Al Roker has a well-earned reputation as a smart, level-headed veteran who has earned awards and accolades throughout his career. The weatherman and co-host of the Today Show has released his 13th book. It is a wisdom-filled autobiography called “You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success.” The title comes from what Roker and his Today Show co-anchors usually hear from fans outside NBC Television studios in New York.
“I’m talking to the crowd, taking pictures, and invariably someone says, ‘Oh my gosh, you look so much better in person’,” said Roker, “You say “Oh thank you, but you’re thinking, well I make my living on TV, so that’s not really a compliment. You take it in the spirit in which it was given, and you move on.”
That is one of Roker’s traits. He will ponder for a minute, then moves one. That everyday interaction with fans is on hold during the pandemic.
Like most on-air personalities, Roker is doing his NBC gig from home where he lives with his wife, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, and his son Nick, one of his three kids. Roker conducted a virtual chat about the book for journalists and fans from his backyard while preparing dinner on the grill. The setting reflected his passion for cooking.
Some Washingtonians may remember that Roker was in the D.C. market from 1976-78 as a weatherman working at WTTG-TV, now Fox 5. It was also in the District where Roker met his mentor Willard Scott who at that time was at WRC-TV, now NBC 4 Washington.
“He called me out of the blue,” said Roker. “We went out to dinner and he told me that he had been around a long time and had done a lot of things. He encouraged me to be myself,” Roker said, “He also told me not to give up my day job. Meaning that doing the weather is my main job and I could still do all other fringe stuff.”
Keeping your day job is one of the life tips called “Altruisms” that is in Roker’s book. Those Altruisms are titles of the book chapters. Taking his own tip, Roker was able to keep his day job while performing a pivotal role in Broadway production of the musical “Waitress” in 2019. Roker had doubts about accepting the Broadway opportunity, but it was one of his daughters who said, “Dad, who says ‘No’ to Broadway?” Roker realized his daughter was right. He counts being on the Broadway stage as one of the best things he has ever done.
When asked if there is anything that he has longed to do, his response reinforces the openness that Roker maintains.
“I’ve never had a plan. Plans put up guardrails and constrict you” said the 40-year broadcast veteran. “The power of ‘yes’ is taking that risk.” That perspective supports another Roker Altruism “Never Say No and Say Yes.”
A few more clever Roker Altruisms are “Madness with a Reason is Straight-Up Insanity,” “Assumptions Are NOT Your Friend,” and “Unless You’re *Literally* the Sun, Work Doesn’t Revolve Around You.”
Roker has seen a lot during his career as a broadcast journalist. I asked for his thoughts about how diversity has evolved in the news business. In response, Roker reflected on his stint as the first African American anchor at a station in in Syracuse, N.Y. The station was so worried about fan reaction and his safety that they hired a security guard, just in case. Well, nothing ever happened.
“Of course, we have made strides. I think what is important for our business to not only have diversity in front of the camera, but it is so important to have it behind the camera,’ said Roker. “From the very top to the producers and the writers. Those are the folks who can inform and write stories with a voice that will be different from somebody who has not lived that experience.
Al Roker’s news book is “You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success” published by Hachette Books.