Willie Geist will start his new job as co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of the Today show Nov. 12. The announcement came this morning on the show, where Geist was on hand with colleagues Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer. Geist will fill Guthrie’s role on the third hour of the morning franchise where he’ll join Natalie Morales and Al Roker. Guthrie will occasionally stay through the 9 a.m. hour, but she’s mostly handing the baton to Geist.
Geist will give up his MSNBC show Way Too Early, the 5:30 a.m. program he started back in 2009. But that show will get a new host while Geist will continue as straight man to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He’ll exit most days at the top of the 7 a.m. hour in order to begin prepping for Today.
For Geist, a married father of two young children, the promotion comes with more visibility and opportunity. But the 37-year-old son of CBS News correspondent Bill Geist (who appears regularly on Sunday Morning) started his career behind the camera as a producer.
“My dad worked in TV and I knew that he had a fun life,” says Geist. “ He traveled to interesting parts of the country and met interesting people. But I was never consumed by the idea of being on TV.”
He spent the first seven years of his career as a producer at CNN/SI, Fox Sports and eventually MSNBC where in 2005 he was hired as a producer for Tucker Carlson’s show.
He says his time behind the camera has helped him understand how a piece is constructed – and what the producer needs from the anchor.
“I’m one of the few people in television who listens to the producer because I feel for them,” he laughs. “When they tell me to wrap in my ear, I actually wrap because I know they’re hurting for time.”
He did much of the writing on Way Too Early, where the staff is small, though he knows being in a machine like the Today show will mean there are more cooks in the kitchen. Asked whom he would like to interview from his Today seat he says: “who ever wins this election. Sorry, I know that’s a boring answer.”
Geist will be the show’s first male addition to the cast since Lauer joined the show as newsreader in 1994 with co-hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, which seems to set him up for a bigger role on the show someday. But Geist brushes off the notion of filling Lauer’s shoes.
“I am a co-host of the Today show. I’ll be filling in the same way I have been,” he says. “As far as I know there is no understudy.”