What don’t most people know about Al Roker? For over 20 years, the weatherman has been charming his way into our homes on Today. From his catch phrase of, “Here’s what happening in your neck of the woods,” to his talk show chops, Roker has solidified his place in the broadcast history books — and in our hearts.
Unlike other anchors who keep their personal lives off-screen, Roker is known for sharing intimate details about his life with his audience. Notably, in November of 2020, Roker announced that he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer. “Good news is we caught it early,” Roker told Today. “Not great news is that it’s a little aggressive.”
In the wake of Al Roker’s cancer diagnosis, he spoke to his viewers — specifically to the Black men who watch him every morning — and implored them to go for routine checkups. And while our favorite weatherman is seeking treatment, we thought it would be a good time to revisit his life and career. Here is what most people don’t know about Al Roker.
Al Roker originally wanted to be a cartoonist
Before he found his way onto the screen as a weatherman and talk show host, Al Roker originally wanted to be a cartoonist. According to a profile written about Roker for Yahoo!, he was thoroughly interested in animation and cartoons while a child, and nurtured this ambition throughout his high school and college days. While a student at Xavier High School in New York City, Roker became a member of the Cartooning and Illustration Club. By the time he was in college at the State University of New York at Oswego, he was studying both broadcast journalism and graphic design.
And while Roker began pursuing his career as a weatherman while he was still at university (we’ll get to that later, but talk about ambition), he worked for a short while for the Syracuse New Times as a cartoonist, contributing a comic strip called Salt and Pepper. The comic strip debuted in the October 3, 1976 issue and showed Roker’s love of the area. “I want the strip to reflect Syracuse,” he explained. “You know, a good time.”
Ambition payed off, and Al Roker landed his first weatherman job while still in college
It seems like most students in college have jobs. Some of us worked at our local Starbucks, while others worked at the boutique store down the street from campus. Some found work at their colleges themselves, while others just babysat to get by. But not Al Roker. While he was still a college student, Roker got his first job as an on-camera weekend weatherman for WTVH-TV in Syracuse, as noted by Today. Talk about landing the perfect gig to start your career!
In an interview with MediaBistro (via Syracuse.com,) Roker described the job as “his first big break,” which happened when he was a sophomore in college in May 1974. “I was doing anything to pay the bills,” Roker recalled. “I worked at a local radio station, WSGO (1440 AM) in Oswego, New York.”
After working six months in radio, Roker was offered the gig on-camera, and was paid $10 per newscast. He shared that the station’s news director said that he could only afford “a drunk or a college student,” so Roker took on the challenge.
Like a lot of television journalists, Al Roker started his career at the local level
While in the early stages of his career after graduating from college, Al Roker worked as a weatherman for local stations, including the NBC affiliate station WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ohio. He remained there for five years, as noted by Today, before moving up into the broadcast world. Roker joined WNBC in New York City in December 1983 as the weekend weatherman for the Live at 5 broadcast, and moved up to weekday weatherman for the station the following year.
As he gained more and more screen time, Roker caught the eye of the network, becoming the weather reporter for Weekend Today in 1987. As noted by Yahoo!, Roker soon started to sit in for famed weatherman and Today staple Willard Scott. When Scott went into semi-retirement in the ’90s, the natural choice of a replacement was Roker, as the two had formed a special bond throughout their time with NBC. “He’s a friend. He is literally my second dad,” Roker told Today when Scott officially retired.
Al Roker officially joined Today in 1996 as the weatherman
After Willard Scott’s retirement, Al Roker naturally fit the bill as Today’s weatherman, and for good reason. As noted by Biography, Roker brought an “engaging, jovial presence” to the screen, and his catch phrase, “here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods” was quite popular. Roker’s appeal continued to grow, as he made a point of reporting the weather outside of the studio. As noted by Yahoo!, this gave Roker a chance to meet audience members and give them camera time, all while widening his appeal.
But Roker didn’t stop at just reporting the weather. As of 2018, he joined fellow anchors Hoda Kotb and Craig Melvin as one of the co-anchors for the third hour of Today. After Megyn Kelly’s third hour talk show on the network was canceled, the choice to bring the beloved weatherman to the roundtable seemed natural, given Roker’s wide appeal, humorous presence, and all around good energy. As one of the co-hosts, Roker has conducted interviews with Broadway stars, talked about pop culture, and has shared personal stories about his health.
It was the scene witnessed around the world when Al Roker was blown over by the winds of Hurricane Wilma
Al Roker has been caught in some pretty crazy weather circumstances throughout his career, and some have been caught on camera. If one instance stands out from the rest, it’s when Roker was reporting on the Hurricane Wilma in 2005. According to CBS News, Roker was reporting from a hotel balcony in Naples, Florida when he was literally blown over because of the insane winds.
“It is brutal out here,” Roker shouted in the communication with Today anchors Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, who were in the New York studio. In the video, you can clearly see Roker struggling to stand because of the wind and rain, and things only escalated from there.
After Roker told the cameraman to pan out so viewers could see the scene, viewers saw that another cameraman was on the floor holding onto Roker’s ankles so he didn’t blow away — when the pair toppled over. The whole thing was crazy, and you can still watch the video here. Roker went on to report on other natural disasters, including the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
Al Roker set the Guinness World Record for longest weather report in 2014
Throughout his career, Al Roker has brought reliable weather reporting and heartwarming interviews to the screen. But in addition to those accomplishments, Al Roker holds world records you didn’t know about. As noted by Today, Roker made history in November 2014 when he broke the Guinness World Record for the longest uninterrupted live weather report broadcast. The event called “Rokerthon” was one for the books, literally, as Roker continuously reported for a whole 34 hours, starting November 13 — which is known as the Guinness World Records day, a day honored around the world for those looking to break records.
The event was a massive success, in part because of the record breaking hours on television, but also due to its philanthropic goals. While on the screen, Roker asked the viewers watching at home to support a campaign he’d started via Crowdrise, aimed to give back to the United States armed forces and the United Service Organizations.
If the record breaking event wasn’t already a great achievement, Roker received a call from then vice-president Joe Biden congratulating him on the broadcast.
Al Roker traveled to report the weather from all 50 states for charity
If “Rokerthon One” wasn’t enough, Al Roker returned to his record breaking ways in 2015, when he broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to report a weather forecast from all 50 U.S. States and the District of Colombia, as noted by Today. Yes, you read that correctly. Roker reported the weather from all 50 states, literally from coast-to-coast, and did it all in a week’s time. During the event, Roker traveled 17,000 miles, gave 104 weather forecasts, was greeted by about 5,000 fans, and funnily enough, met 36 goats while traveling across the country.
Not unlike his first “Rokerthon” that benefited the armed forces and the USO, Roker’s second record-breaking event raised money for Feeding America, the nationwide organization that helps feed people in need. As reported by Today, Roker traveled by “planes, trains, and any other vehicle he (could) catch” to make the weather report possible. He kicked things off in Hawaii on Friday, November 6, and finished at Rockefeller Plaza on Friday, November 13. He was welcomed back by his family, one more goat, and The Rockettes.
Al Roker returned to his alma mater to set another Guinness World Record
Add one more Guinness World Record to Al Roker’s list. For “Rokerthon Three,” Roker traveled to five colleges in the United States in five days to help students break different Guinness World Records, and the event really didn’t disappoint. As noted by Today, Roker started at his alma mater, the State University of New York at Oswego, to help its students break one of the craziest records yet: the biggest conga on ice. You read that right, Roker helped almost 600 students create and execute a conga line on ice!
After the ice had been Zamboni’d to smooth perfection, Roker and 593 students set out to accomplish what sounded like the impossible. All they had to do was stand up and maintain the conga line for five whole minutes. Well, the crazy does seem to happen sometimes, because the record was set and was officially noted by a representative from the Guinness World Records at the time. What sounds a little insane probably ended up being a highlight for a lot of those college students.
Al Roker started his own production company in 1994
Al Roker is a weatherman, television host, Guinness World Record holder, and all around decent guy. But he can add one more thing to his extensive resumé: producer. That’s right, Roker launched his own entertainment company, Al Roker Entertainment, in 1994, and has gone on to produce shows for television networks such as Discovery, Lifetime, and A&E.
According to Biography, Roker made it big with his company when he started the show Roker on the Road with the Food Network, a series that followed him around the country as he reported on different local cuisines. He also was behind the PBS show Savage Skies, a series that focused on different natural weather severities.
Throughout his entertainment career, Roker has served as a host for a number of game shows, including Celebrity Family Feud, and made cameo appearances on some of the biggest shows in television such as Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and Seinfeld. All of that has made him a pretty penny, as this is how much Al Roker is really worth.
In a surprising twist, Al Roker made it to Broadway
It seems like Al Roker just keeps wracking up accomplishments, because in 2018, Roker made it to Broadway. He joined the cast of Waitress from October 5 to November 11 that year, playing the part of “Ol’ Joe,” the grumpy but amazingly sweet owner of the diner that the main character works in. As noted by the New York Post, Roker made the announcement on Today while wheeling a cart filled with pies, a symbolic prop of the show.
Roker’s appearance in Waitress wasn’t the first time he performed on stage. He’d previously played the “Mystery Guest” in the comedy show The Play What I Wrote in 2003.
Roker’s stint in Waitress in 2018 clearly didn’t satisfy his theatre itch, because he rejoined the cast the following year for his second run as Ol’ Joe. As his reprisal of the role came to an end, a fellow cast member shared her thoughts on the weatherman-turned-thespian. “Al is the epitome of pie, ladies and gentlemen,” she said, as noted by Today. “I mean, he’s warm, he’s sweet, he fills up those spaces that are missing.”
Al Roker married his first wife in 1984
Perhaps one of the lesser-known things about Al Roker is that he’s been married twice. Roker married Alice Bell in December 1984, and like the good old times, the marriage was announced in none other than The New York Times. Clearly Roker and his first wife had a lot in common, because she was the operations producer for WNBC-TV’s Live at 5 news program, on which Roker served as the weekday weather forecaster.
The pair got married in Peekskill, New York, in an episcopal ceremony held at the home of Mr. George Como. Bell was educated and successful in her own right, which we love to see. She was a graduate of UCLA, and worked alongside Roker and the other team members at NBC’s flagship owned-and-operated station in New York City. Roker and Bell adopted a daughter together, Courtney Roker, but their relationship ultimately ended. After almost a decade of marriage, Roker and Bell got divorced (via People).
Al Roker got remarried in 1995
Al Roker clearly didn’t give up on love, because after he got divorced, he pursued a relationship with journalist Deborah Roberts. In an interview with People, Roberts recalled the early days of her relationship with Roker and the lengths he went to impress her. “Al was so sweet,” Roberts gushed. “He showed me pictures of his daughter and talked about his family. I just thought he was a nice guy, and that was that.”
But after they became friends, Roker and Roberts kept in touch even while she traveled for work. Roberts eventually moved back to New York City to work for Dateline, and the two rekindled their friendship. At that point, Roker went to great lengths to woo his future wife, one example being when he “[surprised] her with flowers and food after she came home from reporting at the Olympics.”
Roker proposed to Roberts on New Year’s Day in 1994 while at the Grand Canyon, and they were married in New York City the following September. As noted by People, Al Roker and his wife went on to have two children — Nick Roker and Leila Roker, who’s grown up to be gorgeous.
Al Roker went through a very public weight loss journey
Al Roker has been very public about his health over the years, and he made an impact when he shared his weight loss journey in the early 2000s. After receiving weight loss surgery, Roker lost about 150 pounds, trading his once 340 pound body for a much slimmer, healthier version. But even after his transformation, Roker fell into his old ways.
According to Today, Roker said that after his mother had been admitted to the hospital, he resorted to junk food and unhealthy habits for comfort, and quickly put 40 pounds back on. Saying that he knows it’s not impossible to “eat through a bypass,” Roker realized that he needed to curb his habits. “I went back and I hated it,” he said. “I know what I have to do now to keep that from happening again.”
Roker shared that he had the chance to “put on the brakes,” and amended his lifestyle from there. In addition to a healthy diet, Roker relied on a cleanse and exercise to bring his weight back down. Old habits are hard to break, so we’re impressed by Roker’s dedication!
Al Roker filed a complaint on the basis of racial discrimination
Al Roker has a large public presence in the United States, but he’s been the subject of racial discrimination and has shared his experiences. As recently as 2015, Roker filed a discrimination complaint against the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission after a yellow cab refused to pick him up, only to stop for a white passenger a block away.
As noted by Vanity Fair, Roker’s experience was not dissimilar to the realities that other Black people have faced at the hands of cab drives. For example, comedian Chris Rock used his 2014 film Top Five to show how difficult it can be to hail a cab, which is ridiculously awful, given that the factor used against Roker and Rock was their skin color.
After the incident, Roker took to Twitter to point to the injustice he had faced, and the repercussions that it had. “What really hurts, my 13-year-old boy was with me and asked why the cabbie passed us,” Roker tweeted. “I said, ‘Nick, ignorant people make dumb choices.'” Indeed they do, Al.
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