Whatever happened to Barney's actor?

Even if you were one of the grumpy few who didn't love Barney … well, Barney loved you anyway, and he considered you to be part of his family. He told you so, every episode, and even sang a song about it so you'd never doubt him. While the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park just wanted to eat people, Barney wanted to reach out through every TV screen across the world, and give all those '90s kids a great big hug. Friendships just don't get much better than that. If only real-life buddies could be so unrelentingly dedicated to everyone else's happiness.

We'd like to think that human beings are capable of such sincere love, but honestly, that dancing, prancing, not-so-prehistoric purple T-Rex totally puts mankind to shame. However, there's at least one person who seems to be just as joyful, optimistic, and loving as Barney himself: the very man who wore the purple suit, David Joyner.

He was an electronics engineer, a massage therapist ... and a human mannequin?

The real David Joyner certainly isn't a dinosaur, but he's not a mere human being, either: He's a superhuman who has lived a life so wondrously eclectic that he makes Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World look like a homebody in comparison. For one thing, Joyner's highly spiritual: according to Rolling Stone, Joyner is an energy healer, a Reiki practitioner, and a dedicated follower of tantra. 

The idea of a spiritual purple dinosaur is already amazing enough, but it gets better, because Joyner is also smart as a whip. In an interview with Trainwreck'd Society, Joyner revealed that in his youth, he scored an ITT Tech degree in Electronic Engineering, and then worked for Texas Instruments as a software analyst. Meanwhile, he also became a licensed massage therapist. So yeah, the real guy who played Barney could simultaneously massage you, be your spiritual counselor, and fix your computer — all at the same time. He's also a talented musician, a skilled dancer, and an athlete. (That's why everyone loved that goofy-looking Tyrannosaurus so much!)

However, deep down, what Joyner really wanted was to be an entertainer. Surprisingly enough, the weird side gig that most prepared this talented guy for his purple future was in a mall. There, he worked as a live mannequin, standing in store windows and moving like a mechanical robot. As far as part-time work goes, hey — it's better than working a cash register.

He had a psychic premonition about his audition

David Joyner is one spiritual dude. That's not a footnote on his wicked-crazy-cool resume, either: His spirituality is a key aspect of his motivation, drive, and purpose. He told Business Insider he knew beforehand that he was going to get the Barney role, stating "I was supposed to do this character."

According to Joyner, he comes from a family filled with psychic energy, and a lot of clairvoyance, so when it's time to make big life decisions, he has always trusted his dreams to guide the way. Sure enough, on the night before his big audition to play Barney, he had an intriguing dream about the now-popular character. In this vision, Barney was passed out on the ground, and Joyner had to rush to the dinosaur's rescue, saving him through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Good thing Barney doesn't have sharp teeth.

The next day, as Joyner was driving to the audition, he recalls seeing a Southwest Airlines billboard with the caption "Breathe life into your vacation," just as he had dreamed of breathing life back into an unconscious Barney. Joyner was inspired by this, and took that passion into his audition, successfully scoring the role of a lifetime and helping create one of the biggest cultural icons of the '90s. Joyner said he wasn't too surprised to get the call, though. After the premonition, he was already pretty sure he had it locked in.

He played Barney for 10 years

To kids watching the show, Barney was Barney, a real dinosaur. As adults, it would be tempting to think that the guy playing Barney must have been a down-on-his-luck actor answering a cheap job advertisement, struggling to pay the bills with some weirdo side gig that involved wearing an insanely hot costume, and bouncing up and down. According to People magazine, the 70-pound purple costume sometimes got up to 120 degrees on the inside, and the actor could only look out through Barney's mouth. Furthermore, since Barney was actually voiced by Bob West, not the guy in the suit, being Barney might seem like a rather thankless job.

But David Joyner has been quite outspoken about how much he loved playing Barney. In his own words, "Barney was beautiful. Barney was very, very good to me. I loved being Barney." Joyner was so passionate about the role that he played Barney for over a decade, securing his place in history as the one true happy, singing dinosaur.

That's not just surprising, but actually rather inspiring. Just as Barney gave hope to kids all over the world, it looks like Joyner gives hope to adults. So the next time you get grumpy about working in food service or sitting at a desk all day punching numbers, just remember that this cheerful dude managed to turn what could have been a tough, thankless job into the time of his life.

He's really into tantra

In Western culture, the term "tantra" sends more immature individuals into perverted giggling fits. However, according to David B. Gray of Oxford Research Encyclopedias, tantra is widely misrepresented in the West. History shows that tantra is actually a complex spiritual system dating back thousands of years, and tantric traditions have deep roots within Buddhism, Hinduism, and other prominent faiths.

Wait, so how does this relate to Barney? Well, David Joyner is big on tantra. In his interview with Trainwreck'd Society, Joyner described himself as being a student of White Lotus Tantra since he was 19. The foundation of Joyner's tantric practice centers on love, and he explains that tantra is "all about pulling in God's Divine Sacred love from the universe through Spirit, Mind, and Body, and sharing it." In order to properly portray Barney, Joyner dove deep into his spiritual practices. Before he hopped into the costume, he always dedicated a half-hour block to meditation and prayer. Once he got on stage, he felt divine energy radiating through him, as he sought to spread optimism, mindfulness, and joy to the many children watching the show. In an interview with Grunge, Joyner explained the root of his practice came from early childhood: "Growing up when I was a kid, my grandmother always told me that I had a gift for healing, and to always nurture that gift." Needless to say, he's definitely honored that wish.

Deep down on the inside, Barney was basically a devoted dinosaur monk, living mindfully, always smiling, and spreading happiness to others — whether they be human, canine, or terrible lizard. Those velociraptors in Jurassic World might be smart, but this bouncy purple T. rex could probably teach them a thing or two about finding spiritual happiness.

You've seen him on your favorite TV shows without realizing it

Just like Stan Lee manages to pop up in every Marvel Comics movie, David Joyner possesses the mesmerizing superpower of appearing in seemingly every major TV show of the last few decades in various cameo roles. Maybe he works for the Watchers, or maybe he's a time hopping do-gooder like Dr. Sam Beckett in that '90s sci-fi series Quantum Leap. But one thing is for sure: Joyner's face has secretly been playing peekaboo everywhere.

Don't believe us? Joyner himself has collected the cameo evidence on his YouTube channel, as seen above.

Turns out that right beneath our noses, we've seen Joyner on House — playing a cardiac surgeon — standing face-to-face with the misanthropic title character. He was a jazz musician on That '70s Show, a congress clerk on Veep, an agent on 24, Business Man #2 on Don't Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, voiced a sinister clown in Scooby Doo, and hung out on such soap operas as General Hospital. Probably his most memorable guest appearance was in ER, where he had a recurring role as a dialysis technician. Considering all of these medical show cameos, we wouldn't be surprised to find out that Joyner was hiding a couple medical degrees and licenses to go along with his engineering, massage therapy, musical, and reiki skills. Seriously, it seems like this guy can do everything.

All those dark rumors are total nonsense

While it was only recently that the public really became aware of Joyner's true identity, there have always been bizarre conspiracy theories about the previously unknown "guy who played Barney." This phenomenon isn't specific to Barney, of course. It happens to every pop culture icon. However, all the dark rumors about Barney are, as one would expect, complete bunk.

The silliest of these rumors, which still pops up from time to time, is that the "actor who played Barney" (who is nameless, in this story) was actually a crazy cocaine addict, supposedly so addicted that he hid his prized cocaine stash up Barney's purple tail, which eventually got him caught and thrown in jail. This rumor is pretty stupid when you think about the impracticality of it — those tiny little arms on the Barney costume couldn't reach far enough to scratch the actor's head, much less pull drugs out of the tail — but the "story" caught on, probably due to its sensationalism. There's also a weird suicide myth, wherein the "guy who played Barney" supposedly hanged himself in costume. Again, doesn't sound too realistic.

Anyway, no dice. Joyner's obviously alive, obviously didn't go to prison, and both dumb rumors were thoroughly debunked by Snopes. You want a conspiracy theory that's halfway believable? If someone claimed Joyner had traveled to Area 51 and received superpowers from aliens, that might be closer.

He almost flew on United Airlines Flight 175

When the Twin Towers came down on September 11, 2001, everything just … stopped. Everyone has their own tale of who they were with, where they were, and how they first saw the tragic catastrophe that defined an era. In an exclusive interview with Grunge, David Joyner told his own story.

According to Joyner, he was attending an event in Boston in the days before 9/11. After experiencing delays on his flight into Logan Airport, the airline offered him vouchers on his return trip, which gave him some freedom to decide which flight he could take back to Los Angeles. He inquired about changing his flight from Monday, September 10, to Tuesday, September 11, and was told that they had open seating on United Airlines Flight 175. Joyner decided to think about it. In the end, he stuck with his original flight schedule, telling Grunge, "Later that evening, I don't know if it was a voice speaking to me or what, but I decided not to change the flight."

Then, on September 11, Joyner had the shock of a lifetime. "I got a page the next morning from the young lady who was in charge of the special events, and I call her, and she's like, 'Turn on your television.' Then, soon as I turn on my television, I see that second plane going into the Trade Center. And that was Flight 175."

He became a rapping bear named Hip Hop Harry

Though Joyner's dinosaur years are long behind him, he never stopped being the man in the costume. In the 21st century, he has swapped out those antiquated purple scales for yellow fur, a sideways cap, and gold bling — thus becoming Hip Hop Harry, an anthropomorphic bear who does educational rap videos. Yeah, you heard that right.

But Hip Hop Harry is no Barney Lite because Joyner's approach to playing the character is completely different. In an interview with Herald & Review, Joyner describes the rapping, dancing bear as having "more swagger to his walk; he actually has a little bit of street to him." It helps that Harry's costume allows much fuller, more expressive, more mobile body language than the stiff old Barney costume did, which must be a relief.

Joyner admitted to being a bit hesitant about taking on another costumed role but couldn't resist when producers called him "the Michael Jordan of costumed characters." These days, he seems to love Hip Hop Harry just as much as he loved Barney, posting pictures on his Twitter feed of himself as Harry filling up his car's gas tank, and proving that even big, fluffy children's TV characters have to deal with real-life chores. In addition to his costumed duties, Joyner is deeply involved with the whole Hip Hop Harry production from top to bottom. He told Grunge he "wears a lot of hats" for the series: he works as a producer, helps with production details on the set, and — since he's a math whiz — does the books. Ironing out all those technical details is a process he's hugely enthusiastic about, and he even does the books for other companies as well.

He's still earning money from his Barney days

If you're an aspiring actor, and you're busy scouring online job postings in search of a sweet gig like playing Barney, what kind of paycheck can you expect to earn? It's hard not to wonder: Was Joyner's time as the world's favorite purple playmate a minimum wage kinda deal, or some sketchy, under-the-table business, or did he earn a decent salary?

As it turns out, playing Barney was actually a really smart financial decision on Joyner's part. According to Business Insider, the earnings from the residual checks were big enough to make Joyner's jaw drop to the floor — his real jaw, not the funny purple one — and he managed to put that money to good use. Just the residuals alone were impressive enough to pay for Joyner's first house, the white stucco home of his dreams, an achievement he's still proud of.

Take heed, aspiring actors. If your artistic calling leads you to the friendly shores of costumed children's entertainment, don't run away out of fear that you might vanish into obscurity or never make a decent wage. Maybe you can follow the example of David Joyner and become a huge part of pop culture history.

He's a really nice guy, and quite the free spirit

Joyner told Grunge his beliefs about life can best be summed up as: "One love. We're all together. That's my philosophy." This gets right at the core of what makes Joyner such a remarkable individual, because even though his many achievements, degrees, aspirations, and successes are impressive enough to fill a series of books, arguably the single most impressive thing about him is that he seems to be a truly sincere, kind-hearted, loving dude who has never lost his distinctive free spirit.

Anyone who follows Joyner's Twitter feed or YouTube videos will quickly find themselves with a new favorite celebrity. He's a real, regular guy, the kind of person who takes excited selfie videos of himself on Napa Valley road trips or shares funny class photos of himself in sixth grade, wearing cool shades. He's as personable as it gets. It's amazing to see how, even with his success, Joyner has never lost touch with his roots and makes genuine efforts to connect with his fan base.

Most importantly, he plays a seriously awesome "Rock Conga Drums" on the boulders of Joshua Tree, California. It's hard to say whether the coolness factor here comes from his obvious skill at drumming or if it's just the likable sincerity of the fact that he posts such videos online, but either way, David Joyner is one exceptionally rockin' guy.

He has a lot of fun with his secret identity

An entire generation grew up on Barney. He's a pop culture icon. It's a sure bet that when our 24th-century descendants someday analyze our society and try to figure us out, they'll probably start by looking at fossilized Barney toys. In Joyner's interview with Grunge, the actor shared that one of the coolest things about having been Barney is that he gets to have a secret identity. He's kinda like a real-life Peter Parker or Clark Kent.

Not surprisingly, Joyner loves revealing his secret to unsuspecting bystanders, if only to see the surprised looks on their faces. No doubt about it, "I was Barney" qualifies as the best party story of all time. When his Business Insider video went viral, Joyner's identity became more widely known, but he still gets to surprise people.

In his (October 2017) interview with Grunge, Joyner said, "A couple of days ago I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond, buying some things for the office. And this guy was working the register, this young guy, he was tall, you can tell he played football, kinda burly looking." Joyner said the cashier was cracking jokes with everyone who came to the register, and when Joyner walked up, the cashier inquired whether Joyner was old enough to buy his items. Joyner responded that "Yes, sir, I am. And as a matter of fact, I was probably your childhood hero." Joyner then proceeded to blow the cashier's mind, and almost certainly made the guy's day.

He's on the lookout for his next series

Joyner emphasized to Grunge that every day of his life is a new adventure and that he keeps busy, but he also emphasized that he loves all the different roles he occupies. In his own words, "I love to work, and I love to stay busy." In a regular day, he works at the production company that puts together Hip Hop Harry, but in addition to being the man in the furry yellow bear costume, he also works behind the scenes and spends long nights in the office. Joyner enjoys auditioning for guest roles on many popular TV shows, which accounts for how he managed to both meet Gregory House and play a detective on Southland, along with his many other appearances. On top of that, Joyner also runs his own successful tantra massage business.

So yeah, he keeps busy! But Joyner wouldn't have it any other way: "I can truly say that I love where I'm at, in my career and in my life, because I have a lot of passion about everything that I do." He's looking forward to new achievements in the future. Someday soon, he'd like to get his face in front of the camera more, telling Grunge, "I'm still pushing for that next series regular role, where I can be out of costume, as myself." We can't wait to see it. 

Yep, he still loves Barney

Never forget how much Barney loved you, especially if you loved Barney. David Joyner still loves Barney too, just as much as he ever did.

Though a lesser human might have been embarrassed about spending more than a decade of their life as a big purple dinosaur, David Joyner is still quite enthusiastic about the role he defined for an entire generation. In a 2012 radio interview on LIVE with Aaron and Kelly, he happily did the famous dance from the show's opening theme. Though he carefully stipulated that Barney was the role of his past, not his present — he even trained the other Barneys who succeeded him — he's certainly the Barney that everyone will remember best.

Even though Bob West was Barney's voice, David Joyner was the one who made Barney … Barney. Even today, he's never stopped being appreciative of the many gifts and successes the role has afforded him. When Joyner's not busy doing rock conga drums or meditating, he's even found some time in his schedule to post on Reddit under the username BarneyBody22. This is one actor who's obviously maintained a cheerful, humorous outlook on the unexpected, inspirational road life led him down.