Happy Al-iversary Al Roker!
Al Roker celebrates his 40th anniversary today as America’s favorite weatherman, #Al-iversary.
I wanted to join in on the celebrations. I had a very, very minor part in Al’s career, but I have actually known his wife Deborah Roberts longer than he has. Deborah was a year behind me at the University of Georgia and we competed head to head as weekend anchors in the Knoxville TV market. My show won in the ratings, but she went on to network fame while I went on to the big city of Raleigh, NC.
Like my wife, Deborah is from a very small town in Middle Georgia. They were both small town girls who did well at the big state University in Athens. When I was working in New York, I compared notes with Al about where to stay and what to do in that area—there is no Fodor’s for Perry.
The most fun project I did with Al Roker was in celebration of an another important 40th anniversary—this one for Amtrak. Al was chosen as the ambassador for National Train Day 2008 largely because he was an avid user of the railroad, particularly to visit his daughter when she attended Brown. The train is a very civilized way to travel versus some of the other options available in the Northeast.
The Amtrak celebration was originating from Washington DC, so to get there from New York, of course, we took Amtrak and we brainstormed on some ideas of what we could do for a fun segment for Saturday TODAY. We hit on the idea that Al would dress as a conductor, which just basically meant he would wear the hat and go through the train and check everyone’s tickets to see if anyone recognized him.
The segment was hilarious and completely unrehearsed. A lot of people in fact, did not look up at him. Some people did double-takes. When someone did recognize him, he would explain there had been “cutbacks at NBC.” We disturbed one passenger who was watching porn on the train, although it did demonstrate you don’t have all the restrictions on using electronics below 10,000 feet. Al stepped off on a few stops and shouted “All aboard!” with gusto. He also provided an impromptu tour of the restroom on the train, which he quipped was “more spacious than most New York apartments.
It was a very funny segment and ironically, I had had the chance to work with comedian Chris Rock the same week, and Al made me laugh just as hard if not harder. Off camera, both are very funny men, too. Al couldn’t have been kinder or more courteous to everyone he met. The Al you see on TV is pretty much the real Al Roker, although he can be relatively quiet when the cameras are off and is sincerely very serious about the weather. There’s a reason for his success—hopefully he will be doing this long enough that Willard Scott will talk about his 100th birthday!