The untold truth of Al Roker

You know Al Roker. You love Al Roker. Not only does the Today weatherman keep you covered with the daily forecast, he also provides a heaping side order of good-natured humor. 

According to his NBC bio, Roker — who began subbing on NBC’s Today before joining officially in 1996 — was still in college when he landed his first broadcasting job as a weekend weatherman at a TV station in Syracuse, N.Y. Then came weather gigs in Washington, DC, and Cleveland, Ohio, before he was hired by Big Apple NBC affiliate WNYC “as a weekend weathercaster” in 1983. The winner of three Daytime Emmys, Roker has also twice been named “Best Weatherman” bNew York magazine, received the American Meteorological Society’s Seal of Approval, and broke the Guinness World Record for the Longest Uninterrupted Live Weather Report Broadcast by providing 34 hours of continuous weather coverage during his 2014 “Rokerthon.”

Roker made news in November 2020 with a surprising personal announcement during a Today broadcast, leading his legions of fans to appreciate his unique gifts all the more. There’s so much about this multi-talented broadcaster, producer, author and TV personality that even his most loyal viewers may not know, so keep on reading to discover the untold truth of Al Roker.

He now thinks the episode of Seinfeld he appeared in is kind of racist

As his IMDb profile can attest, Al Roker has appeared — usually as himself — in a vast array of movies and TV series, ranging from the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot to several Sharknado sequels. His first acting credit, however, is arguably his best-known: a brief cameo in a 1993 episode of Seinfeld

Looking back at that episode — titled “The Cigar Store Indian” — in retrospect he believed the storyline, centering around the titular cigar store statue, walked a fine line when it came to racism. In an interview with the Life is Short with Justin Long podcast, he admitted that particular episode could be considered racist while also demonstrating “how ingrained in a sense institutional racism is.”

As a Black broadcaster, ingrained racism is something that Roker has dealt with throughout his entire career. In his 2020 memoir You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success, he writes about an on-air comment from a news anchor who’d been accosted by a homeless Black man, telling Roker that “one of your people attacked me.” Taken aback by what he described as a “blatantly racist” comment, Roker’s quick wit defused the situation. “Doug,” Roker quipped, “why would a weatherman attack you?” 

Classic cartoons had significant impact in Al Roker's life

Speaking with AV Club, Al Roker answered 11 unrelated and somewhat quirky questions, along with suggesting a question for the next celeb to be interviewed. Roker’s suggested query was, “which Saturday morning cartoon show of their youth they would want to be inserted in and be a character in.”

Roker suggested The Flintstones, pitching an Archie Bunker-inspired storyline that would not have been out of place in an episode of controversial TV classic All in the Family. “I would like to integrate Bedrock,” he said. “Like, move next door to Fred on the other side of where Barney is. And like, Fred is being kind of a jerk about it. Barney is fantastic. Wilma is just appalled at how her husband is acting.”

Another classic Saturday morning cartoon, however, proved to be the bane of Roker’s existence when he was an overweight teen: Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. “Well, I’m black, I’m fat. My name’s Albert. It was the embodiment of who I had become,” Roker told NPR, discussing the taunts of “Hey, hey, hey” he would hear from classmates in school. 

Al Roker's obesity took a toll on his marriage

Al Roker once tipped the scales at 340 pounds before embarking on a dramatic weight-loss journey that saw him slim down to 190 pounds with the help of gastric bypass surgery.

In a 2013 essay he wrote for Today, about a decade after initially shedding those pounds, Roker opened up about the toll his obesity took on both his physical health and the health of his marriage. “My wife is a size 4; she runs, she works out and it became a problem in our marriage,” he wrote of his own “mixed-weight” marriage. “She was upset about it, she was frustrated, she was angry,” he said of his wife, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts.

“Here’s the thing I say to the person in the couple who’s not struggling with their weight: Shut up. We know we’re fat. We know we need to lose weight. Your nagging us and pleading with us doesn’t help. In fact, in ways it makes it worse,” he continued, pointing out that something needs to “click” within the overweight person in order to realize “I’m tired of living like this; I want a different life for myself and for my family.”

Why Al Roker felt his gastric bypass surgery was 'the ultimate admission of failure'

When things finally “clicked” for Al Roker and he decided on gastric bypass surgery, he initially lied to his coworkers on Today, telling them that he was having his gallbladder removed. That, he told USA Today in 2002, was because he felt admitting he needed surgical assistance to lose weight was “embarrassing — the ultimate admission of failure.”

As Roker explained, he had plenty of failed dieting attempts under his belt. “Scarsdale, Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, you name it, I’ve done it,” he said, admitting that with every botched diet he’d gain back the weight he’d lost along with “an extra five or 10 pounds, just for fun.”

The surgery, which shrunk his stomach down to the size of an egg, was the first step; Roker also needed to change his entire outlook on food, particularly when it came to portion control. “I used to look at a pint of Häagen-Dazs and call it a serving size. Now I know that I can have a couple of spoonfuls and I’m done,” Roker told U.S. News & World Report. “I’m more in control — and I’m controlling food.”

How Al Roker became addicted to running

Another big factor in Al Roker’s weight-loss journey has been exercise. Once he decided to seriously change his lifestyle in order to lose weight, he started joining his wife on her runs. “My wife’s been a runner for 30 years, and I started running two years ago, and within a year I ran the New York City Marathon,” he wrote in an essay for Today. “It kind of ticked her off a little bit; she said, ‘Wait a minute, I’m the runner in the family!’ But that’s a good problem to have.

Roker opened up to Runner’s World in 2011 to share his experience with running the marathon for the very first time. “You don’t know what to expect,” he admitted. “Before the race people are coming up to you and asking, ‘So, what time are you looking to do?’ I’m thinking, ‘Time?! What?! Are you crazy?! I just want to finish this thing!'”

There was no question he was going to make it to the finish line. “Once you’ve started it, even if you’re hurting, it’s like, ‘Well, I’ve come all this way,” he said. “Unless there’s a bone poking out somewhere, I might as well finish it.”

Having a son with special needs has changed the way Al Roker parents

Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts are the parents of three children, one of whom has special needs. Their son, Nick, is “somewhere on the [autism] spectrum and maybe obsessive-compulsive,” Roker wrote in an essay for Guideposts. The dad and famous weatherman is open about the challenges that presents, as once shared during a January 2020 episode of Today (via Entertainment Tonight). Discussing New Year’s resolutions, Roker suggested his was “to be more patient, I think. Especially toward the end of the week after I get a little tired, I tend to get a little short with Nick.”

In a previous interview with NBC NewsKnow Your Value, Roker discussed the lessons he’d learned from his son. “Nick has some learning challenges and other differences, and my default is to protect him and not set him up for failure,” said Roker. “He taught me not to put any limitations on him — I wouldn’t with my other kids, so I shouldn’t with him either — and also learning to let kids fail if that’s what ultimately happens,” Roker continued. “Seeing what he could accomplish at such a young age with such challenges was really eye-opening, and that has stuck with me.”

The embarrassing reason Al Roker was forced to go commando at the White House

While gastric bypass surgery was a defining step that served as the engine behind Al Roker’s amazing weight loss, there was one unfortunate side effect. In a 2013 interview with NBC’s Dateline, Roker was asked to reveal his most embarrassing moment — and wow, was it a doozy!

“When you have a bypass and your bowels [have] been reconstructed, you think you’re pretty safe,” he explained, confessing he accidentally soiled himself while at the White House. “And I probably went off and ate something I wasn’t supposed to. And as I’m walking to the press room, I gotta pass a little gas here. I’m walking by myself. Who’s gonna know? Only a little something extra came out,” he divulged. “I pooped my pants. Not horribly, but enough that I knew.”

Realizing what had just happened, Roker had to act fast. “I was panicking, so I got to the restroom of the press room, threw out the underwear, and just went commando,” he said, adding that he learned a big lesson that day: “It told me that I’ve gotta be very vigilant as to what I eat.”

Al Roker has deep Coldplay knowledge

After all those years reporting on the weather, Al Roker knows a bit about cold fronts. During an appearance on NPR‘s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me, he also demonstrated he knew a thing or two about Coldplay, when host Peter Sagal tested his knowledge of the British rock band that, Sagal joked, “Chris Martin used to escape from Gwyneth Paltrow for a few hours…”

Roker’s Coldplay knowledge turned out to be impressive. He correctly guessed that a Seattle woman was arrested for attacking a guy singing a Coldplay song at a karaoke bar “just to make him stop,” and also gave the right answer to a question about the origin of the band’s name (another band already had the name but gave it away because it was “too depressing”).

Roker also nailed the third and final question accidentally, which actually didn’t have to do with the band but with the frontman’s ex-wife, Gwyneth Paltrow. Asked to identify whether Paltrow told people to “A, be nice to water because it has feelings; B, get stung by bees on purpose; or C, take medical advice from a ghost?” Sagal revealed that Roker’s answer of “B” didn’t matter, because it was a trick question: “She has done all of those.”

What's with Al Roker and rock stars?

Speaking of rock music, Al Roker also has a family connection to a famous rocker that most of his fans probably don’t know about. Asked 25 random questions by Us Weekly that people may not realize about him, Roker dropped the revelation. “I am Lenny Kravitz’s cousin,” he said, jokingly adding, “By admitting this in public, I forfeit a monthly stipend to keep this fact quiet.

On an October 2020 episode of Today, Kravitz confirmed that he and the iconic weather guy are indeed related. Technically, however, they’re not first cousins; it was their grandfathers who were cousins. “We both have Roker,” said Kravitz said during a previous Today appearance during which he shared that his mother is actress Roxie Roker, best known for portraying neighbor Helen Willis on beloved sitcom The Jeffersons.

Riffing on the utter lack of resemblance between them, Roker joked, “Many people get Lenny Kravitz and I confused, especially when his shirt is off.”

The reason why Al Roker tells people to throw away their 5-year plans

After decades with one of America’s most-watched morning shows, Al Roker is no stranger to career success. In his 2020 book You Look So Much Better in Person: True Stories of Absurdity and Success, he advises readers to get rid of their five-year plans. 

Promoting to book in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Roker explained, “I tell my kids all the time to be ready to grab opportunities and to accept that you are going to fail from time to time. It’s only through a series of failures that we learn, then tweak, and then comes success which is much sweeter because you had to work for it. It’s all about being open to opportunities, because sometimes as you are looking down at your plans a great opportunity could be passing you by.”

Following on that, Roker declared himself to be a firm believer in “the power of yes, which is the idea that if someone offers you something to do, if it’s not illegal, try it out! You never know where it’s going to lead.”

Working remotely is NBD for Al Roker

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused TV and film production to shut down, the Today crew continued to broadcast — remotely, from their homes. As such, Al Roker set up a facsimile of a TV studio within his family’s home “about 130 miles north of New York City,” per Forbes or “five minutes from the Massachusetts line,” as Roker described the locale to the outlet.

“It’s been interesting with this pandemic,” said Roker, who has broadcast from such locations as his garage and the backyard doghouse. “Timing-wise, it happened as all this technology came along that allows us to do all this. If it had happened even three or four years ago, print and radio would have been OK, but television would be really hamstrung.”

In fact, Roker joked that the most challenging part of broadcasting from home was that his wife, Deborah Roberts — an ABC News correspondent who often appears on Today competitor Good Morning America — will sometimes be doing a live TV hit at the same time he is. This led to him once inadvertently photobombing one of his wife’s reports. “I thought I was out of the scene, but [GMA anchor] Robin Roberts was calling me out,” Roker quipped.

Al Roker is a purveyor of TV mystery movies

In addition to his role on Today, Al Roker has carved out some side gigs over the years. One of these is as producer of a series of made-for-TV mystery movies for the Hallmark Channel. In the Morning Show Mysteries movies, Holly Robinson Peete stars as restaurateur and TV chef Billie Blessings, who teams up with police detective Ian Jackson (Rick Fox) to investigate homicides.

The movies are based on Roker’s 2009 novel, The Morning Show Murders, and its follow-ups, although there was some creative license taken in adapting the concept for the screen. As Roker explained on Today, the novel’s protagonist is male, and bears more than a passing resemblance to the author. “He’s a chef. He’s African-American, bald, a little stocky,” Roker said. “So I see Denzel Washington in the movie, obviously.”

In fact, Roker even makes cameo appearances in the movies, and broadcast a 2018 report from the set. “It’s got everything going for it,” declared Roker of the first movie, Morning Show Mysteries: Mortal Mishaps. “It’s got drama, it’s got humor, it’s got suspense, it’s got food. It’s like the best of all worlds.” 

Al Roker is worth millions but still saves pocket change

In addition to his Today salary (reportedly $10 million per year), Al Roker has some other income streams, including revenue from his book deals, his sideline as a Hallmark Channel TV producer, and other ventures. One of these was as a Broadway performer, portraying diner owner Joe in the hit musical Waitress for two separate stints. He’s also hosted other TV shows (including the Food Network’s Roker on the Road and Tricked-Out Tailgating, and the Weather Channel’s Wake Up with Al), along with his own SiriusXM satellite radio show, Off the Rails.

Over the years, Roker has saved up a tidy little nest egg, which Celebrity Net Worth estimates to be a hefty $70 million.

Discussing his finances with Business Insider, Roker admitted he’ll splurge on items such as quality food and footwear, but is also a firm believer in thrift. “I have huge jars of quarters that I’ve been collecting for over 10 years,” he revealed. “I used to collect them for tolls, parking meters, the laundromat, subway. Now everything’s becoming automated, so I still have jars and Ziploc bags of quarters everywhere. I keep some in my car, some in my briefcase. I have quarters everywhere.”

Prostate cancer temporarily sidelined Al Roker

In Today‘s broadcast on November 6, 2020, Al Roker kicked off the show with devastating news. “After a routine checkup in September, turns out I have prostate cancer,” he revealed. “Good news is we caught it early. Not great news is that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this.” Prostate cancer, Roker continued, “is a little more common than people, I think, realize.”

He decided to go public with the news, he explained, “because one in nine men are going to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime,” a number that is even higher for African-American males, and he urged men to get themselves checked out. “If you detect it early, this is a really treatable disease,” he added.

The following week, Roker tweeted that he had successfully completed surgery and was “back home,” sending his appreciation for “all the thoughts and wishes from our viewers and the wonderful care packages from my co-workers. See you all soon.”

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