Willie Geist Officially Joins 'Today': 5 Things to Know About the New 9AM Co-Host
After weeks of speculation, NBC confirmed Wednesday that Geist will become a permanent presence on the network's Today show.
"It's the Today show, arguably the most iconic brand in news television," the newsman — son of CBS News reporter Bill Geist — said of his new on-screen home, where he has regularly filled in for Matt Lauer over the last year. "It's kind of an easy question to answer when you say why do you want to go there. Because I want to play for the New York Yankees."
"There is a sense of just loosening up the show a bit," he continued. "I think that by having me there they hope I can bring a little more of that in terms of a sense of humor and a different point of view."
So what five specialties does Geist bring to the table?
Geist will fill Today's third-hour post left empty by Savannah Guthrie, who was promoted to co-host the flagship slot earlier this year after Ann Curry's departure. Geist will join Al Roker and Natalie Morales as the 9 a.m. hour hosts.
Perhaps NBC is hoping a fresh face can give the broadcast a boost. Today has struggled in ratings recently, losing its long-held domination over ABC's Good Morning America. "Right now I see a moment of great opportunity," Geist told the New York Times. "The great news is that everybody over there at the Today show feels the same way too."
1. He’s built a career on morning television. Geist is currently the host of MSNBC's 5:30 a.m. Eastern newscast, Way Too Early. But that's not the only reason for his early wake-up call: he also co-hosts on the network's Morning Joe from 6-9 a.m.
2. He’s not just newsy — he’s funny, too. Not only does he host a satirical video blog on MSNBC.com called Zeitgeist, but his morning show has been praised for its artful blend of news and humor, which The Daily Beast once likened to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
3. His family is famous on the ice. Geist is the great-grandson of Herbie Lewis, who captained Detroit’s hockey team, the Red Wings, to two Stanley Cup wins and garnered a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
4. He is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2010, Geist released American Freak Show: The Completely Fabricated Stories of Our New National Treasures, in which he sarcastically tackles the reality of American politics and pop culture these days.
5. He got his start in sports news. After serving as editor of Vanderbilt’s newspaper during college, Geist got his foot in the journalism door as an editor and producer for CNN/Sports Illustrated, a 24-hour sports network based in Atlanta. In that capacity, he covered everything from the Super Bowl and the NCAA Final Four to the United States Lawnmower Racing circuit.