NEW YORK – By Friday morning, Al Roker should be awfully tired of saying “polar vortex.”
Actually, the “Today” show weather forecaster should be awfully tired, period. He’s trying for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous live weather broadcast, aiming to beat the current record of 33 hours set in September by Norwegian TV personality Eli Kari Gjengedal.
He’s doing it the hard way, starting Wednesday evening and going through two overnights so – if all goes right – he can break the record during “Today” on Friday.
Asked how he was doing Thursday morning, Roker kept his eye on the prize.
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“I’m feeling actually pretty good,” he said, quickly pivoting. “I’m doing a lot better than our friends in the Pacific Northwest, because this is a massive, massive snowstorm.”
Still, after one overnight, the 60-year-old TV veteran looked a little ragged. “He’s got crazy eyes,” noted “Today” host Willie Geist.
He was ensconced in a small Rockefeller Center office usually used as the Green Room for waiting “Today” show guests. He stood in front of a large, interactive weather map and a window where New York pedestrians occasionally peeked in. A digital clock marked the time that he’s been talking about the weather.
Roker sipped occasionally from a ginger drink concoction. A non-coffee drinker, he favored green tea. A pouch of beef jerky and the remains of an almond croissant brought by fellow forecaster Sam Champion were nearby. Rotating college students, hired as the required witnesses for the record attempt, sat just off-camera. Roker asked viewers to donate to the United States Service Organizations.
Guinness allows him a five-minute break each hour, and Roker has skipped some breaks to “bank” time in the hopes of darting off to a recliner installed in his office for a brief nap.
Shown continuously on the “Today” website, the “Rokerthon” made for surreal viewing. Guests like Alan Alda, Candace Bergen, Aaron Sorkin and Nick Lachey stopped in to offer encouragement. He did repeated live cut-ins on NBC affiliates across the country, conversing with local anchors talking through an earpiece so to online viewers it seemed like eavesdropping on one side of a mobile phone conversation.
Roker answered his own phone on the air when his wife called. Technicians also neglected to turn off his microphone when nature called and he had to dart off screen. “We gave new meaning to live stream,” he said.
With his weather map headlined “Polar Invasion” and blue arrows pointing south, Roker had no shortage of material.
“I don’t know when I’ve had this much weather to talk about all over the country,” he said. “It makes it easy.”