in the fridge is missing and asks who ate the cake. Then in walks his friend Narshall with chocolate frosting in his mouth, and he says, "What cake?"

The "Wedding Bride" sequences allowed the writers to make fun of their own show in a fun and harmless way, mocking scenes from previous seasons and recontextualizing jokes or moments. This is not unlike the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" episode "The Ember Island Players," one of the best episodes from that show, which parodied the series in the form of an in-universe stage play. The episode works because it not only allows the audience to laugh at some of the more ridiculous and silly aspects of the show, but by making it part of the universe of the series, it also showed the characters themselves offended by seeing other people make fun of them in a more cartoonish way.