Questions For. . . Al Roker
America’s weatherman Al Roker was in town on Tuesday to meet with some of the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Brookline as their children receive treatment for life-threatening illnesses.
We sat down with the Today Show veteran before he took off to throw out the first pitch at a sweltering Fenway Park, about how he got involved with the Ronald McDonald House, the nature of curses, and our blogger’s dating life.
BD: When did you get involved with the Ronald McDonald House?
Al Roker: In New York, I started in 1986. It was a collection of brownstones. Then they broke ground for a pretty big facility. It’s just a great charity. People ask me, ‘Why would you get involved?’ I say, hmm, children and cancer. A lot of people are against that.
BD: Most people cite some personal experience when they get involved.
AR: It’s kind of hard not to get involved. They’re the most vulnerable of our society, so if you can do something to help them along, and hopefully when you advance in age and get older, maybe one of those children whose lives I’ve touched will take pity on me. For some reason, they might not push me down a flight of stairs.
BD: That’s a nice sense of self-preservation.
AR: When people see an older person in the crosswalk and start honking, I used to say, ‘What if that were my mother?’ Now it’s, ‘What if that were me?’ In fact, odds are it is me.
BD: Do people beep at you in crosswalks a lot?
AR: They can, yes. Because they for some reason think that’s fun.
BD: New York has a law against that, right?
AR: (Sarcastically) Yes, and many people observe that law.
BD: Well, we don’t even have a law in Boston. Maybe we should look into that.
AR: No, because then people will have another reason to break the law. Just don’t put the law on the books. Leave it as more of a suggestion.
BD: What brought you to Boston today?
AR: I’m on the “honored celebrity committee.” Fortunately, they have much bigger stars than me. They asked if I’d like to do this.
BD: Is this how you got hooked up to throw out the first pitch at Fenway tonight?
AR: Yes. Or they just thought it’d be great to humiliate another New Yorker.
BD: Are you a Mets fan or a Yankees fan?
AR: I could care less. If they get to the World Series, it’s great. My mother was a rabid Mets fan, my father was a big Yankees fan.
BD: That had to be rough.
AR: Yeah, but they’d go out on Saturday night, start drinking heavily, and they didn’t know who they were rooting for.
BD: The family from Denmark that you just spoke to in the other room had no idea what the Today Show is.
AR: Well, there are a lot of people in America who have no idea.
BD: I don’t think that’s true. It must be a nice change of pace.
AR: If you didn’t want this [the recognition], then you really shouldn’t do it. I’m always kind of amazed by these actors who complain. I say, ‘Dude, why didn’t you become a computer programmer then? Nobody would bother you.’
BD: You don’t mind when people bother you?
AR: Most people are very respectful, so it’s OK. Every now and then, I will say to somebody, ‘Look, I’m with my kids, so if you could just…”
BD: Don’t beep at me while I’m in the crosswalk?
AR: Yeah. Don’t frighten my children.
BD: A lot of shows have parodied you, like the Simpsons and Family Guy. Does that get to you?
AR: No. It’s funny. My daughter says ‘Dad, do you think they’re making fun of you with Ollie and the Blaccuweather forecast?’ And I say, ‘Well, gee, let’s look at this. He’s black, he’s bald, he’s wearing glasses, he does the weather, he’s overweight. I think that might be me.’ It beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
BD: How do you feel about the Red Sox having grown up in New York?
AR: I’ll be perfectly honest with you. It wasn’t until I moved back to New York in 1983 that I even had the concept of the feud. I didn’t know about the Curse of the Bambino. Didn’t care. The whole thing about the guy burying the jersey, it’s like—guys. You are taking this way to seriously. They’re jackhammering it out.
BD: Maybe they should have left it there. The Yankees aren’t doing so well.
AR: It really doesn’t matter. The whole Curse of the Bambino…maybe you just sucked for 80 years? How about that? How about, you sucked for 80 years?
In 2004, I was taking the shuttle to Boston to do a story at Berklee because they were offering a class in scratching. And these guys were just merciless. I kept saying ‘you played a good game. What more do you want? Do you want me to open up a vein?’ You won. There’s really not much more you can say. Good. God Bless. Let it go.
BD: Were you in New York for the New Kids on the Block reunion?
AR: I wasn’t there for the debut, but I was there for the show. I quite frankly was stunned at the crowd. I missed the whole New Kids on the Block thing the first time around because I’m a guy.
Now everyone says, ‘Look, they’ve got the same moves.’ And I say, they’re the same moves. They didn’t learn anything new for this show. So, yeah, wow, I guess they remember. I guess just muscle memory would take them through those steps. It’s like riding a bike.
BD: Now that Conan’s been promoted, do you think you’ll upgrade to late night?
AR: I view that as a demotion. Jay Leno, all these guys, are great. But the fact of the matter is, at some point during the show, people are falling asleep. They’re exhausted, they’re tired, they’re yawning, they’re scratching body parts that you don’t want to think about.
In the morning, people are up. They’re doing things, they’re moving, they’re awake. Your job is basically to be a night-light for people when you do late night.
BD: Is that why Conan’s mug is on the Tonight Show?
AR: I don’t think I’d go with that.
BD: You think Conan’s a looker?
AR: Well, I don’t see people averting their eyes and screaming. I remember Jay Leno talked about the fact that he was kind of a scary looking guy. Let’s face it, in late night, is there really one good-looking guy?
BD: Some women like Jimmy Kimmel.
AR: Kimmel is an average looking guy. There’s no real good-looking guy on late-night. In the morning, you’ve got [Matt] Lauer. He’s a sweet piece of man candy. You’ve got [Chris] Cuomo and [Sam] Champion on Good Morning America, and they’re too good looking. On CBS. . . there’s really nobody good-looking there. You’ve got Harry Smith and Dave Price. Eh.
BD: I have a friend who watches Today and gets completely thrown off when there’s breaking news. She has her morning routine choreographed to when you guys switch segments. Maybe you can toss in some benchmarks for the harried workers?
AR: That’s why we do that. Just to keep people off-balance. If they expect things, they take us for granted. It’s like a date. You don’t want to be taken for granted. Do you want to be taken for granted?
BD: Well, some would say that judging from my past relationships I might…
AR: Well, that said, when you’re in a relationship, do you want to be taken for granted?
BD: Ideally, no.
AR: No. Just saying.
BD: What do you think you’re going to throw at Fenway tonight? Curveball, fastball?
AR: I know I’m throwing a ball. I threw the first pitch in an Indians playoff game last year, and the head of the umpire’s union said to go for height. Gravity will take it over. I’m just going for the high outside pitch.
BD: Well, you’re the hottest thing to hit the mound since Gisele Bundchen threw out a pitch.
AR: I think everything out there is going to be hot. I’m sure a lot guys would rather see me throwing out the first pitch than Gisele. Not so much.
BD: People think she may have jinxed Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, so maybe not.
AR: Here’s the deal—maybe he just sucked that day. I almost never watch a Super Bowl. If you just took the commercials and bunched them together, I think people would watch that. That said, it was probably one of the best Super Bowls ever. For us in New York, it was a really great Super Bowl. That said, anybody could have won that game right up until the very end. Gisele Bundchen jinxing Tom Brady? I don’t think so.
Did any of this make sense?
AR: That’s why you’re the writer. See? I don’t take you for granted.
BD: I appreciate that. You busy after the game?
AR: Well, my wife would be upset. But it’s a very attractive offer. If things go sour… but maybe we can hook you up with Conan. He’s from around here, and his father is a doctor. It’s everything your Mom would be looking for, right?
BD: Actually, it would be more up my grandmother’s alley. And she envisions me with a redhead. I think it’s the Charlie Brown Little Red-Haired Girl thing.
AR: And yours is red.
BD: Well, mine’s fake.
AR: But you have the red gene. You would have Little Orphan Annie children.
BD: You know Conan. See if you can sew some seeds of discontent there.
AR: He might not be happy. He’s moving to L.A. . . .
BD: But I don’t want to go to L.A.
AR: Let’s start with the relationship first. That you’re not in a relationship is a crime.
BD: Well, thank you. Maybe you need to have a relationship show.
AR: It would be a very short show.
BD: How about this heat?
AR: You know, three or four weeks ago, everybody up and down the East Coast was asking ‘When’s it going to warm up?’ Well, guess what? It’s warmed up. It’s called ‘summer.’ Stop whining. Shut up.
BD: Thank you!
AR: Six months from now, it’ll be ‘when’s it gonna cool down.’ You are never satisfied.